End of an era: Mike McCarthy's highs, lows with Packers
GREEN BAY – Four games short of 13 full seasons, Mike McCarthy was tied for third among the the longest-tenured coaches in the NFL. Only New England’s Bill Belichick (18th season), Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis (15th) and New Orleans’ Sean Payton (13th) had as much service time with their teams.
In his time, McCarthy has run the gauntlet of head-coaching experiences. He was fired Sunday with a career winning percentage of .621 (125-76-2). He was also 1-3 in the NFC Championship game.
In the NFL, 13 seasons is a lifetime. McCarthy, the longest-tenured head coach in Packers history, vacates the job after many memorable and regrettable moments. Here’s a stroll down memory lane.
Super Bowl XLV championship: Only three coaches in franchise history have won a Super Bowl. To be in the same company as Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren is meaningful. McCarthy joined their ranks Feb. 6, 2011 with a 31-25 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, giving the Packers their fourth Super Bowl victory in franchise history. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers got much of the credit within the Packers fan base, but McCarthy’s resume is bolstered nonetheless. Expect it to be among the most attractive items among other teams in the NFL looking to fill a head-coaching vacancy.
Eight straight playoffs: Fans scoff at McCarthy’s inability to reach more than one Super Bowl with Rodgers at quarterback, but few probably realize how historically consistent he won. Under McCarthy, the Packers were one of seven teams in the Super Bowl era to reach eight straight playoffs. Their streak included the 2013 season, when Rodgers missed seven games because of a broken collarbone. Only the New England Patriots (2009-present), Dallas Cowboys (1975-83) and Indianapolis Colts (2002-10) had longer streaks.
Record-breaking offense: Before the narrative turned to McCarthy’s offense being stale and outdated, he was considered a visionary. Under McCarthy, the Packers engineered their greatest offenses in franchise history, none greater than in 2011. The Packers went 15-1 in the regular season that year before being upset against the eventual Super Bowl-winning New York Giants at home in the NFC divisional playoff round. Still, in the season Rodgers won his first MVP, the Packers set a franchise record with 560 points in the season. They scored 35 points in nine of their games. To put 2018 in perspective, the Packers have scored 30 points in a game just twice and never more than 33.
Three NFC Championship game losses: The losses to the Giants in 2007 and Falcons in 2016 stung, but the worst moment of McCarthy’s tenure – and, perhaps, Packers history – came Jan. 18, 2015 in Seattle. The Packers were five minutes from the Super Bowl, holding a 19-7 lead with the ball, when everything fell apart. The biggest knock on McCarthy’s time in Green Bay is that he never got the team back to the Super Bowl with Rodgers at quarterback. Their 28-22 overtime defeat to the Seahawks is the closest the Packers have gotten.
His last day on the job: Given the Cardinals were 2-9 entering Lambeau Field, and the Packers absolutely had to win to preserve even the slimmest playoff hope, Sunday was the worst regular-season loss of McCarthy’s tenure. It doubles as the day he was fired, so it’s pretty easy to include on this list. Even if the Packers somehow managed to win, what transpired Sunday afternoon was the clearest sign yet of a coach that had lost his team. Rodgers called the effort flat. That reflects coaching.
The Kaepernick game: If there was one moment when a potential dynasty become something else, this was it. Colin Kaepernick ran roughshod on the Packers, who were ill prepared for his read-option game in the 2012 NFC divisional playoff game. The Packers allowed 263 passing yards, 181 rushing yards and four touchdowns in a 45-31 loss. The Packers were never able to recapture the gravitas they had before that game.