On January 1st, 2006 the Green Bay Packers beat the Seattle Seahawks 23-17 at Lambeau Field. Legendary quarterback Brett Favre completed 21 of 37 passes for 259 yards, one touchdown and of course one interception. It was 34 degrees that day and the Packers had an incoming record of 3-12. Due to the poor year and given the age of Favre, fans thought that the last game of that 2005 season would be Favre’s last ever, so they gave him a standing ovation before the game.
After the failed 2005 season the Packers fired Head Coach Mike Sherman from his position, but not before changing general managers. The Packers have now established a pattern in their front office. Change general managers and then make a head coaching change the season after. Mike Sherman was the Packers Head Coach AND General Manager from 2001-2004. The Packers then brought in Ted Thompson to replace Sherman as GM in 2005, and fired Sherman from his head coaching position after the 2005 season. The Packers replaced old GM Ted Thompson last season,with current GM Brian Gutekunst.
After the 2005 season there was a lot of uncertainty in the locker room similar to what the Packers feel today. An aging HOF caliber quarterback, a new general manager and a search for the next head coach to bring home another Lombardi Trophy. Similar to what Packers fans saw from 2005-2006 they see today, over a decade later.
The 2006 season was a stressful time for the Green Bay front office for all of the reasons already mentioned. There was a large candidate group that the Packers were interested in and didn’t want to make the same mistake they made with Mike Sherman. So what did they do? They brought in another guy named Mike, Mike McCarthy. McCarthy knew right from the get-go that this head coaching position wasn’t just a head coaching position in the National Football League, but for THE Green Bay Packers. McCarthy got the job over guys like Sean Payton, Wade Phillips, Brad Childress, Ron Rivera and others. McCarthy was previously out in San Francisco as their offensive coordinator and knew that he wanted to come back to Green Bay (was a previous quarterbacks coach). Not only did Mike McCarthy inherit one future HOF QB, he got TWO. Mike’s premier position on the football field was always the quarterback. Time and time again he mentioned that the quarterback is the most important position on the field, especially for his West Coast offense.
2006 was the inaugural year for the Mike McCarthy Green Bay Packers. They doubled their wins from the season previous with eight, just missing the playoffs. Nonetheless, McCarthy’s first year as Packers head coach was a success. The next year, 2007, is a year every dedicated cheesehead will remember. The Packers had home-field advantage in the playoffs with a 13-3 regular season record in Brett Favre’s last games in the green and gold. The Packers ended up falling to the Giants in the NFC Championship game, causing yet another change to the Green Bay Packers; Brett Favre didn’t come back.
Any second-year coach losing their starting quarterback is going to have setbacks and that deemed correct with McCarthy. After Favre left to go play football in the Meadowlands, it was time for the Packers to go with the 4th-year QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers had been QB2 behind Favre for three full seasons, soaking up everything that Favre knew. It is insane to go back and see both Favre and Rodgers on the sideline together and on the same team knowing what we know today. The Packers won only six games in McCarthy/Rodgers first year together.
Mike McCarthy changed the culture in Green Bay. He incentivized players to stay in Green Bay for offseason workouts, changed the in-season workout schedules, and played productive mind games like forcing the players to stay in cheaper hotels when the lost on the road. After losing to the Arizona Cardinals in the 2009 NFC Wild-Card game, McCarthy knew he was thisclose to creating a team that could make a Super Bowl run. Then came 2010. The Packers stumbled in the regular season on the injury report. In that year the Packers had more players placed on injured reserve than any other team. A 10-6 regular season record (and having to win their last two games) allowed them to fight into the playoffs and onto the wild card game where they defeated the number three seeded Philadelphia Eagles 21-16 with Mike Vick as the quarterback. The next two games the Packers would explode on all cylinders, defeating the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears on their way to Super Bowl XLV.
The night before the Super Bowl, McCarthy had all of the players fit themselves for a Super Bowl ring, and gave them a speech of confidence. The players knew that what they wanted was right in front of them. The Packers brought back the trophy that is named after them, the historic Lombardi Trophy. It means more to the Green Bay Packers than any other organization in football, which makes it so special to the team.
In the height of Mike McCarthy’s tenure as a Packers coach, Green Bay went on to win 15 games in the 2011 season with a disappointing loss to the New York Giants in the divisional round. It wasn’t until 2014 that McCarthy would bring the Packers back to the NFC title game. That game against the Seattle Seahawks may stand as the most heartbreaking loss in McCarthy’s career. Two years later, McCarthy would bring the Packers to the NFC title game yet again against the Atlanta Falcons in 2016. That year, with countless injuries on the defensive side of the ball, the Packers defense imploded and gave up 44 points to a Falcons team that would end up suffering the worst come-from-behind-loss in Super Bowl History.
After that season the Mike McCarthy Green Bay Packers were never the same. In the following season, Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone on a questionable (at best) hit by Vikings LB Anthony Barr sending a whirlwind through the Packers organization. The Packers finished 7-9 that season which caused the firing and replacement of defensive coordinator Dom Capers and demotion of General Manager Ted Thompson.
The end of the Mike McCarthy/Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers came not at complete fault of McCarthy. It was a combination of poor draft picks by Thompson, an outdated defensive scheme from Capers, waning offensive innovation from McCarthy, and everyone felt too comfortable in their roles.
The 2018 season felt different for the Packers. Sure, Aaron Rodgers had an injured knee but this was a new team. Brian Gutekunst, the new general manager sent off 27 of the previous 53 players on the 2017 team. The Packers hired a great defensive mind in Mike Pettine which has clearly improved from the Dom Capers defense of old.
After an epic week one comeback at home against Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears it felt like this could have been a solid season for this football team. A tie in week two made it McCarthy’s second tie in his career as head coach for the Packers, both coming against the Minnesota Vikings. After losing 4 games on the road it was clear that McCarthy couldn’t get the job done. In games on the road where a team must win to make a Super Bowl run, the Packers failed and so did McCarthy. The final blow to McCarthy’s tenure in Green Bay came with an embarrassing loss to the 2-9 Arizona Cardinals at home. The front office knew it was time, the team knew it was time, and the fans knew it was time. Time for a change.
Less than three hours after the Packers lost to the Cardinals 20-17 at home, Mike McCarthy was no longer the head coach of the team he led for over a decade. It was a move that was surprising and unprecedented. Many thought McCarthy would be let go at the end of the season, per tradition in Green Bay. Mark Murphy, the Packers President, said he made the move in the middle of the season in order to get a head start on the head coach search and to give time for McCarthy to find another job if he so chooses.
In a classy move by the organization, Mike McCarthy was allowed to come back and not only have one on one meetings with his former staff but with his former players as well. Many NFL analysts and head coaches thought the move was disrespectful for the Packers to fire McCarthy mid-season, but the nod for McCarthy to come back shows the respect that the Packers front office holds for their Super Bowl-winning former head coach. As the McCarthy/Rodgers era is over there is a lot to look back on. Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren brought the Packers back to fruition and Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy kept it the gold standard of the league. There aren’t enough thanks any Packers fan can give to Mike McCarthy for his ability to keep Green Bay on the map for over a decade. Any coach that brings back the Lombardi Trophy to Titletown deserves to have his name etched in stone. We’ll see you in the Packers HOF, Coach.