I just finished arguing with my dad about Brad Childress. My dad blames all of the Vikings’ problems on Childress. I am not a Childress defender, but I contend that blaming Childress for all of the Vikings’ problems is a convenient way for the players, many of whom are considered among the best at their respective positions, to not take responsibility for their ineptitude.
My dad says that it is up to the coach to get the most out of his players, and that if the players underperform, it is the coach’s fault and he should be fired. I think that’s letting multi-millionaire players off the hook a little too easy, but both of us are technically right. Of course, the whole argument got me thinking about the Packers and Mike McCarthy.
I’ve taken my shots at McCarthy for his playcalling this season. I was also critical of his decision to go for the touchdown on 4thand goal from the 1-yard line against the Redskins. It is common for people to criticize the coach for his playcalling or in-game decisions. It happens all the time and it comes with the territory for any coach.
Sometimes criticisms are made using rational arguments backed up by research and a deep knowledge of the game of football. Sometimes they are made by rubeshaving emotional overreactions. Second-guessing playcalls and in-game decisions is easy (and fun!). The whole world sees what happens on the field, either in real-time or after the fact, and offers an opinion on whether it was a good or bad decision.
But what about the things a coach does that we don’t get to see with our own eyes every Sunday? A good coach deserves credit for whatever it is he does behind the scenes, even though it is nearly impossible for those of us on the outside to quantify.
The Packers have been through a lot with McCarthy: the Favre divorce, breaking in a new quarterback, a bad start last season and a rash of injuries this season. McCarthy also has always had one of the youngest rosters in the league.
Through it all, the Packers have performed well. Even though we might not be able to pinpoint exactly what McCarthy does behind the scenes to keep the team together and moving forward, he deserves credit for it. After observing McCarthy over the years, I feel he excels in three “unquantifiable areas” that I can say with relative certainty make the Packers better.
- Demeanor. McCarthy reacts the same whether the Packers win, lose or draw. This drives fans nuts. When the Packers lose, we want McCarthy to throw a chair, call out a player or rip the refs. When the Packers win, we want him to jump around, rub it in the other coach’s face or act more like Rex Ryan. As boring as it may be, McCarthy’s demeanor is ideal for an NFL coach with a talented team.
- Patience. The Packers started slow last season and have sputtered at times this season. Through it all, McCarthy never drastically altered the gameplan or demanded (at least publicly) that Ted Thompson make trades to improve the team. He stuck with his players and made necessary adjustments without making any drastic changes in season.
- Loyalty. Many of you are probably scratching your head with this one. Loyalty? The guy who traded Favre, let Aaron Kapman walk as a free agent and just cut Al Harris is loyal? Yeah, as loyal as one can be in the NFL. Most players realize this is a business. They know the chances are good that they will be cut, traded or not resigned at some point in their career. It’s how those situations are handled that build respect among the remaining players. When Harris was cut, McCarthy made sure to praise Harris and say he could still play. In reality, if McCarthy thought Harris could still play, he would not have cut him. However, he wanted to prop Harris up a little so other teams would remain interested in giving him another chance. It’s little things like that that add up over time.
Whatever measurements you use to judge a coach, McCarthy has to rank fairly high. Of course I wish he would call more short passes and give Brandon Jackson a few more carries. But even if he did these things, I would probably find something else to complain about.
When everything is factored in, McCarthy deserves a lot of credit. Both my dad and I would agree on that.——————