McCarthy 'very thankful' for contract extension
Mike McCarthy was uncomfortable, and it wasn't the cough and cold, or the pink polka dot tie peeking through his suit.
Midway through the season, the Green Bay Packers coach knows there's still much work to be done. McCarthy's thoughts Monday were on the Chicago Bears, whom the Packers host Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
It's rivalry week. Green Bay's season is at a crossroads. In a crowded and deep NFC, the Packers could end up anywhere.
So McCarthy's multi-year contract extension – locking him up along with general manager Ted Thompson for the foreseeable future – wasn't a preferred conversational topic. He was thankful, taking time during his opening statement to express his appreciation.
"This is where we want to be," McCarthy said. "This is the greatest organization in professional sports in our view, and we're excited to continue with our program."
McCarthy also was excited to talk football.
At one point in a 13-minute news conference, McCarthy asked reporters to toss him a question about the Bears. Anything to change the subject, deflect the spotlight.
"This is a great place. I'm very blessed, very fortunate to have the opportunity to coach here," McCarthy said. "This is something that the organization wanted. I was thrilled about the opportunity to continue, so that's all I'm really thinking about, is moving forward. Frankly, I'm a little uncomfortable talking about it this time of the year.
"This is something we haven't done in-season in the past. We're thrilled as a family to be here, and we're focused on the Bears."
McCarthy had one year remaining on a five-year contract he signed following Green Bay's win against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. Details of McCarthy's extension were not released Monday.
There may be more pressing matters, but it's hard to overstate the significance of McCarthy's extension. His nine seasons as coach have given the Packers some of their proudest moments. Along with the Super Bowl title, McCarthy has led Green Bay to six playoff berths, four NFC North division titles and two NFC Championship Game appearances.
With 93 wins, McCarthy is five shy of tying legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi for second behind Curly Lambeau on the franchise's all-time coaching wins list.
"I think you win 100 games in this league as a head coach, it's definitely a milestone," McCarthy said. "I'm not going to compare myself to Coach Lombardi. Let's be real here. I understand my place, my opportunity, and I'm very thankful for the people that came before me – Coach Lombardi, Curly Lambeau, Mike Holmgren, Ron Wolf. They made this place, the foundation of the building.
"(It's) Ted Thompson, Mark Murphy and my responsibility, and Aaron Rodgers and the players' responsibility, to make sure we leave it better than when we arrived. That's the way I've always viewed it."
McCarthy hung those championship banners in lockstep with Thompson, who became Green Bay's general manager in 2005. Together, McCarthy and Thompson have resembled the ideal partnership between an NFL coach and GM.
When the Packers announced Thompson's contract extension during training camp, he said his top offseason priority was extending McCarthy. The Packers never let it get to the offseason. McCarthy said he signed the extension a couple days ago, over the bye.
"We are very happy to extend our relationship with Mike," Thompson said in a statement released through the team. "Over the past nine years, he's provided great stability and consistency to the Packers organization and our community as an excellent coach and leader. He's a good man and we look forward to the future with Mike as our head coach."
McCarthy's reputation was set when he arrived in Green Bay almost a decade ago. He was a bright, young offensive mind. Behind the curtain, McCarthy admits he might have been a bit stubborn, too.
When he looks back on his first season in 2006, McCarthy can't help but be amused. He entered the franchise gung-ho, determined to get the Packers back on track after a 4-12 record in 2005.
Green Bay started 1-4 in 2006 before crawling to an 8-8 record, missing the playoffs.
"I think when you're younger, you have an idea of what you want to do and how you want to do it," McCarthy said Monday, "and then you realize you have a lot more to learn than you want to admit. I think it makes you listen more, and I think it makes you check yourself. You're maybe a little more open.
"At the same breath, I think you have to stick to your guns and push forward through the tough times."
Results quickly improved. As quarterback Aaron Rodgers blossomed under McCarthy, so did the franchise. The Packers have made the playoffs in five straight seasons. They've won three straight division titles.
In Green Bay, McCarthy's offensive mind has flourished. One season after winning the Super Bowl, the Packers had their most prolific offense in franchise history. Rodgers was named MVP in 2011 while Green Bay led the league with 35 points per game.
But the head coach relates to players on both ends of the locker room.
"He's a players' coach," defensive end Datone Jones said, smiling. "He loves his guys. He takes care of us. Enough said. He's a great guy, and I love him."
McCarthy didn't hesitate when asked what has changed since 2006. "I'm older," he said. With age, there has been more experience. McCarthy, now 51, said he's a better coach than a decade ago.
Even before the extension, McCarthy never wasted time thinking about the end. When asked, McCarthy didn't say how long he plans to coach, but he feels like a young man. The wear and tear of nine NFL seasons haven't taken effect.
Right now, McCarthy just wants to beat the Bears.
"I think every time you're given an opportunity to lead a team, you max it out," McCarthy said. "That's the way I've always gone about it. Hey, the good Lord only knows how much longer you're going to be doing anything. I'm the head coach of the 2014 Green Bay Packers. I'm trying to max out this opportunity. That's the reality of my approach."