During his press conference after his Green Bay Packers–sans Aaron Rodgers–nearly upset the mighty New England Patriots in Foxboro, head coach Mike McCarthy uttered the phrase “we’re nobody’s underdog” to describe his team and that the Packers “came to win.”
McCarthy initially was mocked for the comments by many, but it turns out they served as a springboard for the Packers’ magical run to the Super Bowl XLV title. McCarthy and his staffed played the underdog card brilliantly and the Packers never looked back after that game.
So with the 2011 season upon us (I think), the Packers are about to embark on the defense of their throne. They have gone from the hunters to the hunted which means the coaching staff has thrown the underdog card to the bottom of the deck.
This is McCarthy’s greatest challenge entering 2011. The coach has spoken repeatedly about “handling success” as well as adversity. We saw in 2010 how well his players respond to adversity, but how will they respond to having targets on their back?
Actually the Packers began last season as a chic pick for the Super Bowl, but as the season went on and injuries piled up, many people left the Packers for dead. McCarthy played that into the “this is our time” theme throughout the postseason and into the Super Bowl. It was a theme the players embraced and it showed as the Packers marched to Super Bowl XLV.
So what can McCarthy do for an encore? Well, he really has to look no further than one of his predecessors. While it is highly doubtful any team in the modern free-agency era will be able to duplicate the amount of championships in the same time span that Vince Lombardi’s Packers did, McCarthy could push his players to be the second Packers dynasty.
A way to approach that is that while winning one trophy is good, to be truly great you have to win two. McCarthy could basically say to his players, “OK, you won one. You’re good. You want to be great? Go win another one.” Winning two Super Bowls in a row is a tough feat to accomplish, but in order to truly be “great” you have to meet those kinds of challenges.
It was a promising sign that the day after he was named Super Bowl MVP, Rodgers immediately began talking about winning a second Super Bowl. As a self-admitted perfectionist, Rodgers knows that he and his team can get better and that they want to get better. That’s a scary prospect for the rest of the NFL.
Of course, motivation won’t be the only issue facing McCarthy this season. With his injured players returning, there could be some chemistry issues that will need to be resolved.
Starters that went down early, like Nick Barnett, potentially find themselves on the outside looking in at their old jobs and may not like the fact someone else may keep it. Desmond Bishop performed brilliantly in Barnett’s absence and it may not make sense for McCarthy and Dom Capers to insert Barnett back into the lineup.
The 2010 Packers were a team in the truest sense of the word and had outstanding locker room chemistry late in the season. It would be preposterous for McCarthy to allow that to vanish just because one player doesn’t want to compete for their job. If someone becomes such a problem, I would expect McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson to quickly rectify the situation.
Now that’s he is done basking in the glory of winning Super Bowl XLV, McCarthy knows his plate is full for 2011. He realizes that staying on top of the mountain is much tougher than reaching it.
Is he up to the task? With the lockout near a conclusion, we are about to find out.
Dare to be great, Mike. Dare to be great.
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke