I have always considered the Packers a first-class organization, but in firing Mike McCarthy with four games remaining this season, Green Bay’s current leadership, in my eyes, has lowered itself by not treating its longtime, successful coach with the respect he deserves.
Yes, McCarthy’s firing was inevitable after consecutive losses to Seattle, Minnesota and, most damaging, at home to lowly Arizona. His record of nine playoff appearances in 13 seasons was impressive, but the last two years have been difficult, and at 4-7-1 this season, the Packers are not going to make a playoff run.
While I have a hard time believing McCarthy is a coach whose message and strategies have gone stale, I can understand the push for change in Green Bay after so many years. Just wait four weeks to do it.
Unless my coach had done something truly egregious, or if it was early and obvious the team had quit on him, I would never fire a coach during the season.
On Monday, after saying in a dismissive fashion that “Mike’s tenure had run its course,” Packers president Mark Murphy told media that making the change now gives himself and general manager Brian Gutekunst an opportunity to start the coaching search immediately instead of waiting until the end of the season.
To that, I say hogwash.
I was involved in several head coaching searches and hirings during my NFL management career. If a coaching change appeared imminent, I assembled my list of candidates, quietly did my research and was ready to set the coach firing and hiring process in motion on Black Monday (the day after the regular-season finale when these unfortunate events should and most often do take place).
The Packers will not be able to interview coaching candidates who are currently working for other NFL teams until after the regular season. Most often, the top prospective NFL coaches are with playoff teams, so the wait extends into January or even February. Perhaps Green Bay can talk to college coaches now, but those coaches would still be accessible in January.
Then Murphy made another bogus statement, saying the move gives McCarthy a chance to find a new job quicker.
As if Murphy is doing McCarthy a favor.
McCarthy said he was shocked by the timing, indicating he hardly viewed it as a blessing. If let go after the regular-season finale, McCarthy would have been one of five or six coaches getting pink slips on the same day. All the coaching carousel attention would not have been on him as it has been this week.
He may be saying all the right things, such as being proud to have been part of the Packers organization, but deep down, McCarthy has to feel betrayed and somewhat humiliated by the organization to which he gave his heart and soul, not to mention so many late nights working on game plans.
McCarthy is smart, and he surely would have seen the handwriting on the wall even while employed over the last month of the season. He could have had his agent quietly scoping out potential landing spots without talking directly to those teams. He would have felt confident a team like Cleveland would not hire another coach without first interviewing him.
The Browns, after all, now employ several ex-Packers staff members, including GM John Dorsey.
The main issues in Green Bay over the last couple years have been Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone last season and several injuries to key defensive starters this season, plus a need for more talent and quality depth overall. That falls on the scouting department, not the coach.
There also might be some truth to rumors of McCarthy and Rodgers not always being on the same page, but again, that’s not a reason for the coach’s early release. Let’s also remember it was McCarthy (along with former GM Ted Thompson) who made the call to elevate Rodgers over Brett Favre in 2008. McCarthy played a major role in cultivating Rodgers’ immense talent.
Murphy’s most recent jobs prior to joining the Packers were athletic director positions at Colgate and Northwestern. The practice of firing coaches midseason is much more prevalent in college sports, so perhaps that played a role in his action.
As for Gutekunst, a rookie GM, I have a strong feeling Thompson would have opposed such a move with four games to play. Of course, Murphy still could have pulled it off since he’s in charge, but Thompson would have been a voice of reason to delay the process.
Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman said on his Fox broadcast Sunday, “Mike McCarthy deserves better.” Aikman then expanded his thoughts on Twitter: “Two losing seasons in 12 years (one of those without Rodgers for 9 games); took the Packers to the playoffs in 9 of the last 11 seasons; 4 NFC Championship Games, 1 Super Bowl. Yes he deserved better than to be fired mid-season.”
McCarthy’s biggest rival in the NFC North, Mike Zimmer of the Vikings, called the Packers’ move “sad and a mistake,” and said, “He’s a fine coach. … Just one
I agree with both of them. Ultimately, 13 years is a long time for any coach to be in one place. But such a tenure should not end in this undignified way.
It clearly was a panic move after a bad loss.
Jeff Diamond is a former president of the Titans and former vice president/general manager of the Vikings. He was selected NFL Executive of the Year in 1998. Diamond is currently a business and sports consultant who also does broadcast and online media work. He makes speaking appearances to corporate/civic groups and college classes on negotiation and sports business/sports management. He is the former chairman and CEO of The Ingram Group. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffdiamondNFL.