When it comes to coaching, the Green Bay Packers have been more than blessed. The name of the NFL’s top prize was an iconic Packers head coach. And before Vince Lombardi, there was a guy named Curly Lambeau who not only coached consistent winners but was one of the brainstormers that brought pro football to Green Bay.
That’s why those two guys have statues in front of Lambeau Field today.
Mike McCarthy recently inked a multiyear extension and deservedly so. McCarthy’s 93 wins are third in franchise history behind Lambeau (212) and Lombardi (98).
But does that mean that McCarthy is the No. 3 coach in Packers history?
I say no. I would give that honor to Mike Holmgren. Here was a guy that took over a team that had two playoff appearances since 1968. The Packers also notched 15 seasons under .500 in that span.
Holmgren comes in and takes the Packers to the playoffs in his second season. In his fifth, he won Super Bowl XXXI over the Patriots.
But Holmgren’s biggest achievement is how he was able to rein Brett Favre in. Everybody knows that Favre was the ultimate gamer and to prove it he would try anything from throwing into triple and quadruple coverage to keeping a play alive by throwing a basketball chest pass at the last possible millisecond.
Everybody remembers the famous “No more rocket balls please” quote from Holmgren to Favre on the sideline. The reason that is so memorable is because the two coaches that followed Holmgren wouldn’t dare say the same thing. Ray Rhodes was a puppet and Mike Sherman was basically a yes man. Neither one challenged and fought back the way Holmgren did. And that’s how Holmgren was able to get three straight MVPs from the future Hall of Famer — not to mention two straight Super Bowl trips.
McCarthy does have a pretty good argument as well. Like Holmgren, he punched his ticket to the playoffs in his second season.
Holmgren owns a 75-37 regular season mark, 9-5 postseason record and a 1-1 Super Bowl record in seven seasons. McCarthy is 87-48-1 in the regular season, 6-5 in the playoffs and 1-0 in the Super Bowl in his ninth season.
But there’s something else that Holmgren has that McCarthy doesn’t — and that’s consistency. Holmgren never lost more than seven regular season games during his entire tenure in Green Bay. McCarthy lost eight his first season, 10 in his third (after losing in the NFC Championship the year before) and seven in his eighth.
There’s also one more thing that McCarthy has to master: He has to stop outthinking himself. He must stop trying to prove to people that he is the smartest offensive mind on the field. I don’t have a problem with him kicking an onside kick at New Orleans in a game that clearly turned into a scoring circus. But I do question his rationale when he splits Julius Peppers out wide on second and goal from the 3.
McCarthy may have the best overall record of the Mike’s but he isn’t the better coach. Not yet. How he handled Matt Flynn last year by never waving the white flag when Aaron Rodgers was sidelined was impressive. The 23-point come-from-behind win at Dallas is McCarthy’s best coaching win.
But it was Holmgren’s bluntness that not only won him Favre’s respect but Holmgren was able to take the quarterback’s talent to another level. It may seem impossible with a perfectionist like Rodgers, but McCarthy needs to find that extra something that is going to squeeze even more out of his future Hall of Famer.
Mike Holmgren, 7 years as a Packers head coach
- 75-37 regular season (.669 winning percentage).
- 9-5 postseason (.642 winning percentage).
- Won NFC Central three times.
- Won 1 Super Bowl, lost 1 Super Bowl.
Mike McCarthy, 9th year as Packers head coach
- 87-48-1 regular season (.639).
- 6-5 postseason (.545).
- Won NFC North four times.
- Won 1 Super Bowl.
- 93 wins are third in franchise history behind Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi.
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn