Packers Coach Mike McCarthy: A Tree Grows in Green Bay All Green Bay Packers All the Time

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

How many of us have heard that question?  In the NFL, especially as it relates to head coaches, it rings true more than most.  Every successful head coach now seems to come from some kind of coaching “tree,” as in he worked under another successful head coach as an assistant.

For example:

Sean Payton? Bill Parcells.

Bill Belichick? also Parcells.

Mike Shanahan? Bill Walsh.

Andy Reid? Mike Holmgren, who also came from Walsh.

It goes on and on.

Hold on, though. What about Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy?

Thought so.

Mike McCarthy is one of those rare birds in the NFL who became a successful head coach on his own.  Yes, he worked at Kansas City with Marty Schottenheimer, but Marty’s struggles in the playoffs are well documented.

He has also worked with Jim Haslett and Mike Nolan. Not exactly stellar NFL head coaches. While McCarhy no doubt picked up bits and pieces from each coach, he is largely his own man and developed his own methods.

If you wind the clock back to early 2006, Packers GM Ted Thompson stunned the NFL world by choosing McCarthy as next head coach of the Green Bay Packers.  People were stunned that Thompson would take an offensive coordinator from such a poor team (at that time) and make him the head man.

Turns out they weren’t looking at the entire picture as Thompson was.

Despite coaching for teams that had lackluster records, McCarthy earned a reputation as a very good quarterbacks coach as seen by his work with Rich Gannon in Kansas City and Aaron Brooks in New Orleans. Both credited McCarthy with their rise in performance.

Oh yeah, that Rodgers guy he has now has turned out pretty well too.

Aaron Rodgers may indeed prove to be McCarthy’s greatest legacy. Rodgers has stunned everyone except maybe himself and the Packers with his meteoric rise towards the top of the quarterback rankings in the NFL. Rodgers had one season under Mike Sherman before McCarthy arrived into town.

McCarthy obviously knew what he had in Rodgers, thus, why he and Thompson traded away Brett Favre two years ago.

Of course, all the coaches listed above were either a head coach or an assistant in a Super Bowl.  McCarthy hasn’t reached that point yet, as the furthest he has gone has been the NFC championship game.

That could very well change this year.  The Packers offense has shown no signs of weakness two weeks into the preseason, despite a struggling defensive unit.  The Packers are being touted by many as one of the favorites to not only play in but win Super Bowl XLV in February.

If that does happen and McCarthy hoists the Lombardi Trophy, he will do so thanks in large part to a lot of hard work on his end.  No one will be able to say that so-and-so’s coaching tree sprouted a genius.

Heck, with a Super Bowl title, maybe McCarthy will start his own coaching tree. His assistant head coach Winston Moss has already interviewed for a few college head coaching jobs the past couple of years and a world title could finally land him one.

So maybe next time someone asks McCarthy “If you were a tree, what tree would you be?” McCarthy can just smile and answer…..

“My own.”

Please take a moment to welcome Kris Burke to this site. Kris Burke is the Packers Fan Voice at and will be writing a regular game preview column during the regular season as well as other articles.

10 thoughts on “Packers Coach Mike McCarthy: A Tree Grows in Green Bay

  1. I don’t know, Al. Schottenheimer is really respected. If you think about it, Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy were his understudies. I’m sure there were others. I believe he has his own coaching tree.

    1. Tony Dungy is your best example, but he’s not a descendant of a Super Bowl coach. Schottenheimer has a 5-13 postseason record and never made it to a Super Bowl. Neither did Haslett, Nolan or Ray Rhodes, the other head coaches he has worked for.

      I believe that’s the angle Kris was taking here, descendants of Super Bowl head coaches.

    2. Respected does not always mean succesful. Schottenheimer never got it done in the playoffs. The jury is still out on McCarthy in that area.

  2. It was an interesting article. He definitely came up with his own regimen as he worked for several diverse coaches. I have a feeling he planned his head coaching job YEARS in advance. Fun article!

    1. Most assistant ususally set the goal of becoming a head coach. Thanks for the feedback! McCarthy obviously was a diamond in the rough on some mediocre staffs.

  3. I always thought the McCarthy was hired with a huge emphasis on developing Rodgers, and maybe not so much emphasis on the overall thought that he could be a great coach. And I still think that. McCarthy’s in-game decisions, from adjustments, challenges, and especially when to settle for field goals, still drives me nuts from time to time, but I do think he is getting better. I do think he’s a good enough coach to win the Super Bowl, and I probably wouldn’t have said that a couple years ago. I’m a big Marty fan, too.

    1. As I mentioned, I think sans a Super Bowl, Rodgers will be McCarthy’s greatest legacy. Teams that lose a HOF QB usually experience a drop off with his successor. The Packers did not and one can argue the quality of performance at QB INCREASED with Rodgers.

  4. Let’s all step back for just a few moments, shall we?

    MY approach is such that I look at this only from the viewpoint of what Head Coach did they rookie under. NOT whether or not that HC has won SuperBowls, or not.

    I’ve long called what Marty Schottenheimer does in the Playoffs…. as Prevent Football, aka Marty-Ball.

    And, it IS a tendency of Mike McCarthy to use the same approach in games. Always going extreme conservative right when you know Lombardi would go for the jugular.

    Two instances where ol’ Marty couldn’t wait to shoot off his own foot:
    1) Colts/Harbaugh @ KC, in subzero weather (Done Team wins)
    2) Jets @ Chargers, 2008; for cry-iy-iy, how many plays do you need to center the FG attempt(?) They were close enough to damn sure run it in as opposed to the nonsense we all were forced to watch.
    — For having such a great regular season record more times than not – what gives with a HC that pulls such nonsense…. decidedly not a fan of stupidity, folks.

    While Aaron Rodgers may well be the mold of the new Quarterbacks and leave us with something memorable, my feeling is Rockin’ Rodgers buckin’ his HC is what will ultimately win us that 4th SuperBowl. Rodgers has already started pushing back on at least 3 occasions that I can think of. I can see him processing more play-action than ever before this year.

    If we don’t win a SuperBowl with MAC as the HC, it will..(dagummit)… be his doing and no one else’s.

    This conservatism is MAC’s last big hurdle to cure himself of.

    Question becomes: Can he do it…..

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