When one looks at the track record of Mike McCarthy as head coach of the Green Bay Packers over close to 13 seasons, there is a lot to like.
Things like having a 125-75-2 record in the regular season, which equates to a .624 winning percentage. That includes six NFC North titles.
Plus there is the fact that the Packers have been to the postseason nine times under his watch, including eight seasons in a row. But even though his team won Super Bowl XLV, McCarthy has not fared as well in the postseason overall, as he is just 10-8.
Included in that were three losses in the NFC title game, two of which were lost in overtime. In addition to that, McCarthy’s teams have lost two other postseason games in overtime.
That’s four overtime losses in the postseason.
Just imagine what McCarthy’s record might be in the postseason if his teams got a break or two in those games. Instead of 10-8, McCarthy’s record in the postseason might be much better and might include another Vince Lombardi Trophy or two.
But sometimes you have to create your own breaks. And that’s where some of us take issue with McCarthy’s tactics over the years in big games. Like being too conservative.
I’ll give you two examples and they both happened in the same stadium (CenturyLink Field) when the Packers played the Seattle Seahawks.
The first example is the 2014 NFC championship game. The Packers dominated the game for 55 minutes, but a breakdown on offense, defense and special teams in the last five minutes led to an agonizing 28-22 loss in overtime.
At one point the Packers were basically one more first down away from putting the game away. So what plays did McCarthy call in that instance? Three straight running plays. This with the 2014 NFL MVP (Aaron Rodgers) as your quarterback.
Then on Thursday night with the Packers down 27-24 with 4:02 to go in the game and the Packers facing a fourth-and-2 from their own 33-yard line, with just one timeout, McCarthy decided to punt, again with Rodgers as his QB.
The Packers never got the ball back, as the Packers were having big issues stopping the run in the second half of the game, plus defensive lineman Mike Daniels was out of the game with an ankle injury and fellow D-lineman Kenny Clark had also limped off with an injury.
So what was McCarthy’s explanation?
“We have the injuries to Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels, so yeah, it was definitely a consideration there,” McCarthy said. “But with the one timeout and the ability to stop the clock at the two-minute [warning], we played the numbers.”
That doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense.
Which is why the now 4-5-1 Packers might not make the postseason for the second straight year. Which also places McCarthy is the hot seat of being perhaps fired.
I hear from a lot of fans that McCarthy was fortunate that he had Brett Favre and Rodgers playing quarterback for him during most of his tenure. Plus, when Rodgers was hurt last year, the team didn’t fare very well with Brett Hundley at quarterback.
That is true, but at least McCarthy was smart enough to bring back Matt Flynn in 2013 when Rodgers was out with a similar injury. That helped the Packers achieve their third straight NFC North title.
But now things look much worse. It certainly appears that McCarthy and Rodgers are not on the same page in terms of the play calling on offense.
Plus, now McCarthy doesn’t have Ted Thompson as his GM anymore. That job now belongs to Brian Gutekunst. But even with a new general manager, the decision to keep or fire McCarthy lies with team president Mark Murphy.
On Friday, McCarthy talked to the media about his job status.
“That’s the job,” McCarthy said. “That’s the way this business has gone. I’m not going to get into comparables, but at the end of the day that’s part of the job responsibility of the head coach.
“We set a standard here the past 12 years, and it’s our responsibility to play to that standard.”
But McCarthy also realizes that things are different in today’s NFL, especially now that people can get information off the social media.
“I don’t think you can tune (criticism) out,” McCarthy said. “That’s the old days. That’s when you had newspapers. But I think today’s world, everything is accessible, everything is instant. I’m sure (Packers players are) all aware.”
McCarthy has been down this road before with his team, both in 2013 (when the Packers need a strong push from Flynn at the end of the season) and in 2016 (when the Packers need to win the last six games of the season to win the NFC North and make the playoffs).
Green Bay almost certainly has to run the table again with six straight wins in 2018 for the team to perhaps win the NFC North or get in as a Wild Card.
The odds of that don’t seem too good, especially knowing the team is 0-5 on the road.
There is growing speculation that McCarthy’s time in Green Bay is short. An article by Mike Silver of NFL.com illustrates that.
In the article, Silver uses a couple of quotes about McCarthy’s decision to punt late in the game.
Defensive back Tramon Williams of the Packers shared his thoughts on that subject.
“I want to go for it,” Williams said. “I want to play to win. We’ve got Aaron Rodgers. We (should) play to win — period. We don’t want to put it in anybody else’s hands. We’ve got the best quarterback in the league. We’ve got to put it in his hands and let him do what he does.”
Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. of the Seahawks was very happy with McCarthy’s decision.
“Oh my God,” Norton said after the game. “I was like, ‘Please! Punt! Punt! Punt!’ ”
Time will tell how this will all play out, but unless things change pretty drastically, the Packers will most likely will have a new head coach in 2019.