How and why the Packers parted ways with Mike McCarthy

Mark87

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Too good not to share:

On a Monday afternoon in early January, the Green Bay Packers hosted a small collection of reporters in a conference room off the business wing of Lambeau Field. Members of the media who cover the team on a daily basis fanned out around a conference table and waited for team president Mark Murphy to arrive.
It was a momentous day for Murphy. He had spent the morning introducing, explaining and justifying his decision to hire Brian Gutekunst as general manager following a national search to identify Ted Thompson’s successor.
That he landed on Gutekunst, a younger and more aggressive personnel executive with two decades of experience in Green Bay, still qualified as a minor surprise from a pool of candidates that included director of football operations Eliot Wolf and vice president of football administration/player finance Russ Ball.

That Murphy also elected to overhaul the team’s power structure — and place himself atop the football operations pyramid — finished as the most significant news of the day.

The reorganization left Gutekunst, Ball and coach Mike McCarthy on equal footing by requiring all three men to report directly to Murphy, whose prior contributions to the franchise came mostly on the business side. And while Gutekunst was given unilateral control over personnel decisions involving the 53-man roster, the ability to hire and fire the coach remained with Murphy.
“At the end of the day,” Murphy said, “that would be my decision.”

Eleven months later, after another putrid performance saw the offense fail on nine consecutive third downs, the defense surrender 182 rushing yards and the special teams commit three more penalties; after the hapless Cardinals, winners of two games all season prior to Sunday, danced across the slushy surface while Mason Crosby’s game-tying field goal sailed wide right as time expired; after postgame news conferences in which McCarthy admitted he’s uncertain how to proceed and his quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, lamented the latest amalgamation of the same mistakes that have tormented the Packers all season, Murphy made the choice he reserved for himself.
The Packers fired McCarthy around 6 p.m. Sunday, roughly three hours after they lost to the Cardinals, 20-17, as their disastrous season reached its nadir. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin was named interim head coach.

“The 2018 season has not lived up to the expectations and standards of the Green Bay Packers,” Murphy said in a statement released by the team. “As a result, I made the difficult decision to relieve Mike McCarthy of his role as head coach, effective immediately. 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.”
McCarthy had finished addressing the media when Murphy asked to speak with him upstairs, away from the postgame fray on the ground floor of Lambeau Field. He informed McCarthy the organization was moving in another direction — something many expected would happen at the end of the season — and the change was being made now despite the mathematical possibility of a playoff appearance, even as the Packers sank to 4-7-1 with their sixth loss in eight games.

Just as he promised on that January afternoon, Murphy consulted with Gutekunst prior to firing McCarthy, though it’s unclear when their final conversation took place: before, during or after Sunday’s abominable loss to the Cardinals, at home, when the elements clearly favored the team from Wisconsin, not Arizona.

Were Murphy and Gutekunst seated together inside a suite at Lambeau Field? Did they meet briefly while McCarthy spoke to reporters about his latest confounding defeat? Or was this decision several weeks in the making with Sunday’s loss opening the door for swift, immediate action?

All signs point toward the latter. While the exact answers to those questions are unknown, Gutekunst supported the decision to move on from McCarthy and move on from him now, with four games remaining, and avoid the additional month of speculation, rumor and inquest for coaches and players, especially as the on-field product devolved week over week.

This was not an example of Murphy exercising his power alone; rather, Murphy had the support of the general manager he deprived of the right to fire a coach himself. And given the magnitude of any coaching change, especially one involving a man with eight 10-win seasons and eight consecutive playoff appearances from 2009 to 2016, it stands to reason that Murphy and Gutekunst had broached this subject long before Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals, perhaps agreeing to execute their plan regardless of the outcome.

Why keep McCarthy for another month if he’s no longer the coach of the future, especially when the on-field product is a disjointed, ineffective mess? Parting ways now affords the Packers several extra weeks to research potential replacements, including Philbin, while McCarthy can evaluate his own options and escape the awkwardness of a lame duck.

“Not surprised at all,” a source said. “Needed to happen. … Reality is we lost to Arizona in Lambeau in December.”

“The Cardinals are one of the worst teams in football,” another source said.

Murphy is scheduled to meet with reporters Monday afternoon, in the same auditorium where he outlined the new power structure earlier this year, and some of the questions he faces will undoubtedly probe the disconnect between McCarthy and Rodgers, whom the Packers committed to with a four-year, $134 million contract extension in August.

It’s something the next coach, whoever that might be, can’t afford to repeat.

The friction McCarthy and Rodgers had always attributed to their competitive spirits felt more personal this season, more gnarled, and never dissipated after Sept. 30, when Rodgers used his postgame news conference following a 22-0 win over the Bills to lash the offense for shoddy execution, poor play design and the inability to call enough plays that targeted the most dangerous weapon on the perimeter: wide receiver Davante Adams.

With each passing week came a familiar recipe of poor production on third down, a refusal to commit to the running game, numerous missed throws by Rodgers and the inability to put together four quarters of football. The offense plummeted, game after game, until the Packers ranked 26th in third-down percentage, 27th in completion percentage, 21st in rushing yards per game, 16th in total points and had a quarterback whose body language was consistently poor.

It didn’t help when, on Nov. 26, McCarthy told reporters the Seahawks, Patriots and Vikings had employed similar defensive game plans by utilizing a four-man rush with heavy coverage on the back end, essentially admitting that the Packers had no answers. And when Rodgers spoke to the media Sunday, following a game in which he completed 31 of 50 passes (62 percent) for 233 yards and one touchdown, he used the word “same” seven times in describing the offense’s problems this season.

“We’re just not executing well and it’s the same things over and over,” Rodgers said. “It’s red-zone percentage and third-down percentage.

“It says a lot about the execution. I think that’s all wrapped up into that. We actually hit a couple of third downs early and then went a nice long stretch there without hitting one. That’s kind of been the issue. That’s why we’re not scoring a bunch of points, we’re not getting touchdowns in the red zone. It’s the same story.

“I just think it’s the same things that we unfortunately say every week. I hate to repeat myself, but it’s applicable. We’re just not on the same page consistently. We’re not executing the right way. It’s the same stuff. It’s poor throws, not on the same page with receivers, wrong depth, protection. We all have a part in that and we’ve all picked our time to mess up a third down.”

The diagnosing of wounds felt like the only thing McCarthy and Rodgers could agree on, especially lately, and the division between them was obvious even in their final moments as coach and quarterback, evidenced by some puzzling disagreements after Sunday’s game:

Rodgers believed the Packers had practiced well on Thursday during their heaviest workload of the week; McCarthy thought that same practice wasn’t very good.
Rodgers believed the overall preparation for the Cardinals was strong; McCarthy thought the meetings weren’t crisp enough during the week.
Rodgers believed poor execution was the biggest problem in Sunday’s game; McCarthy thought the coaching was subpar and blamed himself twice.
Perhaps their diverging comments were an appropriate ending to a partnership that regressed from the zenith of a Super Bowl, in 2010, to its current state of arrhythmic dysfunction, in 2018, as the Packers seem likely to miss the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

“I’ve never been in this spot,” McCarthy said in response to the final question of his tenure. “I’m not going to act like I know what the hell I’m going to do tomorrow when they get in here. So, we’re going to do what we always do, we’re going to represent the Packers the right way, I know that. Other than that, we’ll focus on what’s in front of us.”

He no longer has to worry about tomorrow.
 
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A few things are telling here.

First, MM not knowing what to do against D's that are employing the same strategy time and again. (My assumption is this has been going on a while but AR has bailed him out until recently)

Second, MM saying out loud to the media, “I’m not going to act like I know what the hell I’m going to do tomorrow when they get in here." He was obviously done and wanted out.

Third, AR and MM completely disagreeing on everything including practices, effort, and execution.

The new HC better know how to work with AR to make him more focused and get back to playing good football. That will be key. Of course, the other piece is Gute getting the pieces to get this team back to being competitive.

A lot of work ahead of us.
 

Cheesedog

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If Arod thought it was a great week of prep and that they were prepared and that's how they performed? then wow..

MM just didn't have any idea what to do. He seemed totally defeated. His QB directly contradicted him and said everything was great during the week. How is the HC supposed to hold people accountable in that situation?
 
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Good read Danno!

I agree with the point he made, though might have used different words for it, that is just splitting hairs.

His choice for head coach, though there are others that fit this role.

I believe the college guys Packinatl named would. (Riley and others)

After watching him with his excitement and enthusiasm huddling the Offense during the game, believe Jeff McDaniels is this type also.

He wouldn't be the first HC that didn't fare well in their first go around and then got things right and turned a team into a SB winner. Dick Vermile and Belechick both have to name two off the top of my head
 

Cheesedog

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Good read Danno!

I agree with the point he made, though might have used different words for it, that is just splitting hairs.

His choice for head coach, though there are others that fit this role.

I believe the college guys Packinatl named would. (Riley and others)

After watching him with his excitement and enthusiasm huddling the Offense during the game, believe Jeff McDaniels is this type also.

He wouldn't be the first HC that didn't fare well in their first go around and then got things right and turned a team into a SB winner. Dick Vermile and Belechick both have to name two off the top of my head
That's true Belichik was awful in CLE..

And don't forget Pete Carroll. He was a disaster in NE before turning SEA around
 
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Parcells did in Dallas. Funny how talent matters
Absolutely true!
Carroll accepted a HC position he never should have.
Jets GM (Dick Steinberg/1990-1994) was suffering from stomach cancer. He died in 1995.
Carroll coached the NYJ’s for just the 1994 season before being replaced by Rick Kotite.
Can’t help but wonder if Carroll had been blessed with a decent GM/drafter like he has been with Schneider in SEA, maybe his time with the Jets would have been longer and more successful?
 

Cheesedog

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Absolutely true!
Carroll accepted a HC position he never should have.
Jets GM (Dick Steinberg/1990-1994) was suffering from stomach cancer. He died in 1995.
Carroll coached the NYJ’s for just the 1994 season before being replaced by Rick Kotite.
Can’t help but wonder if Carroll had been blessed with a decent GM/drafter like he has been with Schneider in SEA, maybe his time with the Jets would have been longer and more successful?
It's definitely possible. But I also think his time in College FB did him well...
 
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