I have wondered if there is at least a small connection between Mike McCarthy’s sideline sheepishness and the Packers being one of the most penalized teams in football during his time here? Sometimes the player is at fault 100%, sometimes the coaches haven’t prepared the players adequately leading to an increased likelihood that penalties will happen – but sometimes, coaches who don’t put any pressure on the officials to make the right calls get weak penalties called against them. In an ideal world, no coach should have to talk to (or yell at) the officials at all during the game because there would be no blown calls. But in reality, there are blown calls and importantly, some officiating crews even go into games looking to call penalties on certain players.
In his 4 years as the Packers’ head coach, Mike McCarthy’s teams have ranked #5 (2009), #2 (2008), #4 (2007) and #9 (2006) in penalties against. That is not good. I can’t help but wonder if at least some of these penalties would not have been called if McCarthy had been more willing to get in an official’s face to dispute a call (think the Al Harris’ phantom pass interference call in Week 1 against Chicago). In fact, it’s interesting to look at the coaches of the teams in the top 10 for penalties in the NFL this year: Dick Jauron, John Harbaugh, Steve Spagnuolo, Rex Ryan, Mike McCarthy, Jim Scwartz, Todd Haley, Ken Whisenhunt, Marvin Lewis, Tom Cable, Wade Phillips. Of these coaches, I think only John Harbaugh, Rex Ryan and Tom Cable (maybe Todd Haley) are likely to lose it on the sidelines over a bad call. The rest are more reticent and seem less willing to do so. (And, it’s also noteworthy that of the top 13 teams in penalties against, only 4 have winning records.)
My point is this: Mike McCarthy could stand to show a bit more fire on the sidelines when there are questionable calls that could affect his team negatively. His tendency instead, is to take ownership for all of the calls, blame the team or his staff or himself, and then to tell us all that he has to watch the game film essentially before rendering any opinions on anything. When he responds with these answers, it sometimes ends up sounding like a coach who may not have full faith in what he sees. Same goes for not arguing calls. Watch Mike Tomlin, watch Sean Payton, watch Tom Coughlin – these guys will make it known to all that they’ve seen a bad call because they trust what they’ve seen live on the field during the game. And maybe, just maybe, voicing their displeasure will make the officials at least think twice the next time they want to throw another flag. I’m not asking McCarthy to become Bobby Knight here- that would be obnoxious. But I do think he could occasionally let the officials know that it’s not OK for the team to be called for penalties constantly.