Mike Holmgren vs. Mike McCarthy: By the Numbers

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Mike McCarthy no longer resides in Mike Holmgren’s shadow

In an earlier post, we took a look at the comparison between former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf and current general manager Ted Thompson. Since Thompson just concluded his ninth season with the team, it was interesting to see how the two men compared.

Now we look at Thompson’s head coach, Mike McCarthy and compare him with Wolf’s, Mike Holmgren. Holmgren coached the Packers for seven years while McCarthy is about to begin his ninth. To be fair, we will be looking at only McCarthy’s first seven seasons in Green Bay meaning 2013 will be excluded.

Regular season record:

Holmgren 75-37
McCarthy 74-38

It can’t get much closer than that. This might come as a surprise to some people since McCarthy went 8-8 in year one and had the 6-10 season in 2008 and Holmgren never was below .500, but “the numbers don’t lie.

Holmgren had a consistent defense in his time to go along with a proficient offense. McCarthy has had no such luck so far.

Postseason record:

Holmgren 9-5
McCarthy 6-4

Holmgren went 2-2 in 1993 and 1994 before going 7-2 from 1995-1997. That includes the two Super Bowl runs including the victory in Super Bowl XXXI and the loss in Super Bowl XXXII. Holmgren also was “one and done” in his final game as Packers coach in the last-minute and still-controversial loss to the 49ers in January 1999.

McCarthy went 1-1 in his first playoff appearance in 2007, advancing to the NFC championship game in January 2008. His record includes the 4-0 playoff run the Packers had to win Super Bowl XLV. He has been “one and done” three times in the playoffs including the 2009 game against the Cardinals and 2011 against the Giants (this past season is not included),

Division Titles

Holmgren 3
McCarthy 3 (earned his fourth in 2013)

Both coaches are dead even here and both even has one title earned in borderline “miraculous” fashion. Many remember Yancy Thigpen’s infamous drop to give Green Bay the 1995 title and this past season saw a n incredible deep throw from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb to give the Packers the 2013 crown.

Non-Winning Seasons

Holmgren 0
McCarthy 2

Holmgren never finished at or below .500 despite having a team at the beginning that had been in the NFC cellar for the better part of two decades. That speaks to the job both he and Wolf did with the roster from the start in 1992.

McCarthy meanwhile went 8-8 in year one with a young roster that had an aging Brett Favre at the helm. His only losing record in 2008 was with Rodgers in his first year as the starter and after a very public and messy divorce with Favre.


The Packers are fortunate to have had both men as their leaders and that McCarthy continues to be around. The temptation of having total control over a roster drew Holmgren to the Seahawks in 1999 while Wolf retired two years later. Should Homgren have hung around? What would the team have looked like with him as coach and GM and not Mike Sherman? That’s another story for another day.

Looking at the present head coach, McCarthy has the same amount of rings as Holmgren and had a near identical record to him in his first seven years. Despite some head scratching decisions on gamedays, Packer fans should be proud to have a coach the caliber of McCarthy. He’s done just as good of a job as Holmgren did.


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.


25 thoughts on “Mike Holmgren vs. Mike McCarthy: By the Numbers

  1. Kris – nice job! Your conclusion is spot on. We have been fortunate to have had both Holmgren and MM as our head coaches for the better part of the last 20+ seasons. Both are sound football coaches and both are QB gurus. Holmgren’s teams were more consistent and as you pointed out they were much stronger on defense. In the 90’s there was a little more flexibility in signing FAs then there has been during the McCarthy era. MM has had to deal with more free agency turnover and definetly more injury plagued seasons then Holmgren ever did. Holmgren never lost Favre for half a season as MM did with Rodgers in 2013. Holmgren’s team probably had a better and more consistent OL also. However, making the playoffs with all the injuries and adversity as MM has done is an indication of his resiliency and his ability to keep the team ready to play with far more second and even third line players than anyone should expect to deal with. It would be interesting if we could flip MM to the 90’s team and Holmgren to MM’s team to see how the records would play out. But both have over .600 winning percentage and both have given us fans teams to be proud of. For more on MM and his character I recommend to everyone to read MMs biography, “Nobody’s Underdog” to gain an appreciation for the quality of the man we have as the Packers current HC. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61

  2. So in one article you hail MM for believing stats are for losers and in the next you hail MM v MH by relying on stats. Nuff said.

    Holmgrem will be forever remembered as the guy that along with Wolf, ended the great post-Lombardi nightmare for Packer Nation.

    MM will be forever remembered as the guy who inherited the much more talented QB he had previously passed over in a prior draft and rode his coattails to a great win-loss record while generally sucking on defense throughout his tenure and having an abysmal post-season W-L record except for the one miracle end-of-season manufactured by AROD/Starks. What we saw for everything but the final 4 or 5 games of that season is the real MM/TT record. Not pretty.

    1. so 15 -1 is not pretty archie? We all know you hate TT and MM and love Favre. Get over it dude.

      1. What’s wrong with loving Favre! There is a good point about bringing us back from the abyss, which was not easy. MM’s story is not over yet.

        1. Why does loving Favre lead a person to hate TT/MM?

          Why does a Packer fan have to wait until ‘the story is over’ to love TT/MM? Favre’s story isn’t ‘over’ yet either — he hasn’t come back as an alum yet.

          Why cant a Packer fan love all 3 of them right now?


    No but seriously, it’s crazy how similar the numbers for Thompson vs Wolf and McCarthy vs Holmgren are. Yet there is still a legion of fans that are completely unsatisfied. Living in S Fla, where I have watched my hometown team, the Miami Dolphins, not win a playoff game in over a decade really makes me appreciate what good management can do for a team.

    1. It wouldn’t matter because Archie would immediately argue that the hug was poorly executed, you were the wrong person to give the hug in the first place, and in a few days he’ll say you should have hugged someone else (even though that person wasn’t available to be hugged at the time).

      1. Ha ha ha, Give him a little break he has started to make some sense.Oh no! I think I’m about to be hidden.

  4. hey, don’t forget they were both very very lucky to have a top 3 qb in the league[favre Rodgers] for there tenures here. give them credit yes, but you need that QB period

    1. and without Rodgers MM’s teams would be nowhere near MH. Yep MH had Favre, but even without Favre MH’s teams much better.

      1. SFB, Holmgren’s teams were never without Favre, so ‘even without Favre’, how could they be better?

        With a apologies to both Ron White and Bill Engvall…

        You can’t fix stupid – here’s your sign!

  5. Good article(s). I appreciate that you need all three (GM, HC and QB) to generate the success that the Packers have had over these generations. Unplug Wolf and/or Holmgren and plug in Sherman and success ran away. Even Holmgren on his own in Seattle or in Cleveland shows that he wasn’t much of a GM.

    We have a good blend of the three key championship elements. I think that MM and TT have worked well together to build a winning attitude and a winning caliber team. Rodgers is their trigger man – he executes.

    1. If only TT/MM had the caliber of defense that RW/MH had! And in my opinion, Fritz Shurmur >> Dom Capers.

  6. The one and only similarity between MM and MH is when they are ahead by more than 3 points they go into prevent mode. ( on offense and defense)

    1. I played a round of golf behind Mike Holmgren, Sherman Lewis and two other Packer assistants once when I was in college. Holmgren is a big dude…he’s also a real hacker.

  7. Thing both MH and MM have in common is they’re both way overrated. They both lucked out to have HOF qb’s. In Holmgren’s case enough of a supporting cast with a sprinkling of key free agents like Reggie and MM with Woodson.Belichek won without Brady, MM was lucky not to go 0-8 without Rodgers.And the finger gets pointed at the overrated GM for supplying a mediocre coach with mediocre talent. Thumbs down all u like….I’m with Archie.

    1. Geronimo – if you check you will find that Belichhek’s record without Tom Brady is below .500 both in NE and Cleveland. He didn’t win anything until Brady was his QB. Also, his Super Bowls win are by very slim margins. One play from defeat. Thanks, Since ’61

    2. You mean you’re a ass-clown? Like Since 61 mentioned, Belichek never won without Brady. He had a winning record the year Brady went down with the knee, but didn’t win anything. You also have to remember Belicheck has been caught cheating.
      Holmgren and Wolf signed several FA, not just Reggie. Sean Jones, Rison, Beebe, Santana Dotson, and Keith Jackson to name a few. Well Rison for just the end of a season and he traded for Jackson I believe, but brought them in nonetheless.

    1. I like the Mike and Mike show!

      Both are terrific HC’s. Both developed Championship QB’s. Both were very good leaders.

      Packers clearly know the winning formula to Organizational success. Find a GM, give him complete freedon and autonomy to chose a leader as a HC and well as one who knows how to develop a QB.

      It starts w/ the GM, and run down to the leader on the sidelines and then to the leader on the field.

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