That didn’t take long. The Packers parted ways with Mike McCarthy less than three hours after their 20-17 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday. While many expected McCarthy to be fired at the end of the season (he was the odds on favorite in Vegas to be the first head coach fired), you’d be hard pressed to find many who thought it would happen mid-season or the same day as a game. The team announced the move via twitter, adding that Joe Philbin would be promoted to Interim Head Coach.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) December 3, 2018
The selection of Joe Philbin is none too surprising. Traditionally one of the coordinators is promoted to head coach after a mid-season firing. Both Joe Philbin and Mike Pettine joined the team this offseason and have prior experience as head coaches, but Philbin’s prior stint with the Packers made him an obvious selection.
McCarthy is the Packers’ winningest coach in franchise history, compiling a 135-85-2 record since taking over in 2006, guiding the team to a 10-8 postseason record during that span, including a 2010 Super Bowl victory. The past few years have been rough for the Packers, needing Aaron Rodgers’ heroics to make the playoffs in 2016 before falling apart in Rodgers’ absence last season. This year, the Packers sit at 4-7-1 through 13 weeks and are almost certainly out of the playoff picture. Despite the long-term success under McCarthy, things have appeared stale this year and he seemed to have lost the locker room completely. Take veteran receiver Randall Cobb, who, when asked about McCarthy losing the locker room, said, “I’m here to play football. My feeling doesn’t matter.” You’d expect him to say they supported McCarthy or reject McCarthy losing the team if that were the case.
As for why the team made the move now, there are a few reasons. In all likelihood they knew it was time to move on prior to Sunday’s game, but didn’t want to make such a drastic move until the season was officially over. While Green Bay isn’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, they might as well be. The early firing allows the team to assess what they have as they prepare for what will almost assuredly be an offseason of turnover. The move also allows the team to get a jump on the coaching search. Being the first team searching gives them the pick of the litter for the time being, an advantage that would be forfeited if they waited until after the season to send McCarthy packing.
The question of who’s up next in Green Bay will be the talk of the town next couple months. Joe Philbin and Mike Pettine could get some consideration, but the selection of either of them would be surprising if the team is really trying to shake things up. They could look for an offensive guru to make the most of Aaron Rodgers. If that’s the case they may consider Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels or Oklahoma’s head coach Lincoln Riley, both of whom are young, creative offensive minds that would certainly spice things up for the Packers. Other options include Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who was very successful in his first NFL stint as a head coach while with the 49ers, and Bruce Ariens, who has said he’d only come out of retirement to coach the Browns but could potentially be swayed by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Another big question as will be how much say general manager Brian Gutekunst gets in the decision. A big part of the general manager decision last year involved Mark Murphy taking control of head coaching decisions, which normally belong to the GM. Regardless of who the next head coach is, the fresh atmosphere brought by a new head coach should at the very least make 2019 better than this season. No, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but it’s clear McCarthy’s time with the Packers needed to come to an end sooner rather than later. The team may have lost to the Cardinals, but at least they got one win today.