Less than one month ago the Green Bay Packers were toast. They had just lost their 4th consecutive game and dropped to 4-6 on the season. Not only did they seem destined to miss the playoffs, but it seemed like the end of the Mike McCarthy Era was near. Oh, how quickly things can change. After winning their 4th consecutive game on Sunday the Packers now control their NFC North destiny. Regardless of how the season ends, McCarthy should not be fired.
After the late November Sunday night debacle against the Washington Football Team I was on the “It’s time for a new coach” train. The Packers were infuriatingly mediocre for the most of the 2015 season, which they finished 4-6 after a 6-0 start. Their subsequent 4-6 start to this season made me believe a regime change would behoove the Packers. However, this recent surge has me back on McCarthy’s side. I’d like to say the current winning streak is a pleasant surprise, but that ignores history. Indeed, McCarthy’s teams almost always get better as the season wears on. Consider:
- In 2006 (McCarthy’s first season) the Packers started 4-8, but finished the season 8-8 and narrowly missed the playoffs.
- In 2009 the Packers dropped to 4-4 after a horrible loss to the (then) winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Packers won 7 of their last 8 games and made the playoffs.
- In 2010 the Packers were a mediocre 3-3 to begin the season and then, you know, won the Super Bowl.
- In 2012 the Packers started 2-3 and won the division with an 11-5 record.
Granted, I am not entirely sure what makes a “good” head coach in the NFL. Football strategy is so insanely complicated and roster management is so dynamic that any perspective I have is going to be limited. That said, the tendency for the Packers to improve as the season progresses seems like strong evidence that Mike McCarthy is an exceptional coach. Moreover, if a Packers team was ever going to roll over and die, this season was that time. They looked hopelessly terrible during their losing streak, but instead of quitting they responded by becoming one of the most terrifying teams in the NFC. McCarthy deserves credit for this turnaround.
The Packers still might miss they playoffs. If the 4th quarter of the Chicago Bears game was any indication, this team still has some serious flaws. Furthermore, I will not deny that McCarthy has his limitations. Too often he will “play not to lose” in big games – a strategy that has proven to be disastrous. I will even grant that a reader of the Racine County Eye could be picked at random to coach the Packers and they would still win eight games as long as Aaron Rodgers was playing quarterback. All of that said, you do not amass at .647 career winning percentage, five division titles, and a Super Bowl title if you are not a good coach.
Even if the Packers lose their next two games, Mike McCarthy has once again proven himself as one of the top coaches in the NFL. With the Packers primed for another playoff run, McCarthy should not have to worry about getting his resume ready for 2017.