Missed field goal brings Mike McCarthy's run with Packers to an end
GREEN BAY - As 60 minutes of uneven, sloppy play unfolded in front of him on a gray, snowy afternoon at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Mark Murphy’s mind was being made up. He had felt Mike McCarthy’s time had run out in Green Bay and the effort he saw in a 20-17 loss to Arizona only solidified it.
“In evaluating the season, I really felt that change was needed and kind of Mike’s tenure had run its course,” Murphy said Monday.
“And quite honestly the performance on Sunday night to me made it very clear that a coaching change was needed.”
Shortly after Mason Crosby’s game-tying field attempt floated wide right, Murphy met with general Brian Gutekunst and the pair reached a consensus: It was time to relieve McCarthy of his duties as the head coach of the Packers.
As this decision was being reached, McCarthy held his usual postgame address to the team. He then headed to the media auditorium for his news conference and the locker room opened, with some players quietly filing in and out.
Immediately following his 6 minute, 13 second session with the media, with the locker room still open, McCarthy was called to Murphy’s office where the Packers president and chief executive officer informed him that he was no longer the coach of the Packers. A source told PackersNews.com that McCarthy was “shocked” by the news, but in the brief conversation, Murphy said the coach handled it professionally.
During the open locker room period, Gutekunst walked in briefly and quietly looked out over the football-shaped space. Executive vice president and director football operations Russ Ball brushed briskly through, his face down in his phone. Co-director of player personnel Jon-Eric Sullivan also moved through, seemingly lost in thought.
After Murphy had spoken to McCarthy, Gutekunst sought out Joe Philbin, who was ushered up to the same office and informed by Murphy that he would be the interim head coach. Philbin then spoke to McCarthy in an emotional moment between longtime friends.
“You come back here and you want to be part of the solution,” Philbin said Monday. “You want to help a guy that’s been a great man, he’s been a great coach, been a friend, and you feel like you let him down.
“You know, I know how he feels. I’ve been through it. It’s not fun.”
At that point in the early evening, cornerback Kevin King was already home, watching television when the phone rang -- the voice on the other end telling him the only NFL head coach he has played for was fired.
At 6 p.m. sharp, the team announced that McCarthy had been let go.
King then saw the news alert come across his screen. Davante Adams said he got a message from a friend and then saw the news alert. Randall Cobb pantomimed holding his phone in his right hand and looked down at it. David Bakhtiari’s phone similarly exploded. Aaron Rodgers was with family at home, celebrating his birthday, and said he also learned of it when the world did. Lane Taylor’s wife, Kasey, saw it and informed him – and he didn’t believe it. Bryan Bulaga saw the news crawl across the late afternoon football game he was watching.
“I think we were all surprised last night,” Rodgers said. “There was a great deal of frustration about the performance individually and collectively as a squad, losing a game we should’ve won, and surprised about the timing. But, again, those are decisions that Mark is making with Brian’s help, and we’re just going to keep on moving forward.”
A source said McCarthy was inundated with calls and texts of support from former employees, family members and people with Packers connections.
On Monday, Murphy did not want to put a hard date on when he came to the realization that McCarthy’s time had indeed run its course, only that it had been a thought for some time as he hoped the team could somehow scratch out a key victory to change the course of the season.
“Knowing that we’re going to make a change, in my mind, it’s best for the organization to make the change now rather than waiting to the offseason,” Murphy said. “The process of hiring a coach is a competitive process. It gets us into the market earlier.”
And if Crosby’s field goal had drifted to the left and through the uprights, as he thought it would, and the team went on to win in overtime?
“That's a hypothetical, but we did not play well,” Gutekunst said. “To lose to a 2-9 team at home, a team from Arizona in a dome, that was not a good performance.
“I think, in my mind, it made clear that we needed to make a change.”
Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed.