A good read here yesterday from USA Today. Not much of consequence in this article but interesting nonetheless (who came up with the expression ‘nonetheless’ and how were they allowed to have it all be one word?).
Reading this article conjured up a few thoughts for me re Mike McCarthy. First of all, let me just say that we can officially declare that TT’s selection of MM was nothing short of brilliant. Period. Brilliant. I stand fully corrected as an adamant Jim Bates advocate at the time, even though he may have been good too. MM is the right man for this job. I know I’m putting myself out there a bit as some people want to see another good season before going off like this, but I‘m not one of them. I just can’t see the team being bad this year and Mike McCarthy is the main reason I can say this confidently. There is something about the way Mike McCarthy goes about things that is compelling, that characterizes a championship coach. I think in his brief time in Green Bay, we have all seen him develop quickly into the unquestioned leader of this team.
McCarthy’s steady leadership is a major reason why I’m not smarting as much as I thought I would be from Favre’s retirement. In fact, I think helping me with this transition is the fact that McCarthy’s approach to the game reminds me of Favre’s: he wants to win very badly and he’ll help the team win in every way he knows how, but he wants it to be fun along the way. And like Favre, McCarthy is immensely talented, focused, driven and serious when he needs to be. I know Mike Sherman had a fairly good relationship with most of his players and tried to make being a Packer fun, but he lacked talent and didn’t have the respect from the players that MM clearly has. There is not much more you can ask for in a coach: in 2 short years he’s proven he’s talented, successful, respected and well-liked. (One tiny piece of evidence for this is that I’m not sure a recluse and classic non-camp-attender, if you like, like Charles Woodson would have come to camp and even embraced a mentoring role under many other coaches). Players seem just plain excited to play for him.
One quality I really admire about McCarthy is that he doesn’t go about winning in a jack-ass way like a Bill Parcells, or a sneaky way like Bill Belicheck, or military dictator way like the old Tom Coughlin. There is something less fulfilling or something when these guys win because there is that feeling that they’ve trampled everyone and everything just to get that win. It reminds me of the coach in little league or pee-wee football or youth soccer who just screams at the kids all the time, putting way too much emphasis on winning. Sure, the kids may eventually come together and even become winners. And some would argue that that’s just fine, as long as the team wins. But I think winning like this is a tad less fulfilling because the road to success frankly, was likely not much fun.
I know the NFL is an adult league and a bottom-line business and that winning by itself can be fun, but what excites me about McCarthy is a level-headed, Tony Dungy-like quality that makes me believe that he will not only bring home a winner soon, but a complete winner – a team that’s had fun along the road. Packer players under McCarthy appear to be enjoying this journey so far and it leaves me feeling bullish about our prospects as a team over the next few years.
Finally, Mike McCarthy has accomplished one thing that I think is critically important for a young coach: he’s set a precedent for himself (and the team of course) by making a deep playoff run. Now, there are some young coaches who might be ruined by an accomplishment like this so early in their careers due to subsequent expectations (for example, Lovie Smith). But I don’t think McCarthy is at risk here…neither is Sean Payton. Now that MM has taken his team to the NFC Championship game, it won’t be so strange when the team goes back to the playoffs. The pressure, the media-hype, the pure excitement, the preparation, the bad breaks, the injuries – all of that will be just a bit more familiar the next time it happens. Because everything in life is analogous to golf, I’ll give you this: it’s like putting for eagle. The first time you do it your mind is saying over and over “oh my God, this is for eagle, only good golfers have this chance and I suck, I’ve never done this before, there is just no way this is going in, no way, I’m going to launch it way past the hole and 3-putt, try to act cool, try to act cool, don’t let on that bowel movements may be complicating this right now, I’m going to 3-putt…” And of course, you 3-putt. But the next time, it’s simply less new “I’ve done this before, I’ll birdie at worst, but hey, give it a chance, it’s not that hard of a putt”. Anyway, the point is, once there is precedent, that feeling of success feels that much more natural the next time, and I have faith that McCarthy will just keep meeting and then pushing precedent as his career rolls forward.