The Green Bay Packers fired head coach Mike McCarthy after Sunday’s loss to Arizona. The move was probably inevitable even if the timing was shocking
When the Green Bay Packers lost to the Arizona Cardinals 20-17 on Sunday afternoon, a consensus began to form that the upset could mark the end of Mike McCarthy’s tenure at head coach. What few suspected was that the change would happen so quickly. Mere hours later, the Packers announced that McCarthy was out and that offensive coordinator Joe Philbin would act as interim head coach. With that shock announcement, McCarthy’s 13-year stint in Green Bay came to a rather abrupt and ignoble end.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) December 3, 2018
“The 2018 season has not lived up to the expectations and standards of the Green Bay Packers. As a result, I made the difficult decision to relieve Mike McCarthy of his role as head coach, effective immediately,” Packers CEO Mark Murphy said in a statement before thanking McCarthy for his service. “Mike has been a terrific head coach and leader of the Packers for 13 seasons, during which time we experienced a great deal of success on and off the field.”
While there’s been no question that McCarthy has had a successful run in Green Bay, it was obvious that whatever had worked in the past simply wasn’t working anymore. As losses began to mount, there was a growing sense that this was going to be McCarthy’s season barring a miracle turnaround. After the Packers’ record fell to 4-7-1 following a home loss to a Cardinals team that had won exactly two games, the team decided there was no use delaying the inevitable.
As with everything in Green Bay, the decision came down to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. A two-time MVP, Rodgers has been one of the best starting quarterbacks in the league for most of his career, and the team has made the playoffs every year he’s been healthy since 2008. He has, however, only won a single Super Bowl in all those trips. While some of that comes down with the quality of players that the team has put around him, there’s been a sense that McCarthy’s play-calling has been, at best, a non-factor. As long as the Rodgers/McCarthy combo was consistently making the postseason, the Packers were not inclined to make any major moves. Well, the Packers, losers of their last three games and currently in third place in the NFC North, are not making the postseason this time around.
It was just a few days ago that Sports Illustrated released a detailed report by Kalyn Kahler called, pointedly, How It All Went Wrong in Packerland. The report details growing tension between McCarthy and Rodgers, particularly with regards to play-calling. Rodgers, an incredibly intelligent player, often has the green light to run his own plays something which has led to increasing conflict: “McCarthy might call the same play three times in a game, without the play actually being run as he called it. And if McCarthy calls a play that Rodgers doesn’t like early in the game, that can sour the mood for the rest of the game.” To say the least, this is not a dynamic that was going to last much longer and when there’s conflict between a Hall of Fame quarterback still in his prime and his head coach, well, a team is going to side with the QB. Green Bay simply can’t expect to find and interview candidates to replace an Aaron Rodgers.
Of course, even if the two were on the same page, circumstances might have forced the team to make a change regardless. This season was so disappointing that the overall sense around the league that the team needed a fresh start if it wanted to maximize its opportunities to win with Rodgers. The Packers have underachieved and while McCarthy might not have been the problem, complacency alone can sometimes be a killer. The question now, assuming that Philbin is merely a place-holder and not a likely head coach candidate, is where the franchise goes from here. They will have plenty of time to think about it.
MVP of the week
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks trounced the San Francisco 49ers 43-16 on Sunday. While Wilson didn’t exactly accumulate a crazy amount of yards through the air, just 185, he tossed for four touchdowns and zero picks on 11-17 passing. There’s something to be said about economy.
Stat of the week
19 years. That’s how long it took unspeakably immobile New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to break the 1,000-yard career rushing mark. He hit the milestone in his team’s 24-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings. “Obviously I’m not a scrambler,” Brady said after the game, in what may have been an understatement. The Patriots are now 9-3 and look to be in excellent position to win the AFC East.
Quote of the week
“I realized what I did when I saw the video.” – former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt to ESPN, discussing the disturbing video footage that led to him being cut by his team.
I guess It’s never too early for spin. Just days after TMZ released video of Kareem Hunt violently assaulting a woman in a hotel hallway, the now team-less Hunt went on ESPN in a half-hearted attempt to apologize for his actions. He also said, “I’m not that type of person,” which is self-evidently untrue.
In the meantime, all the information coming out has shown that the NFL has not improved one iota since the Ray Rice scandal years ago. Apparently, the NFL did not interview Hunt or the victim while investigating the situation. Given everything we’ve heard so far, it’s difficult to come to a conclusion other than that sometimes the league would just rather not know when it comes to its athletes committing violence against women.
In the middle of all of this, the Chiefs had an actual football game to play on Sunday. Without Hunt, the Chiefs still looked like the same team: their impressive offense scored 40 points in their win over the Oakland Raiders while their questionable defense allowed 33 points. The Chiefs continue to be an exciting team from a purely football standpoint, but the questions that linger about how the league and the franchise have handled the Hunt situation have hung a dark cloud over this season.
Video of the week
— John Breech (@johnbreech) December 2, 2018
New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr threw a 49-yard touchdown pass in Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, while also catching a touchdown pass of his own. The last Giants receiver to do that? That would be Odell Beckham Jr way back in Week 5. Beckham’s heroics helped the Giants earn a rare win, a 30-27 win in overtime, but not before Bears running back Tarik Cohen responded with his own trick play touchdown pass of his own to tie the game.
Elsewhere around the league
• The Los Angeles Rams have reasserted themselves as the team to beat in the NFL. Before this week, they were in the same discussion with the New Orleans Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs, but they have pulled away from the pack. First, they outlasted the Chiefs in that utterly ridiculous 54-51 Monday Night Football game. They improved upon their record to 11-1 on Sunday with a 30-16 win over the Detroit Lions. Meanwhile, the 10-2 Chiefs are dealing with the fallout over the Kareem Hunt video and the Saints… well, about those Saints.
• The New Orleans Saints fell to (a still quite good) 10-2 win their 13-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. With this win, one of the most impressive defensive performances by any team this season, the Cowboys improved to 7-5 and increased their win streak to four games. With Washington dealing with the loss of quarterback Alex Smith, they must be considered favorites to win the NFC East right now.
•- There was more bad injury news for the Cincinnati Bengals, who are already playing without quarterback Andy Dalton, on Sunday. During today’s 24-10 loss against the Denver Broncos, wide receiver AJ Green hurt his toe in a scary-looking non-contact injury. His status remains up in the air.
• The news was even worse for the Carolina Panthers, who have officially lost tight end Greg Olsen for the season. During their 24-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Olsen ruptured the plantar fascia in his foot, the same foot that he had surgery on last year. “I’ve got to get this foot put back together a little bit,” he said after the game, “It’s been a long time since my foot has been normal.” The Panthers meanwhile have fallen to 6-6 and their once promising season is in free fall.
• The Houston Texans honored late President George HW Bush, a frequent visitor to their games, with a moment of silence before kickoff. They then proceeded to demolish the Cleveland Browns in his honor, putting up a 23-0 lead before halftime. While the Browns put together a stronger second half to make the 29-13 final look vaguely more acceptable, the game was never in doubt. The Texans have now rebounded from their 0-3 start with a nine-game win streak and look like a near lock to win the AFC South.
• The Los Angeles Chargers pulled off a comeback victory on Sunday Night Football, coming back from a 23-7 halftime victory to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 33-30 on their third attempt at a game-winning field goal. The Chargers’ first two attempts were no good and blocked, respectively, but were erased by consecutive offsides calls on Pittsburgh. The Chargers improved their record to 9-3, remaining alive in the AFC West, while the Steelers fell to 7-4-1, weakening their grip on the AFC North. Presumably they will also be in the market for a new special teams coach sooner rather than later.