Unloved by Fans, Mike McCarthy Is What a Lot of NFL Teams Want and Need

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterDecember 4, 2018

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 07: Green Bay Packers head football coach Mike McCarthy watches the actions during the fourth quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 7, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. The Lions defeated the Packers 31-23. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) ** Mike McCarthy **
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Great news, fans of beleaguered and befuddled NFL franchises! There's a hot new coaching candidate on the scene with a resume to drool over: a Super Bowl ring, a 125-77-2 career record, nine playoff appearances, a 15-1 season and experience developing a future Hall of Fame quarterback.

You probably guessed the bad news: His name is Mike McCarthy, and most football fans currently hate him.

The Packers didn't merely fire McCarthy on Sunday. They unceremoniously dumped him after the game like a security guard caught sleeping at his post.

Players have tuned McCarthy out all season (see: former Packers rogue kick returner turned Ravens option tailback Ty Montgomery). Aaron Rodgers spoke of McCarthy's game plans like they were used to line the rim of a toilet seat, and he has played like he was shrugging them off and doing his own thing for years.

McCarthy's Packers are 11-18-1 over the last two seasons and haven't beaten a truly good team since Rodgers engineered a 20-point comeback on a bad leg against the Bears in the season opener.

So, who is desperate enough to want to hire McCarthy as a head coach?

Just about every team in the league that needs one, of course.

McCarthy's job history is sparkling, so long as you concentrate on the big picture and ignore the fact that the Packers have been running the same five plays over and over since 2015. A portfolio like McCarthy's would get an interview in any industry, let alone the tightly knit football coaching circle. 

NFL decision-makers are the types of men who sit down in trendy Italian bistros with Michelin-rated chefs and order veal parmesan over linguine. They love big steaming heaps of comforting familiarity, and words like "proven" and "experience" make their eyes roll back into their heads with satisfaction. Naturally, they'll gravitate toward a known commodity like McCarthy.

Some fans in Green Bay made their feelings clear about the job they thought Mike McCarthy was doing with the Packers this season.
Some fans in Green Bay made their feelings clear about the job they thought Mike McCarthy was doing with the Packers this season.Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

Also, there's precedent. A few years ago, another coach was fired after a similar run: lots of playoff success, the rise and decline of a fine quarterback, and some seasons near the end when his whole team ran out of ideas and energy. That coach was Andy Reid. He was unemployed for about 20 minutes after the Eagles canned him in 2012, and he's currently making offensive history with a Super Bowl contender and an MVP-candidate quarterback.

McCarthy could be a Reid. Or a Mike Holmgren, who left the Packers for a successful tenure in Seattle. Changing venues and starting over often jolts a long-tenured coach out of his complacency, forcing him to supplement what worked eight years ago with fresher ideas and tailor his message and methods to a new crop of players.

OK, fans of down-and-out teams, we hear you. You don't want McCarthy. You want the next Sean McVay, or the latest model to roll off Reid's genius-assistant assembly line.

Unfortunately, there aren't any Next McVays. NFL teams are terrible at identifying Next McVays for the reasons mentioned above: They are too enamored with reheating leftovers like Brian Daboll. And there are so many Reid assistants working as head coaches right now that the law of diminishing returns is due to kick in.

There's a shortage of great offensive minds in the NFL. That means that McCarthy will not only get lots of interviews once the coaching carousel officially begins spinning, but he's a good fit for several teams in need of a head coach. Let's take a peek:


The Browns

Browns general manager John Dorsey spent more than a decade in the Packers front office and is in the process of unifying the warring Browns organizational factions under his rule, so McCarthy offers obvious appeal. Both sides could even start the interview process this afternoon and reach an agreement as soon as Condoleeza Rice politely declines the job.

After almost 13 seasons together, McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers had difficulty seeing eye to eye on the Packers' play-calling.
After almost 13 seasons together, McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers had difficulty seeing eye to eye on the Packers' play-calling.Paul Sancya/Associated Press

McCarthy and Baker Mayfield may look like a mismatch after the Mayfield-Hue Jackson-Todd Haley feud and years of barely concealed McCarthy-Rodgers friction, but he could also be the ideal mentor for a gifted-but-prickly young passer. After all, McCarthy and Rodgers enjoyed almost a decade of success before frustrations percolated, and Rodgers doesn't exactly come across as a cuddly coworker.


The Jets

Replace "Baker Mayfield" with "Sam Darnold" and McCarthy to the Jets makes as much sense as McCarthy to the Browns. Even McCarthy's most predictable game plans would be a major step up from the current Jets offense, whose signature play is a punt from midfield while trailing late in the game.

The Jets need a new general manager in addition to a new head coach. McCarthy won't do much good if Mike Maccagnan keeps handing him Quincy Enunwa and Trenton Cannon and claiming they are Antonio Brown and Alvin Kamara.

That makes projecting McCarthy to the Jets tricky. He's never had personnel control, doesn't seem suited for the role (check out how he handled the Packers running backs for the last five years), and there aren't many old Packers execs hanging around after the Packers and Browns divvied them up last offseason. But like the Browns, the Jets would schedule parades if McCarthy could bring them a few of his "disappointing" 2012-16 seasons. 


The Bengals

The Bengals need a full-staff coaching reboot, fumigating team headquarters so Hue Jackson doesn't hide in the ductwork and emerge as the head coach somehow. Hiring McCarthy would signal a new direction for an organization whose emphasis on continuity at all costs has made them the knockoff Packers, with all of the predictability but none of the success.

The image of Andy Dalton running Rodgers' offense should send a shudder down your spine—he would endure six sacks and underthrow three passes per game for interceptions before getting injuredbut again, we're assuming that McCarthy retools/modernizes/does something besides mimeograph 2011 game plans to his scheme. And if you are thinking about a Bengals future involving Dalton, you aren't thinking about the Bengals' future. McCarthy's task in Cincinnati would be to acquire and develop a new quarterback.


Outside-the-box options

It may be easy to forget now, but McCarthy guided the Packers to the playoffs nine times since 2006, including a win in Super Bowl XLV.
It may be easy to forget now, but McCarthy guided the Packers to the playoffs nine times since 2006, including a win in Super Bowl XLV.Mark Humphrey/Associated Press/Associated Press

The Dolphins hired McCarthy Lite (Joe Philbin) a few years ago, when McCarthy was held in such high esteem that his assistants were coveted. Philbin was swallowed up by general Dolphins toxicity, and they're now drifting along with Adam Gase, who could coach them until the ice caps melt and never crack 9-7. Like the Bengals, they're a team desperate for identity, direction and a massive status-quo shakeup. McCarthy could provide all three.

The Jaguars have a fine defense but need to completely rebuild their offense. Sure, Doug Marrone received a vote of confidence from ownership a few weeks ago, but that was before McCarthy became available.

Imagine McCarthy working with all of the offensive weapons in Atlanta or Tampa. If you don't think he could do better than their current coaching regimes, you haven't watched much Falcons or Buccaneers football. In fact, McCarthy has legitimate claim to being better than half of the coaches in the NFL, unless you focus on the last two seasons and ignore what came before.

McCarthy was an innovator in the late 2000s and early 2010s. He would boldly spread the field with receivers on one play and then counterpunch with a full-house backfield on the next. He's forgotten more about NFL offense than many coaching candidates have ever known. And yes, that can be read two different ways.

That creative game-planner and effective leader is still within McCarthy. It makes him a better head coaching candidate than just about anyone else your team is likely to interview.

Maybe we're trying a little too hard to talk ourselves into the idea.

But you better believe that plenty of NFL owners and execs are doing the exact same thing.


Mike Tanier covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeTanier.  


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