If someone were to ask either Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson or head coach Mike McCarthy about their legacies, both men would likely scoff at the question and say that they’d rather wait until retirement to reflect on that and instead say they are focused on the present.
They’re right. Still, with the Packers coming off a regular season in which they won the most games and scored the most points in franchise history as well as making a push for a second consecutive world title, the legacies of both men are coming into focus.
There is no further proof of this than the interest both Thompson and McCarthy’s assistants are drawing around the NFL. Before last season, I wrote an article wondering if McCarthy would soon be the next head coach to form a “coaching tree” like Bill Walsh and Mike Holmgren. Both men had assistants go on to long and successful head coaching careers and with McCarthy’s development of Aaron Rodgers, it seemed like a distinct possibility.
Well, with the Packers in position to win a second straight Super Bowl with one of the most potent offenses in the league such a tree is indeed beginning to sprout.
The first example is offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. Whenever an offense breaks all sorts of records, the offensive coordinator naturally is the one people begin to look at. Philbin has drawn interest from the Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams.
However, Philbin is working for an offensive minded coach in McCarthy who also is the play caller. Given how much of a hand McCarthy has in the Packers offense, that could work against Philbin.
The more intriguing candidate on the Packers staff may be quarterback coach Tom Clements. Rodgers often publicly has credited Clements as well as McCarthy for how he has become the best quarterback in the NFL. Throw in the incredible play of Matt Flynn in Week 17 against the Lions and Clements could be a hot commodity in the offseason.
Let’s not ignore Thompson either. His masterful building of the Packers has made the franchise a model for the rest of the league. Thompson and his team have proven you don’t need a lot of splashy free agent signings and can create a championship (and perhaps dynasty)-caliber team mainly through the draft.
Thanks to the team’s Super Bowl title last year after placing 15 players on injured reserve as well as the way the Packers steamrolled through the regular season this year, Thompson’s assistants also will be in high demand for general manager openings in the NFL.
In fact, one has already been hired who may take even more people out from under Thompson’s watch.
This week Reggie McKenzie, Thompson’s right hand man in Green Bay, was named the new general manager of the Oakland Raiders. McKenzie has yet to assemble a front office staff, but it is widely thought that he will take Eliot Wolf, son of Ron and the current Packers assistant director of player personnel, with him to California.
John Dorsey, the Packers director of college scouting, also has gotten some sniffs from other teams. In a recent eyebrow-raising move, Dorsey declined to interview for the open general manager position with the Indianapolis Colts who let go of the Polians after what seemed like forever.
There is also of course the future of the Packers to consider. Thompson is much closer to retirement than McCarthy, but since it seems this current regime on Lombardi Avenue seeks stability more than anything we also must consider someone in the front office and perhaps the coaching staff could be the heir apparent to both Thompson and McCarthy.
Thompson’s contract is up in 2014 and it is a strong possibility he calls it a career at that point when he will be 61 years old. McCarthy will only be 49 this year so it’s a very possible his replacement isn’t even on the staff yet.
There’s also a dark side to this train of thought. The wheels could completely fall off and the Packers could fall back into mediocrity, but with such a high powered offense loaded for several years to come with veteran playmakers being replaced by younger players with strong potential, such an occurrence is incredibly unlikely.
Both Thompson and McCarthy’s names are already prominent in franchise history thanks to last year’s Super Bowl title. Should they win another this year and perhaps another the following year, they will become even more prominent in the annals of the NFL.
Not too shabby for two guys many fans were ready to fire halfway through 2009. I stand guilty as charged, but perhaps fans have never been happier to have been more wrong.——————
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