La-la-la-la-la-la-la-LaFleur

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports reaction to new Packers coach Matt LaFleur:

National writers and talking heads had plenty to say when it came to the Packers’ hiring of Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to be the franchise’s next head coach, and while many felt the match with Aaron Rodgers was a good one, many well-known talking heads questioned LaFleur’s experience and recent track record.

Danny Heifitz at The Ringer makes note of the success LaFleur has had with quarterbacks Robert Griffin III, Jared Goff and Matt Ryan and notes the obvious: LaFleur’s success in Green Bay will hinge on his work with Rodgers.

“The Green Bay Packers have hired Aaron Rodgers a new head coach. I mean, the Packers have hired a new head coach. According to reports, Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur will lead Green Bay next season, and while he’ll be leading a staff and a 53-man roster, he’ll be graded primarily on how well he does as Rodgers’s boss. Rodgers, the highest-paid player in NFL history and perhaps the most gifted quarterback of all time, needs a Super Bowl win to justify his contract and burnish his legacy, and LaFleur’s job will be facilitating that.” …

Some high-profile sports-opinion personalities question the hire, including Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports.

“Congratulations on hiring somebody who people question whether he has the stature and gravitas to lead a coordinators meeting. Maybe you’ve heard Aaron Rodgers is aging, he ran a Super Bowl-winning coach out of town. Good luck to Matt LaFleur.” — @ColinCowherd

Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless of Undisputed discussed the hire on Fox Sports, with Bayless summarizing by suggesting Aaron Rodgers arranged for a “pushover” to be the next coach. Bayless pointed out that LaFleur was simply a coordinator at unheralded Ashland University as recently as 2007 and doesn’t have any head-coaching experience at any level.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith felt underwhelmed by the hire, as well, again pointing to the recent track record.

“The offensive coordinator chosen to coach Aaron Freaking Rodgers — talent wise, the best, as far as I’m concerned, that I’ve ever seen  …. the offensive coordinator that you hire had the 27th ranked offense? 25th in points? The 29th ranked passing attack? That’s the guy you chose? What am I missing?”

Deion Sanders at the NFL Network was similarly unimpressed, suggesting that the Packers should have looked to hire someone who could address problems on the defensive side of the ball.

“I want the man to get an opportunity, I want his family to be blessed, trust me. But are you kidding me? Tennessee’s offense? So, I’m going to get somebody from Tennessee’s offense and put him with arguably the best quarterback in the national football league? please. the problem isn’t their offense. It’s their defense, isn’t it? … You can put Aaron Rodgers on the field with me, you and Amber, and we’re going to get it into the paint. The problem is, are we going to stop anybody? That seems to be the problem with me.”

“The offensive coordinator chosen to coach Aaron Freaking Rodgers — talent wise, the best, as far as I’m concerned, that I’ve ever seen  …. the offensive coordinator that you hire had the 27th ranked offense? 25th in points? The 29th ranked passing attack? That’s the guy you chose? What am I missing?”

Peter Schrager of the NFL Network disputes the idea that he merely serves at the pleasure of Aaron Rodgers.

“Knowing LaFleur and Rodgers … I think it’s a great mix. I think all Rodgers really probably wants is innovation and something new and a fresh look in the same offense I’ve been running for the past 10 years. LaFleur will bring that. This guy is one of the one’s who will sit in the lab all day long working on X’s and O’s, but he’s not a pushover. … He’s the kind of guy that will push back, and he’s pushed back on (Sean) McVay, he’s pushed back on (Kyle) Shanahan. And I’ll tell you that he and (Titans coach Mike) Vrabel, as great as they got along, he was an equal voice in that room when it came to offense, and he pushed back on Vrabel.”

Turron Davenport of ESPN looks at the past season with LaFleur as Titans offensive coordinator to present a glimpse of what the Packers can expect, and he arrives at a positive conclusion.

“Putting players in position to excel shouldn’t be an issue for LaFleur in Green Bay, as the new coach’s scheme seems like a perfect fit for Rodgers.”

Ryan Phillips of the Big Lead writes that the hire is “exactly what NFL teams are looking for.”

“Is LaFleur going to be successful as a head coach? Time will tell. But the trend in the NFL clearly points towards teams hiring young quarterback whisperers with a history of offensive innovation. Everyone wants the next McVay or Matt Nagy. If they can’t go young, franchises will still go after quarterback coaches/offensive coordinators. They’ve seen Doug Pederson and Frank Reich have success as well.”

Ryan Glasspiegel of The Big Lead also considers the move the “ultimate referendum” on team president Mark Murphy.

“When Murphy relieved Thompson of his duties and installed Brian Gutekunst as GM, he also enacted an odd structure where Gutekunst and McCarthy both reported to him. By all accounts, Murphy had final say over the coaching hire, and it is doubtful that the reporting structure will be any different under LaFleur than with McCarthy last season.

“Therefore, this hire should stick to Murphy. There are eight head coaching openings this offseason and just by the math and the way the NFL works, 1-2 of those new coaches are going to enact an immediate turnaround. Even with a lack of obvious slam dunk candidates in this coach cycle, there will be a unicorn that hastens other organizations’ impatience with fast results like Sean McVay and Matt Nagy have done the last two seasons. Maybe LaFleur is That Guy.”

More reaction comes from the Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein:

LaFleur comes to the Packers with a solid coaching background that includes jobs on the same staffs as San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay. He also has been a coordinator for just two seasons, only one of which included play-calling duties.

Almost all the opinions here solicited from or randomly offered by NFL scouts, former Packers staffers and agents of coaches leaned in the same direction: “Why did they choose him?”

Around league circles, it was not a heavily embraced decision, and many wondered what role Murphy’s influence played in picking a 39-year-old with no head-coaching experience and only one year of play-calling experience.

Time will tell whether it was a good decision, but here are 20 burning questions as the LaFleur era is set to begin:

1. Was this hire made to satisfy quarterback Aaron Rodgers? It smacks of that given the bent toward the McVay offense, so what message does that send to Rodgers? That it’s all about him? Do the other players feel LaFleur is their head coach?

2. Did general manager Brian Gutekunst truly approve of this hire or did Murphy pick the candidate he wanted to coach the team? Who led the search and who was the front man in the interviews?

3. Why did Murphy and Gutekunst move so quickly on LaFleur? Did they get so blown away by his interview Sunday night that they had to hire him Monday, even though no other team sought to interview him? Ted Thompson’s last interview in 2006 was with Jim Bates and it went great, but what did Thompson do? He slept on it and asked himself, ‘Who’s the best candidate?’, instead of who’s the best interview?

4. Along those same lines, why wasn’t LaFleur brought in for a second interview? Shouldn’t he have toured the facility and met with others in the organization so the brass could see how he relates to people? Didn’t they have any follow-up questions that needed to be answered in person?

5. Was the desire to tap into the McVay/Shanahan offensive revolution the primary goal in selecting the next head coach? Do they see that as the future in the NFL and what makes them think it’s not just a fad that defenses will figure out next season?

6. Did the Packers pass over Josh McDaniels and Adam Gase because they thought their personalities were too abrasive? Did they think they might rub Rodgers the wrong way? If they said no to them for that reason, didn’t they just play into Rodgers’ need for control? Wouldn’t hiring either of them send the message that the coach would be in charge?

7. How strongly was consideration given to McDaniels? How much did they weigh his success with Tom Brady and more importantly, did they consider how capable he had been in putting together a coaching staff? Or did they feel he burned all his bridges with his last-second pullout in Indianapolis last year?

8. Was this a Trace Armstrong manipulation? Did Armstrong, who is Mike McCarthy’s agent, orchestrate it all so that LaFleur and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, two other clients, were brought together to replace his first client?

9. And did Armstrong make it seem like there was a mystery team involved with LaFleur, thereby making Murphy panic and pay more than he probably needed to? Why else did Murphy move that quickly to sign a guy who had no other head-coaching options?

10. How much is LaFleur getting paid? Is it anywhere close to the $8 million-to-$9 million McCarthy made last year?

11. Did Murphy require that LaFleur hire Pettine? Or did LaFleur single him out as his favored defensive coordinator?

12. In the month before the season ended, did Murphy put a full-court press on Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald and make him feel this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass by? Did he think Fitzgerald was the perfect guy for the job and, if so, why couldn’t he get him to at least interview?

13. And while dealing with Fitzgerald’s agent, Bryan Harlan, the son of former Packers president Bob Harlan and also the agent of Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, did Murphy and Gutekunst try to find out if Harbaugh was a possibility? Did they ever consider offering the Ravens a draft choice for Harbaugh just to see if there might be interest?

14. Why wasn’t Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio interviewed?Was it because he has a reputation as a bit of a curmudgeon or was it because Murphy and Gutekunst were locked in on bringing Pettine back? Wouldn’t you want to talk to one of the best defensive coordinator’s in the game?

15. Did McVay vouch for LaFleur and was it sincere or was he just helping one of his best friends get a job? Has LaFleur been riding the coattails of McVay and Shanahan or is that just the opinion of those who don’t know him well enough?

16. What separated LaFleur from former Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Todd Monken? At age 52, doesn’t Monken has far more experience, including a head-coaching stint at Southern Mississippi?

17. Who will be the voice of experience on the offensive side of the ball? Does LaFleur have plans to hire a veteran quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator to help him learn the head-coaching ropes?

18. Will LaFleur’s easy-going manner be an asset as he becomes the face of the organization and can he maintain it with the criticism that will come if the team struggles? How well is he prepared to deal with the daily media obligations a head coach bears?

19. Should LaFleur be expected to turn things around offensively right away? Or will he need a year to get the system in place, the same way Pettine needed time to get his defense running smoothly?

20. If this works out, will it solidify Murphy’s legacy with the Packers? If it doesn’t work out, will the executive committee clean house? Will McCarthy’s record be the standard by which LaFleur will be judged? And will LaFleur have a street named after him?

The street part depends on a Super Bowl win, of course. As for question 19, history says the Packers are unlikely to make the playoffs next season. In fact, no Packers coach has ever gotten his team into the playoffs in his first season.
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The new guy

Dan O’Donnell:

Wisconsin got a bold new leader on Monday; a young, dynamic, charismatic figure who is as innovative as he is likeable and who promises fundamental change through sheer force of will.

To say that the Packers hiring Matt LaFleur to be their new head coach overshadowed Tony Evers’ inauguration would be the understatement of the new year. After news broke late Monday afternoon that the former Tennessee Titans’ offensive coordinator would be Green Bay’s coach, Evers’ inauguration became an afterthought.

That’s not a dig at a state or a media far too obsessed with football, mind you; it’s an acknowledgement of the reality that LaFleur is likelier to make a more lasting impact than is Evers.

LaFleur, after all, has a mandate to make dramatic change that Evers simply doesn’t and LaFleur, unlike Evers, won’t be rendered politically impotent by a State Legislature and Judiciary unlikely to approve of his more radical instincts.

As different as Wisconsin’s two new leaders may appear—LaFleur is a good-looking 39 year-old with a reputation as a forward thinker while the 67 year-old Evers is a self-described bore—their fates may well be inextricably linked to the same basic theory of management.

The Peter Principle, as defined in Laurence J. Peter’s 1969 book of the same name, is the idea that “every employee tends to rise to the level of his incompetence.” In other words, in a given organization (be it a football team or a state government), an individual who succeeds in—or is merely adequate in—his job, he will be promoted. If he succeeds again, he will be promoted again, and this cycle will continue…until it doesn’t. The Peter Principle dictates that everyone has a level of core competency and, once it is exceeded, failure will result.

Rise one level above your competence, the Peter Principle holds, and the results would be disastrous.

This is why many Packer fans breathed a sigh of relief that Green Bay hired LaFleur instead of Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. A very highly regarded young coordinator in 2009, he was hired as head coach of the Denver Broncos and failed miserably. Almost immediately, he so alienated starting quarterback Jay Cutler that Cutler said he could no longer trust the organization and demanded a trade.

Josh McDaniels thus stands as a grave warning for NFL teams like the Packers who hire first-time head coaches. So too should the people of Wisconsin be leery of a new Governor who seems to have just been sworn in to exactly one level above his abilities.
After a lackluster 8-8 season in 2009, the Broncos cratered in 2010, and McDaniels was fired after they dropped to 3-9 and were fined for illegally taping an opponent’s practice.

The next season, McDaniels returned to his core competency—serving as an offensive coordinator—and he has remained one of the best in football ever since, winning five Super Bowls as the leader of the Patriots’ offense.

According to the Peter Principle, this is where McDaniels should remain since a promotion to head coach exceeded his level of aptitude.

Josh McDaniels thus stands as a grave warning for NFL teams like the Packers who hire first-time head coaches.

So too should the people of Wisconsin be leery of a new Governor who seems to have just been sworn in to exactly one level above his abilities.

If one is a believer in omens, Evers flubbing his Oath of Office—literally the very first thing he did in office—is an ominous one, especially since it seems as though State Superintendent was above Evers’ core competency.

After all, he was wholly unable to perform what is perhaps the primary function of that role—making requests for funding—without resorting to plagiarism. Will he similarly resort to stealing others’ ideas when he presents his State Budget next month? Will he have a staffer swipe an old Obama speech when he delivers his first State of the State Address?

Even before he took office, Evers showed signs that he was not up to the job of Governor. In an embarrassing backtrack last week, he was forced to meekly promise to follow Wisconsin’s laws just a day after defiantly proclaiming that he would have to be sued in order to abide by legislation Republicans passed in extraordinary session last month.

This dithering, combined with Evers’ apparent inability to provide any sort of policy specifics or even articulate a coherent vision for Wisconsin, reveals him to be just as much of a disaster-in-waiting for the state as Josh McDaniels might have been.

There is, after all, a reason Wisconsin rejected him as State Superintendent twice—even relegating him to a third-place finish in the 2001 primary—and there is a reason he has been wholly unremarkable since finally winning the position that the Peter Principle had long denied him.

Even Evers’ most diehard supporters would be hard-pressed to name Evers’ most significant (or, for that matter, any) accomplishments as Superintendent, forcing a serious examination of whether that role, too, eluded his highest level of job skills.

His primary qualification for election, though, was that he is not Scott Walker and thus, despite his rather obvious shortcomings, the people of Wisconsin promoted Evers to Governor.

No wonder the state tuned out his inauguration as soon as the Packers hired a new coach: At least Matt LaFleur offers a glimmer of hope.

The next coach is …?

Packers News:

In a search that lasted for more than a month, the Green Bay Packers have found their next head coach.

Matt LaFleur, 39, is set to become the 15th head coach for the franchise, according to multiple reports and confirmed by PackersNews.

The Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator interviewed initially on Sunday. By Monday morning, the source said, the Packers began preparations to make LaFleur their 15th head coach in franchise history.

ESPN first reported LaFleur was the Packers’ top target.

LaFleur just concluded his first year as the Titans’ offensive coordinator after spending 2017 as Sean McVay’s offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams. Tennessee finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs, ending the year No. 25 in total offense and No. 27 in scoring. The Titans were 29th in passing with quarterback Marcus Mariota but seventh in the league in rushing.,

In 2017 in L.A., the Rams finished eighth in the league in rushing to go with the No. 10 passing attack in football.

Interim head coach Joe Philbin directed the team over the final four games of the regular season and interviewed for the full-time position after going 2-2. The Packers finished third in the NFC North with a 6-9-1 record, missing the playoffs for the second straight year.

The last time the Packers looked for a head coach, Ted Thompson was the general manager and he moved relatively quickly. Thompson settled on McCarthy, then the San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator, just 10 days after the firing of Mike Sherman on Jan. 2, 2006.

Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst met Friday with New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Patriots defensive play caller Brian Flores about their coaching vacancy. On Saturday they huddled with New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. and tight ends coach Dan Campbell, as well as former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

On Sunday, they interviewed LaFleur and former Dolphins coach Adam Gase. It’s unclear whether they spoke with Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak, who was reported to be high on the Denver Broncos’ list.

Matt LaFleur joined the Titans in 2018 with nine previous years of NFL coaching experience. Most recently, he spent the 2017 season as the Rams offensive coordinator and helped Los Angeles rank first in the NFL in scoring and 10th in total offense.

LaFleur spent two seasons (2015-16) as quarterbacks coach for the Atlanta Falcons. While with the Falcons, quarterback Matt Ryan earned NFL MVP honors and the team earned an NFC  Championship title. In 2016, Ryan threw for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns for a 117.1 passer rating.

He spent four seasons (2010-13) as quarterbacks coach for the Washington Redskins and one season coaching quarterbacks for Notre Dame (2014).

Following five seasons coaching in the college ranks, he began his NFL coaching career as an offensive assistant for the Houston Texans (2008-09), where he worked with the quarterbacks and wide receivers.

A native of Mt. Pleasant, Mich., LaFleur was a three-year starting quarterback at Saginaw Valley State where he guided his team to the Division II playoffs each season.

I was correct that the Packers’ coach wouldn’t be coming from the college ranks, and that he wouldn’t be a former head coach, and that he would be coming from the offensive side of the ball. The only recent trend he doesn’t follow is having Mike as his first name (Holmgren, Sherman and McCarthy), but his first name does start with M.

I admit to knowing nothing about him, which concerns me somewhat. People knew who McCarthy was, though his association with losing teams was a concern. One wonders why LaFleur left the Rams (which came out of nowhere to make the 2017 playoffs) for the Titans (which did not make the 2018 playoffs), though the Rams’ departure might be because head coach Sean McVay, not his offensive coordinator, calls plays. One is also concerned that LaFleur ran an offense that was 27th in points and 25th in yards, though that could be blamed on the general manager for not drafting enough offensive talent.

Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press–Gazette reports that defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is still under contract, so he and the defensive staff are expected to stay, though who knows.

 

After the Glory Days

While looking for something else I found this:

This is the Bears–Packers game at Lambeau Field Nov. 15, 1970. The Packers still had a few members of their Glory Days teams, including quarterback Bart Starr and running backs Donny Anderson and Jim Grabowski. The Bears’ quarterback was Jack Concannon, who later preceded John Hadl (of the infamous Lawrence Welk trade) as the Packers’ quarterback. The Bears also had Dick Butkus, but did not have running back Gale Sayers, who played in just two games that season due to injuries.

The more interesting thing to me is this radio call. Jim Irwin called Packers games for 30 years, but here he is the color guy (while working at WLUK-TV in Green Bay). On play-by-play is Gary Bender, who while working at WKOW-TV in Madison worked both Packers and Badgers games with Irwin on radio. Bender left Wisconsin for CBS-TV, where he announced the NFL (and was John Madden’s first TV partner) and college basketball, and then ABC-TV, and TNT when it had the NFL.

Bender’s career highlight is probably these two games:

(I was an intern at WKOW in college. In the newsroom in those days there was a black-and-white photo that was shot of Bender and other announcers at a WIAA state basketball tournament. Bender was wearing plaid pants and white dress shoes. If you have never seen white dress shoes, think Cousin Eddie in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”)

 

An inside look at Lambeau

Former Packers vice president Andrew Brandt:

As I know so well from my near-decade of living Green Bay and working for the Packers, change is rare there, and when it does happen, it moves at a glacial pace. Not only are the Packers’ headquarters on Lombardi Avenue, but it often felt like as if team and the entire community were still living in an era when Vince Lombardi roamed the Packers sideline, a simpler time with the innocence of a bygone era.

Against that backdrop, the Packers’ firing of Mike McCarthy last week with four games remaining in the 2018 season was antithetical for a franchise and community often loathe to change. Having worked directly with Mike for three years, I will take you behind the Green and Gold curtain.

The Hire

Ted Thompson had come back to Green Bay (he worked there for years before) from the Seahawks in 2005 to become general manager, relegating then-head coach and general manager Mike Sherman to a coach-only role. For that entire season I witnessed a tense relationship between Thompson and Sherman, especially after we took Aaron Rodgers—a player who would not help us short-term—in the first round of the 2005 draft. Sherman’s fears about Thompson wanting “his own guy” to be the head coach were realized following that season, as he and his staff were dismissed.

Thompson led the subsequent head coach search, with input from his trusted personnel assistants John Schneider and Reggie McKenzie and, to a lesser extent, myself. After interviewing a list of candidates that included Ron Rivera, Brad Childress and Wade Phillips, we settled on two finalists: Mike, the 49ers’ offensive coordinator at the time, and Sean Payton, then the assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach of the Cowboys. Both had creative offensive minds, leading fascinating schematic conversations that would make a football junkie’s heart skip a beat.

The way out

Bill Huber:

Three days after being fired as the Green Bay Packers’ coach, Mike McCarthy was allowed to return to Lambeau Field to say good-bye.

“He spoke to the team yesterday and that was good,” team President/CEO Mark Murphy told WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee on Thursday. “I think Mike wanted some closure with the players and some of the other coaches to be able to thank them and say good-bye to them, as well.”

McCarthy was fired after Sunday’s 20-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Murphy had already decided to fire McCarthy, who was in his 13th season on the job, but the listless effort at home against a two-win team spurred Murphy into action.

Joe Philbin, McCarthy’s longtime friend and colleague, was elevated from offensive coordinator to interim head coach for the final four games.

“Mike came by the office, I think Tuesday we all saw him as a staff, which was great,” Philbin said before Thursday’s practice. “Then we talked, and he wanted an opportunity to speak with the team. I was 100 percent, fully supportive of, and he did a fantastic job talking to the team. Not just about football and winning football games, but his passion. His passion for the game, his love for the players was clearly evident. I’m sure it was emotional for him and everybody in the room. It was awesome. I thought he did a great job.”

Philbin left the Packers to become Miami’s coach in 2012. He posted a 24-28 record before being fired four games into the 2015 season. Dan Campbell finished the season. Philbin wasn’t given a chance to say good-bye; he didn’t want that to be the case for McCarthy.

“That’s the Green Bay Packer way, right? This is a first-class organization all the way around. I think it’s been that way for 100 seasons, I would guess. I’m not that old, but I’m guessing it’s been like that for a long time. We do things the right way around here. Mark and Russ (Ball, the executive vice president of football operations) and Brian (Gutekunst, the general manager) were all totally supportive, they think that was the right thing to do, as did I. Hopefully it will help.”

About McCarthy’s firing WTMJ says:

Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy told WTMJ it was a difficult decision, but one he felt needed to be made.

“The way the season had played out, I just felt that we needed a change,” says Murphy. “It wasn’t anything particularly that [McCarthy] did wrong, I just felt that the message had become stale and we needed a new voice.”

Murphy added that he intended to make a change at the end of the season, so he felt it would be better for everyone to do so now rather than wait.

I’m sure in our cynical age no one will believe this:

On McCarthy’s firing and the next coach

Monday Morning Quarterback:

“This was extremely heart-wrenching for me. I knew I had to say goodbye to a coach who is also a very good friend. I don’t think people really understand what a good person he is. He treats the janitor in the building the same as the quarterback.”

It’s been almost six years since Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said that, on the day he dismissed Andy Reid, his head coach of 14 seasons. And it was that press conference that I remembered when I saw the Packers’ announcement early Sunday night —a stunner only in that it came now, and not in four weeks—that they were firing Mike McCarthy.

No one I’ve talked to about McCarthy over the last few weeks thinks the guy forgot how to coach. Most people still really like him. And as such, lots of Packer-connected people will be rooting for their now ex-coach wherever he lands next.

It was just time.

The reality? When you’ve got a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, the clock’s always ticking. McCarthy’s not blind to it. In fact, he conceded as much when he and I sat down over the summer, and he looked forward to a season in which the Packers’ franchise, the worthy successor to Brett Favre, would celebrate its 100th season.

“I get where he is,” McCarthy said. “There’s an urgency every single season. It’s clear. From my perspective, from my viewpoint, I do everything in my power to improve the program. Clearly, I understand the value of the quarterback. Clearly, I understand the value of Aaron Rodgers. But this is the ultimate team game. We need to be the best team. If this was all based on how the quarterback plays, we may win ‘em all, just being honest.

“It’s the other 52, that’s the part that we always have to make sure that we’re focused on. Yeah, I hope that when we’re sitting here 10 years from now, we’re looking back and that question isn’t asked.”

Indeed, the question of how the Packers will maximize what’s left of Rodgers’ prime years is still front-and-center in Green Bay, and a reason why McCarthy is being shown the door. It’s certainly not all McCarthy’s doing that they haven’t gotten back to the Super Bowl, eight years after he and Rodgers made their only appearance, and won their only NFL championship. The rest of the roster, as McCarthy mentioned, is part of the problem. Rodgers should shoulder some blame, too.

So as was the case with Reid in ‘12, a great run had gone stale. And when it became clear that things weren’t right—that happened well before Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the Cardinals—someone had to pay the price, and now McCarthy’s gone.

Those who were involved and affected on Sunday can only hope they get the type of mutually beneficial aftermath that the Eagles and Reid wound up having.

Of course, it does start with the quarterback-coach relationship, because that’s where it starts for almost every team. And that Rodgers hasn’t been himself for chunks of this year—he was human on a big stage against Tom Brady a month ago (89.2 passer rating), had a messy night against Minnesota last week (94.0), and was worse in the Cardinals game (79.8)—only accentuated the problem.

The friction between McCarthy and Rodgers has been well-documented. As I understand it, it’d had gotten to the point where Rodgers—who has autonomy to adjust as he sees fit—was regularly changing plays, which would make it difficult for McCarthy to find his rhythm as a play-caller. As one coach who knows them both told me, “It’s almost ‘who’s got the better call?’ … Two really smart guys, ultra-competitive guys.”

Exacerbating all of it was the state of the roster, as McCarthy noted in the summer.

He would go to former GM Ted Thompson asking for specific additions to help Rodgers. And as Thompson’s health became an issue, word was McCarthy became increasingly frustrated, with the feeling that his requests were not being heeded. It eventually got to the point where McCarthy didn’t see the value in asking. So he stopped.

Those who know the situation say that McCarthy was doing a lot to try to help Rodgers from that standpoint that others didn’t know about. So when the roster’s construction fell into decline, McCarthy wasn’t redirecting Rodgers’ annoyance, he was taking it on himself.

It’s not hard to see where the failings were. Not a single member of the team’s 2015 draft class is on the Packers’ 53-man roster now. And where most teams would address the problems left in the wake of that on the veteran market, Thompson remained true to his draft-and-develop model, even though others in the organization saw the needs that were left unaddressed.

Thompson wound up retiring after last year, and the man widely believed to be McCarthy’s preference to take over, young exec Brian Gutekunst, got the job. Under its knew GM, the team even showed a little aggression with vets, bringing in Seattle tight end Jimmy Graham and Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. But by then, other issues were arising.

After the 2016 season, assistant head coach Tom Clements left. A year later, quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt was fired. The two served as buffers between McCarthy and Rodgers when anything went off track, and were effective in the role. Which makes it little wonder that Rodgers grew incensed with the changes.

“Well, my quarterbacks coach didn’t get retained,” Rodgers told ESPN Radio’s Mike Golic and Trey Wingo at Super Bowl LII. “I thought that was an interesting change, really without consulting me. There’s a close connection between quarterback and quarterbacks coach, and that was an interesting decision.”

So when things started off-center this year—Rodgers got hurt in a dramatic comeback win on opening night, and Green Bay only won two of its next seven games thereafter—the foundation of the McCarthy/Rodgers relationship wasn’t as strong as it once had been. Which brought everyone to Sunday, where the Packers failed to rebound from a slog of the previous week’s loss to Minnesota against a 2-9 Arizona team.

Truth be told, it was no secret that this conclusion was on the table. Losing to the Cardinals only gave the Packers the opening to ask, Maybe we shouldn’t wait? So team president Mark Murphy, in tandem with Gutekunst, decided to make the move now, to get a head start on the coaching search, and give McCarthy a chance to start preparing for his next job.

And again, despite the public criticism levied against the coach, those in charge at Lambeau Field don’t think McCarthy suddenly lost the ability to do his job. More so, his way had run its course, and sometimes these things aren’t to be blamed on one person or another.

That’s how it was in Philly in 2012. At that point, few in the public saw Reid as an offensive innovator anymore. Then he went to Kansas City, reimagined his offense, first for Alex Smith, then Patrick Mahomes, and today he’s seen as one of the most forward-thinking coaches in football. Meanwhile, the Eagles lived and learned through the Chip Kelly era, and came out of it with a Lombardi Trophy two years later.

Everyone won, in the end. Now, we’ll get to see if that sort of thing could happen again, under circumstances that are pretty similar.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein has some bad news:

If this is what Aaron Rodgers really wanted, a new offense, a fresh look, a change of direction, a chance to win a Super Bowl another way, well, he’s got it.

About three hours after the Green Bay Packers’ 20-17 defeat to the lowly Arizona Cardinals – who were 14-point underdogs and losers of five of their last six – to fall to 4-7-1, team president Mark Murphy announced that he had fired coach Mike McCarthy.

The move ends McCarthy’s 13-year reign as head coach of the Packers and equally long relationship with Rodgers.

And so the rebuild will begin.

Rodgers never said he wanted McCarthy fired or that he was playing to get him fired, but he never stuck up for him, never spoke about how the two are working together to get things fixed and often played with the body language of someone who was fed up with everything.

His play this season reached a new low Sunday. Playing against the No. 19-rated defense, he threw balls high, he threw them low, he threw them too far and he threw them too short. He continued to play with the attacking mindset of a Trent Dilfer, rarely willing to trust his receivers enough to throw it to them when a defender was near.

“We’re just not on the same page consistently,” Rodgers said after the game. “We’re not executing the right way and it’s the same stuff: poor throws, not on the same page with receivers, wrong depth, protection.”

It’s a damning account of what’s happened to a team with high aspirations, but also a commentary on how Rodgers may no longer be able to do what the very best quarterbacks do, which is make the players around him better.

Maybe Rodgers thinks he’s doing that with all the scrambling out of the pocket and playing an unconventional street-yard game. But he’s not. Rookie receivers like Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown need to be put in positions to succeed, not in positions that satisfy the quarterback’s desire for perfection.

They shouldn’t be immune from criticism, but why does Rodgers have to do it so publicly on the field? If it’s in the name of good leadership, it’s not really working because the two rookies combined for two catches for 19 yards, both by Valdes Scantling. The longest completion to anyone not named Davante Adams was 11 yards.

The way the game went Sunday, you would have taken the offense that played against Seattle or Minnesota over this one. The Packers put up 17 points against a warm-climate team with all kinds of problems with its run defense and not enough corners to cover Northwestern’s receivers.

Now come the repercussions.

Whether Murphy pulled the plug on McCarthy now or four Mondays from now, changes were going to come all around. This season has shown the roster is not nearly good enough to go on a playoff run and general manager Brian Gutekunst has much work to do in his second season.

Rodgers could be playing with a rookie tight end, rookie right tackle, rookie right guard and three second-year receivers next season. His new coach might require a different type of receiver than the tall wideouts McCarthy favored and so the receiver position may have to be rebuilt.

The right side of the offensive line needs an overhaul and so does the tight end position. Gutekunst might solve some of those problems in free agency, but everybody has seen what a crapshoot that has been with Jimmy Graham, Muhammad Wilkerson and Martellus Bennett.

It could be three years before the Packers find their way to an NFC Championship game. Sure, it only took Philadelphia two years with Doug Pederson to win a Super Bowl and two years for the Los Angeles Rams to be a powerhouse under Sean McVay.

But there are many other examples of it taking three, four, five years before the right mix of players are brought together for a Super Bowl run. And sometimes – see Chip Kelly, Hue Jackson – it doesn’t work out at all.

And who’s to say Gutekunst isn’t going to do to Rodgers what Ted Thompson did to Brett Favre? Maybe next year or the year after that, he drafts a quarterback with loads of potential, someone exactly like Rodgers when he was selected in 2005.

Then there’s the new coach and his offensive system. Suppose the new guy doesn’t want to give Rodgers all the freedom to change plays and tell his receivers to run routes differently than McCarthy did.

Those are all legitimate possibilities.

Rodgers is going to want to hit the ground running with a new coach and a new offense, but success might not come as quickly as he thinks it will.

You can criticize McCarthy all day for not adapting his offense to the talent he had, but the bottom line is he didn’t have enough of it to succeed on offense. When you’re playing with rookie receivers and young running backs and your two veteran tight ends are too slow to beat anyone down the field and your offensive line depth doesn’t cut it, you’re not going to go to many Super Bowls.

The point is, Rodgers might think it’s going to be seashells and balloons once someone new is hired to coach the Packers and it might not be. McCarthy might wind up in another Super Bowl before Rodgers does.

Asked what role he might play in the decision on McCarthy or a potential replacement, Rodgers said, “I’m not even thinking about that right now. I’m just thinking about these next four games and realizing how important leadership is in the tough times and trying to get guys to dig deep and play with that pride.

“I know my role is to play quarterback, to the best of my abilities.”

At the same time, he might want to prepare himself to wait. Instant success with a new coach is rare and given some of the holes on the 53-man roster, it’s unlikely Gutekunst can build it strong enough to win a Super Bowl in two offseasons.

For those who think Rodgers’ career is wasting away, you should be prepared to wait also.

By firing McCarthy the Packers have basically thrown away the 2019 season. That’s a historical fact. The Packers have also potentially lost their defensive staff, most notably new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, since it is unlikely a new head coach will be OK with inheriting the previous coaching staff.

I support McCarthy’s firing merely because, as with Reid and the Eagles, it was time for McCarthy to go. That doesn’t mean there aren’t repercussions.

As for the next coach, Dan Pompei wrote two years ago about a popular candidate:

On the morning of Dec. 6, 2010, a plane touched down at Akron-Canton Airport. Thom McDaniels turned on his phone as the plane slowed, and it rang immediately. It was his son Josh. The day before, Thom had watched Josh’s Broncos lose to the Chiefs in Kansas City. Now, Josh had some news.

“Dad, the Broncos let me go this morning,” Josh said. “I want you to know I’m fine. Laura is fine. Tell Mom for me, would you?”

Not long after, Thom called his son back. Like most good dads, Thom doesn’t hold back when he thinks his son needed to be told something. And when Thom has something to say about coaching, his words are well received by his son.

Time for a new coach

From the Wisconsin Gannett Empire:

The Green Bay Packers relieved coach Mike McCarthy of his duties after a 20-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field dropped the club to 4-7-1 on the season.

McCarthy is the first coach in the history of the franchise to be fired before the end of a full season.

“The 2018 season has not lived up to the expectations and standards of the Green Bay Packers. As a result, I made the difficult decision to relieve Mike McCarthy of his role as head coach, effective immediately,” Packers president and chief executive officer Mark Murphy said in a statement released by the team.

“Mike has been a terrific head coach and leader of the Packers for 13 seasons, during which time we experienced a great deal of success on and off the field. We want to thank Mike, his wife, Jessica, and the rest of the McCarthy family for all that they have done for the Packers and the Green Bay and Wisconsin communities. We will immediately begin the process of selecting the next head coach of the Green Bay Packers.”

Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin was named the interim head coach.

McCarthy is the first Packers coach to not finish out a season since Gene Ronzani resigned with two games left in the 1953 campaign. McCarthy replaced the last Packers coach to be fired in Mike Sherman in 2006.

McCarthy, 55, signed a one-year contract extension through the 2019 season on Jan. 2 of this year.

A Super Bowl champion in 2010, McCarthy is just one of three head coaches in franchise history to win a championship in the Super Bowl era, along with Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren. Since taking over in 2006 the Packers have had just two losing seasons under his direction and reached the postseason nine times — including eight straight seasons from 2009-16.

He concludes his Packers career with a record of 125-77-2, which is the second-best win total in franchise history behind Curly Lambeau (209-104-21). McCarthy has the most postseason games (10) and wins (10) in the playoffs of any Packers coach.

McCarthy is No. 27 all-time in the NFL in coaching victories and is the fourth-winningest active coach in the league behind Bill Belichick (258), Andy Reid (192) and Marvin Lewis (130).

Under McCarthy, the Packers did not just win Super Bowl XLV 31-25 on Feb. 6, 2011, but the team also won six NFC North division titles and advanced to four NFC championship games (2007, 2010, 2014, 2016).

The only surprise here, after the Packers’ pathetic performance in their 20-17 loss to Arizona Sunday, management decided to fire McCarthy now instead of waiting until his inevitable firing after the end of the season.

This puts the Packers into limbo for the rest of the season. One assumes the Packers’ next coach will come from one of this year’s playoff teams, including currently popular Saints quarterback coach Joe Lombardi, grandson of Vince.  So the Packers can’t hire, say, Lombardi until, say, the Saints are eliminated from the playoffs, which might not be until Super Bowl LIII.

The Packers probably did a big favor for McCarthy, who is strongly rumored to be heading to Cleveland to work for former Packers executive John Dorsey and with quarterback Baker Mayfield. Given how successful the Packers were with McCarthy, regardless of what you thought of his recent work, that’s fair.

What, or who, got McCarthy fired was really former general manager Ted Thompson, whose last drafts are being exposed as being really bad, especially on defense. GM Mike Sherman got coach Mike Sherman fired for the same reason, though Thompson issued the pink slip.

SI.com last week ranked the likely coaching vacancies:

5. Green Bay Packers: Fun for the right coach, but difficult for someone who may not be used to a quarterback that pushes back and likes to run the show. Having Aaron Rodgers for the remainder of his prime is the best part of this job, but also comes with myriad stresses. Dig into Packer teams over the past decade and you’ll find that it takes a brain surgeon type to match wits with the franchise quarterback.

Does “pushes back and likes to run the show” sound like anyone familiar? If you read this blog Friday afternoon, you might have concluded that Rodgers has become Brett Favre II, complete with rocky relationship with coach and increasingly cranky personality. (Favre reportedly became quite a loner in his final season with the Packers.)

The Packers’ history and Rodgers’ presence suggests that the Packers’ next coach will be an offensive assistant (as in Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Lindy Infante, Mike Holmgren, Mike Sherman and McCarthy), not someone from the defensive side of the ball (Phil Bengtson, Ray Rhodes), most likely not a former head coach (Forrest Gregg, Rhodes), and most certainly not a current college coach (Dan Devine).

McCarthy is the third best Packers coach in the last 60 years, behind Lombardi (duh) and Holmgren. Ironically Lombardi and Holmgren were second choices behind Iowa coach Forrest Evashefski (who never coached in the NFL) and Bill Parcells, respectively,. Fans at this point will start to chime in on their favorites, forgetting that there was only one Lombardi, there is only one Bill Belichick (and his assistants have not done well as head coaches, including Josh McDaniels, another popular name), Holmgren grew an ego that led to his departure from Green Bay, etc.

 

Something is rotten in the state of the Packers

Andy Benoit:

The Packers turned in another up-and-down, ultimately disappointing performance at Minnesota Sunday night, which only intensifies Mike McCarthy’s already hot seat. The 13th-year head coach has become a receptacle for criticism, much of it adhering to the same theme: that his offensive system is stale.

The first problem is this analysis is a few years too late (more on that in a moment). The second—and much bigger—problem is it gives Aaron Rodgers a pass for the highly inconsistent way he executes this offense.

Please understand, you’re not reading an Aaron Rodgers Hot Take. At least, not according to discussions that occur within the NFL. Around the league, Rodgers is regarded as an incredible but imperfect quarterback. Outside the NFL, Rodgers is basically viewed as a god. It has somehow become heretical to say anything critical of him.

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