By Kent R. Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com, October 23, 2017)
As NuQum.com reported earlier this year, the Green Bay Packers and Head Coach Mike McCarthy mutually agreed, short of a Super Bowl appearance in one of the next two seasons, the team will not renew his contract after the 2018 season.
Has the Aaron Rodgers likely season-ending injury changed that informal agreement?
One Packer management source close to the McCarthy’s negotiations says, “Yes.” This year is even more critical, not less, to McCarthy’s future with the Packers.
Nothing shows the value of a coach more than how a team responds to the loss of its best player. The Packers 26-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints is not, by itself, an indicator of McCarthy’s coaching ability, but our source close to Packer senior management says this season has become more important to McCarthy’s future following Rodgers’ injury.
“Behlichick won a Super Bowl (2016) with Brady out for six games,” notes our source. “Brady missed almost the entire 2008 season and the Patriots still finished 11-5. That’s the standard we expect for the Packers as well.”
Since the Packers’ 2011 Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Packers have not returned to the Super Bowl. Considering many NFL analysts view Rodgers as the best quarterback in the game today, the Packers’ absence from the Super Bowl leaves many wondering who is to blame: Packer management or the coach? Or both?
Packer management, of course, looks at McCarthy as a key factor to success and recent results have not proved favorable to his cause.
Despite a dramatic victory over the Dallas Cowboys in last season’s playoffs, the Packers’ subsequent 41-22 destruction at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game left many in Packer management feeling McCarthy’s time with the organization is nearing its end.
That conclusion seems harsh to many that still regard the Packers’ 2011 Super Bowl victory as a testament to McCarthy’s coaching acumen. Rather, some analysts pin the blame for the Packers’ post-2011 misfortunes on Packer management itself. Namely, management’s in ability to build a championship caliber defense around their future Hall of Fame quarterback.
The Packer defense, in terms of yards allowed per game, has only once finished a season in the league’s Top 10 since the 2011 season (when it was ranked 1st in the league).
2017 (in first 7 games): 22nd
“The problem with the Packers’ defense is that it is predicated so much on Rodgers getting hot early and allowing the unit to play with a significant lead,” wrote Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer after the Packers 2017 NFC Championship game loss. “Green Bay, perhaps spoiled by Rodgers, has taken that approach too far, to the point of no return to the Super Bowl.”
Radio sports talk host and long-time Packer observer, Steve Czaban, thinks blaming the Packers’ post-season misfortunes on specific management decisions is off-the-mark; instead, he believes the Packer’s unique municipal ownership structure must share some of the blame.
“I know that Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy have tried. And no, I don’t have any specific critiques of missteps on personnel,” says Czaban. “But the one, and only time it hurts the Packers to not have an actual owner is right now. It’s when those men responsible for wasting a generational talent like Rodgers’ career would otherwise feel the heat and urgency of a single billionaire calling them into his office to ask simply: “what the f**k? What… the F**K!”
Injuries have hobbled the Packers every year since their Super Bowl season, but one of the features of their last Super Bowl victory was that the team overcame a number of critical injuries that championship season.
Jermichael Finley, the Packer Pro Bowl tight end, was a big loss for the offense in 2011, but even bigger loses occurred on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive back Al Harris missed the first half of the 2010-11 season due to injury. All-Pro linebacker Nick Barnett was out the last two-thirds of the season, including the playoffs. Likewise, for starting defensive back Morgan Burnett and linebacker Brady Poppinga.
The 2010-11 Super Bowl winning season guaranteed McCarthy’s job would be safe for more than a few years. But this is 2017 and the Packers, in all likelihood, are not going to make it to the Super Bowl this year.
To what extent does the Packer management hold McCarthy accountable for the fact that the Packers haven’t been back to the Super Bowl since 2011? Packers president and chief executive office, Mark Murphy, will ultimately answer that question.
The fact that their Hall of Fame certain quarterback is no longer available for the 2017-18 season does not work in McCarthy’s favor. Should the Packers not contend for their division title this year, our sources say McCarthy will be all but done with the Packers.
Short of Super Bowl appearance next season, McCarthy will be out of a job on December 31, 2018.
About the author: Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY). He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.