Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has many admirable qualities, both as a head coach and as a person.
One such quality is that he is incredibly loyal. McCarthy has stood by his coaches and his players when someone’s ability or dedication has been called into question. That is something so many people struggle with. When the stuff hits the fan, someone usually goes under the bus. That’s just the way society works, but such is not the case with McCarthy.
That said, at what point does loyalty evolve into stubbornness and when does that stubbornness turn into a negative instead of a positive?
That is the point where McCarthy has fallen in the eyes of many Packers fans as well as beat writers in the wake of the Packers’ stunning 45-31 season-ending playoff defeat at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.
After yet another defensive implosion in the postseason, McCarthy remained so steadfast in his support of his allegedly beleaguered defensive coordinator that he said he was “appalled” that Dom Capers’ job security should even be in doubt during his season ending press conference. That comment in turn sparked passionate reactions from fans and local media alike.
While McCarthy should again be commended for feeling loyal to Capers, at what point does this stubbornness start to hurt the Packers?
One could argue that it already has and it has nothing to do with Capers. Look at how Mason Crosby struggled this season. Crosby flirted dangerously close the 50% rate on his field goals, which is horrible by NFL standards, yet McCarthy remained steadfast in his support for Crosby. While a missed Crosby field goal didn’t cost the Packers a game in the end, it was a big risk by McCarthy and he’s lucky he didn’t get burned by it.
In fact, what would have happened had Crosby cost the Packers a game? It would fair to assume that McCarthy would have then been forced to at least bring a kicker in to compete with Crosby. While that would have satisfied fan anger to a certain extent, it still should not have gotten to that point. McCarthy is beginning to show a habit of not making a change until the Packers lose because of it.
With Capers, McCarthy finds himself in the same predicament. The defense statistically improved over last season but the Packers coach of all people will tell you that stats do not necessarily tell the entire story. That’s true in this case as well. The defense showed flashes of brilliance all season, but it also was terribly inconsistent. Just when you thought the woes were over, the defense would lay an egg.
While some of that can be traced to injuries, particularly at linebacker, some also can be pinned at the feet of both Capers and McCarthy. The infamous “soft zone” comes to mind for one. The Packers would get up by around 10 points and the defense would go from an attack more to a “bend but don’t break” mindset. This often let teams back into games and was very evident in the loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Look also at the loss last week against the 49ers. The Packers were getting run over by Colin Kaepernick. The quarterback ran for over 180 yards for the game, but the sad part was that the Packers continued to get torched in the second half. Capers didn’t make the proper adjustments (if he even made any) and McCarthy mentioned that he hears the defensive calls in his headset when he held his press conference earlier in the week.
Changing defensive coordinators can have a tremendous impact on a team and so can making change just for the sake of making change. Thankfully, McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson aren’t like some in the league that go with a “flavor of the month” approach to coaching and building a football team. They are firmly committed to their plans for the Packers and that does deserve some praise.
Unfortunately, at times being stubborn can hurt a team more than it can help it. In the NFL, you need to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to making changes. Yes, sometimes things blow up so suddenly you realize you never saw it coming but turning the other cheek to an obvious and glaring problem is playing Russian roulette.
The Packers have not been burned badly yet by McCarthy’s stubbornness to make changes but the time is coming when they will be. He needs to be more flexible when it comes to making adjustments in season and in game. It’s not the fact that he wants to keep Capers is stunning but rather the fact that the thought of making a change never crossed his mind if his “appalled” remark is to be believed that is so concerning.
McCarthy on the other hand has his finger on the pulse of his team and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. However, blind loyalty and stubbornness have taken down coaches before.
Let’s hope that’s not the case with McCarthy.——————
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