In a shock move, the Green Bay Packers have parted ways with veteran head coach Mike McCarthy, just an hour after the teams most embarrassing loss of the season, losing to the Arizona Cardinals and dropping to a 4-7-1 record on the season.
Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin will serve as interim head coach.
The sudden move has come as a result of Green Bay’s worst season in a decade, a season that has been simply inexcusable with a healthy Aaron Rodgers under centre, playing with an offence that is more than capable of putting up 30 points a game.
Despite having the future Hall of Famer slinging from the backfield, a total disconnect had developed between McCarthy’s staff and the players which have been further magnified over the past six weeks with the side costing themselves wins in close games against the LA Rams and New England Patriots.
Stale play calling has been another obvious factor in the Packers decline through a season. A total disregard for a good run game and over-reliance on a less than stellar quarterback led to mediocrity and a certain predictability which teams around the league picked up on and exploited.
Yesterday’s loss was the final nail in the coffin for McCarthy in a game that exemplified the apparent rift in the team that has been a nagging headline for the Packer front office the last three months. Playing against a team that held the NFL’s worst record (2-9 before kick-off), a team that got blown out by a fringe playoff team in the LA Chargers, and a team that barely brushed by the hopeless Raiders, the Packers could do nothing on defence to stop rookie Josh Rosen, who holds the highest interception rate in the NFL.
The offence was hardly any better. Aaron Rodgers continued to look off colour, missing passes deemed automatic earlier in his career. Aaron Jones struggled to beat a woeful defensive front robbing the Packers of a decent run game in the challenging cold weather conditions.
Holding a slim lead for the majority of the game, the Cardinals put on two impressive second-half drives to go ahead seven, leaving Mike McCarthy scrambling to bounce back. Ultimately, a difficult kick into the wind was missed by Mason Crosby, sealing the coach’s fate.
With the playoffs now out of the question, the side faces their second missed run in Aaron Rodgers 12-year career (his first was his first year as a starter), and after he signed a $134 million contract in the offseason, it was clear who the Packers intended to keep moving forward, after awarding McCarthy with a solitary one-year extension. Perhaps the most obvious difference in opinion has come between the play caller and his quarterback this year, with Rodgers often portraying his displeasure at McCarthy during games for all to see, instead of keeping the arguments in house behind closed doors.
This lethal cocktail of poor play calling, disillusioned players, outside pressure and a breakdown between McCarthy and his most important player, proved to be too bitter a taste for President Mike Murphy, who relinquished McCarthy of his role just an hour after the loss.
In a statement, Murphy thanked the head coach for his contributions to the franchise, saying:
“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.
“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.”
The move to fire a coach mid-way through the season is a rarity for 1265 Lombardi Avenue who’ve only done so once before, and some argue the move to be an insult to a coach who brought the Packers a Super Bowl title in 2010.
In time McCarthy won’t be remembered for these past troublesome seasons, rather, his steadfast running of a successful team which lead him to become the franchises second most winning coach behind Curly Lambeau, with a 125 – 77 – 2 record. McCarthy was instrumental in the transition period between Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers and orchestrated a potent offence with his new QB which sent the Packers to a franchise-high eight postseasons in a row, a streak which ended last year after Rodgers broke his collarbone.
To go with a Super Bowl win over the Steelers, McCarthy reached the NFC Conference game twice, and baring a last-minute choke play by ex-tight-end Brandon Bostic, would have reached the big dance again in 2015.
Murphy and the organisation had other ideas though, accepting the inevitability and cutting McCarthy loose, looking to jump themselves to the front of the queue in their pursuit of a new head coach.
These next three months will surely define Murphy’s tenure, but the organisation will remain optimistic of landing whoever they want with Rodgers still healthy and under contract. But, with an aging QB and shortening Super Bowl window, the Packers are undoubtedly under pressure to perform and secure another Lombardi Trophy.
Words: Robert Tunley