Appreciating Mike McCarthy

It was not a sexy hire. Five years ago, when Ted Thompson was interviewing candidates to replace Mike Sherman, we heard names like Wade Phillips, Sean Payton and Brad Childress. Guys we had heard of. But Thompson handed the keys to Mike McCarthy, someone most of us had never heard of.

He'd been running the offense in San Francisco, a team that was so bad it had earned the first pick in the '05 draft. Had been an offensive coach in New Orleans and Kansas City. We weren't totally jazzed by the hire, but most of us said, 'OK, let's see what the guy can do.'

Then we started looking at him more closely. And hearing from guys he coached. Guys like Joe Montana and Rich Gannon couldn't speak more highly about him. We knew he was a good quarterback coach and someday he would have to develop Brett Favre's successor.

Five years later, he's a Super Bowl winning coach, credited with developing Aaron Rodgers into one of the best quarterbacks in the league. This cannot be overstated. Over the past 30 years, only the Packers and 49ers have been able to go seamlessly from one elite QB to another, with no down time in-between. Barring a serious injury to Rodgers, the Packers will enjoy more than a quarter century of elite quarterback play. Boy, the '70s and '80s seem like a long time ago.

McCarthy is not glib. He doesn't provide witty sound bites for the media and fans to devour. He kept his team together throughout a roller coaster season that saw starters and key contributors fall by the wayside. He was questioned weekly about his team's inability to win close games. Yet he kept his head down and stuck to his belief that he had a special team that would ultimately get the job done.

While most head coaches let their coordinator call plays, McCarthy likes to continue to do it, and he called a great game Sunday night. His play calling is under-appreciated. He gives Rodgers the authority to check out of plays and after three years together they have great chemistry and clearly spend countless hours preparing for each game.

The night before the biggest game of his life, McCarthy had his players sized for Super Bowl rings. That's the confidence he had in his team and his game plan. That's making sure your young football team has the attitude and confidence that they are the better team and this is their time.

And now he has brought the Lombardi back to Titletown. Let's hope the labor issues are resolved quickly because this team is locked, loaded and poised to make a run at another one. With a handful of key players returning from injuries (Finley, Grant, Burnett, Neal and Chillar to name a few), and a draft to add a few more key pieces (hopefully a return guy), the Packers will go into 2011 as the favorites to repeat.

In the last ten seasons, ten different teams represented the NFC in the Super Bowl. It feels like the Packers are ready to bust that trend. They have a young, gifted roster. Not to mention, an unassuming, aggressive, confident head coach who pushed all the right buttons in 2010.


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