Bill Belichick took home his third AP Coach of the Year award today and no one is saying that he didn't deserve it. But after a Patriots one-and-done in the playoffs, some people might feel like there are more deserving coaches now. The one that comes to a lot of people's minds is Packers head coach Mike McCarthy.
The Packers' 10-6 regular season record doesn't look all that special, until you look at how they got there. Green Bay had a league-high six starters and 16 total players on the injured reserve this season. And most of those starters were key players.
After starting the season very promisingly, having a good day on the ground, Ryan Grant was injured in the third quarter of Green Bay's opening game against Philly. Shortly after the game, he was placed on the IR. Right off the bat, the Packers' entire running game disappeared.
Only a few weeks later, the promising rookie SS Morgan Burnett went down for the year. Nick Barnett, one of the better MLBs in the NFL was next. Then, shortly after that, Jermichael Finley, who looked like he was going to have a huge breakout year and become one of the biggest receiving threats in the NFL, was lost.
This all led to a choppy start for the Packers, going 3-3 in their first six games, including back-to-back overtime losses to the Redskins and Dolphins. It looked like after being predicted by many to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, the Packers wouldn't even make the playoffs. Too much was going wrong for the Pack. But McCarthy wasn't about to let the season slip away that easily.
Green Bay won five of its next six games, including two wins over division rival Minnesota, a shutout of the Jets and a 45-7 beatdown of the Cowboys. Then, tragedy struck again. Aaron Rodgers suffered his second concussion of the season in the second quarter of the Week 14 game against Detroit. With the remaining schedule they had ahead of them, things looked very bleak for the Packers.
They ended up losing a close game to New England, in New England, in which backup Matt Flynn played brilliantly with Aaron Rodgers still sidelined with a concussion. Aaron Rodgers returned for the next week and the Packers played "lights out," handing the Giants a 45-17 loss in a game that the Packers needed to win to still have a shot to make the playoffs. They went on to win a defensive struggle against the Bears the next week to make the playoffs.
In each of their playoff games, the Packers showed up completely ready and played brilliantly on the road in each game. A harsh environment in Philly, a dome in which the Falcons had suffered one loss in the past two years and a historic game in Chicago didn't faze Green Bay in the least. That has a lot to do with how the head coach prepares his team. With all the ups and downs the Packers went through this season, the captain that righted the ship no matter what happened was Mike McCarthy.
During this deep playoff run, with the chance to win its first Super Bowl in 13 years, Green Bay has played its best football at the right time and it's because McCarthy never let anyone give up. If the AP Coach of the Year was re-voted on today, the trophy would belong to a true Cheesehead.