Packers Coach Mike McCarthy Deserves Credit for Guiding Team Through Adversity

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Packers coach Mike McCarthy helped the Packers pull out a gritty victory on Sunday.

I became a father on Tuesday and I am still in that stage where any topic of conversation ultimately leads back to my new son.

I swear my wife and I haven’t had a “normal” conversation since our baby was born. Everything revolves around our new little one — his feeding schedule, his body temperature, his sleeping patterns, his fussiness, play-by-play of his birth, what he’s going to wear, who’s got the next diaper change. Of course, anyone we talk to just wants to know about our new son, too. How is he doing? Is he keeping you up at night? How is your dog adjusting? Are you going insane yet? Oh, he’s so cute (and he is really cute). Things like that.

So forgive me, but my mind is firmly stuck in new parent mode, which might make this analogy a little whacky. Hear me out and let me know what you think.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy has taken a lot of grief for his playcalling this season. Fans, including myself, are second-guessing the coach when he doesn’t use running back Eddie Lacy on third-and-short or opts for a long bomb when a shorter, safer pass seems like the more logical call.

It doesn’t matter how successful a coach is; fans will always second-guess the playcalling. Always. Sometimes the criticism gets really loud and sometimes it’s somewhat muted, but it’s always there.

Second-guessing the playcalling is kind of fun. It’s part of being a fan. Yeah, the criticism is often moronic and way off-base, but who cares? This is football, not foreign policy.

What does any of this have to do with becoming a dad? Calling out McCarthy for his playcalling is similar to calling out a parent for not “controlling” his or her kid at a restaurant or properly “disciplining” a child when you think it’s warranted.

I used to be one of those people, a parent second-guesser. A screaming kid in a restaurant would drive me batty. I’d roll my eyes and mutter that the kid should be taken outside and controlled. When my little nieces and nephews ran around like crazy people, I swore that my children would never behave like that. I would instill the proper amount of discipline to ensure that they were always little angels.

Now that I have a child of my own, I know that I’ll learn the hard way how parenting isn’t quite that simple. Coaching probably isn’t that simple, either.

I have no problem with second-guessing a coach’s playcalling. I really don’t have a problem with second-guessing a parent when he or she doesn’t reprimand a child in the super market who just dumped a container of bleach on the ground (yeah, I’ve seen this happen).

But if we’re going to second guess, let’s at least try to see the big picture, too.

If you’re going to bash McCarthy for calling a bomb on 3rd and 1 when you think he should have called a run for Lacy, you better also give McCarthy credit for holding his team together as the Packers overcame a ton of adversity and pulled out a tough road win against the defending Super Bowl champions on Sunday.

McCarthy’s attitude and demeanor during his tenure as Packers head coach has always impressed me. It doesn’t matter if the Packers win or lose, whether nobody gets injured or half the team goes down, whether the game ends on a Fail Mary or a Packers game-winning TD, McCarthy is always determined and won’t tolerate excuses or nonsense, even indirectly.

A lesser coach might have lost it during halftime on Sunday. James Jones and Randall Cobb go down with knee injuries. The offense is sputtering. Things just aren’t clicking.

Instead, the Packers came out of the tunnel and played better than they did in the first half. McCarthy deserves credit for that. Just because we don’t see behind-the-scenes McCarthy with our own eyes the same way we see McCarthy’s playcalls, it doesn’t mean we should just dismiss the coach’s role in motivating his players and building this team’s character.

Same goes for parenting. It’s fine to shake your head in disgust if you see a parent oblivious to the fact that his or her kid is repeatedly kicking the back of an airplane seat. But don’t dismiss the possibility that that parent is just having an off moment and actually does a helluva job back home — rushing home from work to get in a game of catch before dark and sitting up all night to soothe a sick kid.

Sure, McCarthy might botch a play call here and there, but just like there’s more to parenting than what happens in the grocery aisle or on an airplane, there’s more to coaching than playcalling. The results show that McCarthy has the non-playcalling part of the game down just about as good as any other coach in the league.

At least I think he does. I’m not in the Packers locker room or at the team facilities every day, but given the resolve that this team showed on Sunday and shows year in and year out, I’m confident that McCarthy is doing a helluva job behind the scenes.

Will I have some shaky parenting moments in public? Without a doubt. But hopefully I’m like McCarthy and more than make up for the ocassional public parenting gaffe by excelling behind the scenes.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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  • aaronqb

    I became a huge McCarthy fan in 2009 after hearing him speaking about words such as leadership, process, coaching philosophy, etc. This is powerful stuff and translates to many other fields. The rest of the stuff – play calling, clock management, etc can be learned.

    McCarthy is right up there with the best of them.

  • Art

    Adam, the hell with McCarthy and the Packers for now. Congratulations on your new son. I don’t know if this is your first child, but if it is, let me be the first to tell you on this thread that your life will never be the same. You will have 5 problems from him for every pleasure, but man does that one pleasure blow those problems away. So happy for you and your wife, may he be blessed.

  • Mike

    mccarthy also deserves a bit of credit for getting us into the mess. extremely questionable play calling. and that stupid shotgun pitch they continue to run is garbage. if it doesnt get pitched to lacy, theres no way theyre getting backto the LOS

    • Bob

      I have to agree with that, he has put us in alot of bad situations with 3rd and longs. I do question his play calling at times, with a back like Lacy you have got to give him the chance to get it and extend drives and chew up the clock.Putting us in 3rd and longs puts us in the Cobb situation which ended ugly. Keep MM but get a OC to call plays

      • Archie

        “Keep MM but get a OC to call plays.”

        That would be good by me.

        I will always go back to the year we had to play AZ on final reg season game and in rd1 of playoffs. We killed them in the reg season game (which counted for nothing). AZ played vanilla and GB went all out. MM talked big all week leading up to playoff game. MM came back with exact same game plan and AZ was ready for him. AZ on the other hand had an entirely different game plan on offense and the Pack defense was totally confused (triple stacked WRs etc.). MM walked into the trap totally unprepared. And his play calling in the red zone this year has been nothing short of horrible. Why do you think AROD went after him on the sidelines. A good guy and a good head coach but a poor play caller/game planner and too loyal to his coaches. I don’t know what is more unbelievable, that he has stuck with Campen this long or that the OL is finally producing.

  • Nopainnogain

    what I find funny is that if he calls a run on 3rd and 1 and it gets stuffed, his play calling is “too predictable”. people just look at the outcome of a play and if it’s not to their liking, they look for a scapegoat and pick a narrative that targets that scapegoat.

  • Dan Collins

    May you be imbued with new AJ Hawk-like superpowers.

    • Ed Schoenfeld

      This is the ‘Comment of the Week.’

      • Dobber

        I’d like to offer kudos for strategic incorporation of the word “imbued” into a football conversation.

  • jOE

    Congratulations on the child. My two biggest pieces of advice for a new parent. Learn how to divert your child’s attention to something else, and never be afraid to bribe your child.

    It is easy to second guess the play calling but people need to remember that Rodgers has the final say in the play call and he is a pretty smart player.

  • http://grizzlymitch@bresnan.net grizzlymitch

    The run on third and two was a certain indicator that there is confidence in the run game. With that, the play action will make it easier on our depleted receiving corps. I think we will weather our injuries and be ready for a run late in the season. Good job Coach McCarthy and Ted Thompson.

  • http://cheesestradamus.com BobBrews

    Congratulations on your new son. Enjoy children while they are young. The problems are as small as they are but as they grow so does the size of the problems. When they become teenagers they will “turn on you”!!!!

    All is not lost. My kids are grown now and I am working on becoming a burden to them. Pay back is GREAT!!

  • Since ’61

    Adam – Congrats and all the best for you, your wife and new baby. Enjoy! As for criticizing MM’s play calling, there is no justification for it over the long term. Football is about execution and winning one on one battles. Given that MM has rarely had his complete team for even a short period of time since the 2009 season he has done a great job every season in keeping the team focused and making the playoffs. Rodgers is calling more and more plays at the line of scrimmage. Then when MM calls a play that doesn’t work he is criticized! It’s very easy to criticize from the bench or in most cases on this blog from the couch. You are correct about behind the scenes work of MM and that includes him knowing his team better than any of us do. We’re not in the locker room or on the sidelines when he calls a play. He has more info than we do at that time. When a play call doesn’t work it’s usually lack of execution by the players. Also, btw, the other team is getting paid to win and they are allowed to make plays too. MM has had a lot more good play calls then bad and that shows in his won-lost record and his steak of playoff appearances. Not every play Vince Lombardi called worked, but there are many times when I think some fans would have fired Lombardi just like they scream for MM to be fired now. MM has been overcoming adversity for a long time. I recommend that all fans read his biography, “Nobody’s Underdog” and they will find out how lucky the Packers and us fans are to have MM as our head coach. Thanks, Since ’61

  • Nathan

    Hey Adam,
    My wish for you and your wife is that you posses the one quality that very few parents do, and that is common sense. As long as you have that, the raising children thing won’t be as tough a road as some may suggest. Best of luck to the both of you.