Last week the Associated Press ran a story on NFL coaches who are on the hot seat. It deserves further thought and discussion.
Of the eight coaches that were named, four are from the NFC: Detroit’s Jim Caldwell, Chicago’s John Fox, Los Angeles’ Jeff Fisher, and Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy. The four from the AFC are: Jacksonville’s Gus Bradley, New York Jets coach Todd Bowles, Buffalo’s Rex Ryan, and San Diego’s Mike McCoy.
For what it’s worth, the NFL division that appears to have the weakest coaching is the NFC North, with Caldwell, McCarthy, and Fox all on the list.
You might also have noticed that of McCarthy’s four wins, three have come against other low-ranked head coaches: Lions, Bears, and Jags.
McCarthy, in his 11th year at the helm in Green Bay, is far and away the coach on the list who has been with his present team the longest.
But what strikes me most is that McCarthy’s sinking reputation has finally reached across Wisconsin’s borders and gone national. Yes, whether McCarthy’s should keep his job is now a topic of debate across the country, not just on Total Packers. The gospel has spread.
Green Bay fans — and the team’s corporate leadership — might want to consider the case of John Fox. He’s been a head coach for three NFL teams in the past 15 years. He’s a good coach, but two of his ex-bosses didn’t believe his teams were realizing their full potential.
Fox left Carolina after nine years as head coach, from 2002 through 2010. Carolina replaced him with Ron Rivera, who took the Panthers to the Super Bowl last year.
Fox moved on to Denver, where he left after the 2014 season. In four seasons with the Broncos, he led them to a terrific 46-18 record. But his postseason record consisted of: a loss to the Patriots in the AFC divisional round, a loss to the Ravens in the same round, a loss to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, and finally, a loss to the Colts in the 2014 divisional game. His postseason record with Denver was 3-4. Sound familiar?
The Broncos’ leadership believed the team was not playing up to expectations. They made a gutsy move, replacing Fox with Gary Kubiak. Kubiak won the Super Bowl in his first year as Denver’s head coach.
The calls for replacing McCarthy gathered momentum when the Packers threw away the 2014 conference championship game against the Seahawks, turning a seemingly insurmountable lead into a 28-22 overtime loss.
Criticism of McCarthy burst wide open following the Packers’ 2015 playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Reporters, pundits, blogs – local, state, and national – pointed out the Packers’ 2015 team had grossly underachieved. The final regular season game, in which Green Bay turned over the division title with a loss to Minnesota at Lambeau Field, was a stunning letdown. Most of the blame fell squarely on McCarthy’s sloping shoulders.
More than halfway through the 2016 season, as the team labors through with a 4-5 record and continues to lose home games to inferior opponents, McCarthy is under more scrutiny than ever before. Calls for a coaching change are getting more strident with each defeat.
General manager Ted Thompson, president Mark Murphy, and the team’s board of directors have heard the chorus of complaints and the boos at the stadium. They are not immune to pressure and in theory they would like to give the team its best chance of winning. Though both Thompson and McCarthy are believed to be under contract through 2018, this should be of little consequence.
A Realistic Forecast
This team’s leadership is not going to make a midseason coaching change. Nor will they publicly utter a word of criticism of McCarthy until such time as they decide to remove him.
McCarthy’s coaching performance over the next seven games should dictate whether he stays on for another year, but it probably won’t.
If the Packers turn things around and make the playoffs – and even if it is with an 8-8 record – I have no doubt that McCarthy will get another year. If not, I regret to say the result will still be the same.
McCarthy is still being viewed by those who count as the coach he once was, not the coach he has become.