Cory’s Corner: Mike Holmgren was a better coach than Mike McCarthy

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- or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn


29 thoughts on “Cory’s Corner: Mike Holmgren was a better coach than Mike McCarthy

  1. “…but McCarthy needs to find that extra something that is going to squeeze even more out of his future Hall of Famer.”

    Like making him(Rodgers)play a little defense….since that’s what holds this team back.

    I don’t understand the incessant need to bring the Favre/Holmgren era into the Packers of today tribulations talk, even if for a lame comparison sake.

    It’s like comparing your left and right hands as football then and today…it’s the same yet different. 🙂

    1. “I don’t understand the incessant need to bring the Favre/Holmgren era into the Packers of today tribulations talk, even if for a lame comparison sake.”
      It’s called having a bye and boredom. Two weeks is a long long time to go without playing a game. It seems like a month since they last played. These guys got to talk about something to keep interest why not this.
      As for who I would want coaching this current team, It would be Holmgren in a second. I like McCarthy but Holmgren had a presence and a anger streak to him where you would not want to piss him off. He was a rather large man as well. He commanded respect by his mere presence. I’ll never forget him grabbing Bill Schroeder’s face mask on the sideline. If he did that today he would be fired. The social media crowd would demand it.

      1. Again, for what it is worth, Mike McCarthy also has a legendary temper, one that was known far and wide in pro football circles, however, he had worked hard over the last many years at controlling it.

        Also, as you pointed out, if Holmgren acted out the way he did then on the sidelines today.. Well, I won’t say he’d be fired, but it’d be talked about as an issue. That’s exactly why guys like MM aren’t acting like that on the sidelines.

        It has been commented on by insiders that the MM you see on the sidelines and in front of the press is NOT the same MM inside private practices and the locker room.

        Is he as angry today as Holmgren was back then? I have no idea, but then, I don’t think any of us have enough info on that to answer the question.

  2. The huge emphasis on Favre vs. Rodgers is totally baffling and illogical. So you’re saying that because Rodgers is NOT afflicted with Favre’s maddening tendency to force passes and toss INTs, and because Rodgers already has a far better passer rating than Favre, this means that McCarthy is NOT of the same caliber as Holmgren? This means that McCarthy has NOT coached up Rodgers as well as Holmgren coached up Favre (who holds the record for most INTs in the history of the league)? Totally illogical.

    1. Totally illogical is looking at a guy who rewrote the record books from A to Z,and dwelling on the pics? What’s up with that? I remember the comebacks, the TD passes, Jawing with DE’s, and laughing at their attempts to sack him, not the lousy Picks. Rodgers doesn’t do a couple things as well as Favre did either, and it’s not worth talking about now when he’s playing,yet. So you can have the half empty glass, I’ll take the half full one. Enjoy your depressed state, and forget all the good he did.

      1. I have no idea what you’re talking about, just as you obviously have no idea what I was talking about.

        My “depressed state?” Could you please tell me what I’m “depressed” about? Crap, I didn’t know that I was depressed about something…

        The reason that I’m talking about INTs, Mr. Logic Meister, is that the ARTICLE talks about them, and I am responding to the article (something you might consider as well). The article clearly implies that Holmgren has the coaching edge on McCarthy because “he was able to rein Brett Favre in.” But the indisputable fact of the matter is that McCarthy’s pupil (Rodgers) is far, far better at protecting the ball and avoiding picks that Holmgren’s pupil was. So – logically speaking, kind Sir – how do these facts argue that Holmgren was the better coach?

        If you were thinking logically, you would have noted that neither this article nor my response were really about which QB was better. The question is which coach is better. And while we’re at it, what is this gibberish about “a glass half full” or “half empty?” If I prefer one coach over another, or if I prefer one QB over the other, what does that have to do with “half full or half empty?” If I like Rodgers better than Favre, or if I like Holmgren better than McCarthy, how does that make me a pessimist??? I’m not sure that even YOU understand you.

        You don’t seem to be the one who should be lecturing on logic.

    2. First of all McCarthy didnt groom Rodgers! It was Favre who showed Rodgers. McCarthy is not as great as Holmgren, not even close!
      Oh and you need to check your history before you open that hole in your face. Favre was not turning over the ball in the Holmgren era stupid! If that were so, Favre would not have 3 consecitive MVPs smart guy.
      If McCarthy has an eye for QBs…. Than maybe you can tell me this! Back in the 2005 McCarthy was the Offensive Coordinator in San Francisco. You may not know that but its fact! Do u know what QBs were in the 2005 draft? huh! SF needed a QB, Mike had his choice of the QBs & he picked, Yes! Alex Smith over Rodgers…. McCarthy at the time saying this kid was the best we felt and we are happy to have him. Haha! so my point…. yes it was favre that taught Rodgers. eat that fool!

    3. Another thing! You cant compare these two QBs for the fact that they played in two differ ent eras. Favre had to play at a time they didnt baby QBs and it was open season. Rodgers is playing in an era thay favors offense amd you cant kill the qb…. DBs are not even allowed to breathe on a receiver in todays game. So this is why you cant compare the two! Now Piss Off….

      1. Thanks, Salvador, for that girlish little hissy fit. Needless to say I’m shaking in my boots as a result of your manly intimidation. Or maybe I’m just laughing so hard at another impotent tough guy on the internet.

        Farve taught Rodgers, eh? Pull your head out.

        Rodgers’ rookie year was 2005. The Packers went 4-12. Favre led the entire league with 29 INTs against just 20 TDs. Only 10 guys in the history of the NFL have thrown more than 29 interceptions in a single season, His passer rating was 70.9, which ranked 31st in a league of 32 teams. He was 14th in completion percentage, and 25th in yards per attempt. Is that where all this precious teaching was happening? Was he teaching Rodgers how to suck?

        In 2006 the Packers stuck with Farve and improved to 8-8. Favre threw 18 TDs against 18 INTs. His passer rating was 72.7, which ranked him 25th in the league right behind perennial all-pros Matt Leinert and Rex Grossman. His completion percentage was 56%, which was also 25th in the league, and his yards per attempt were 23rd in the league. Your buddy, Alex Smith, had a higher passer rating than Favre.

        In fact, of 18 most significant passing stats for these two seasons, Favre was below the league average in 16 of them. So yeah. Clearly Arod benefited from watching this awesome display.

        Favre was actually decent in 2007, posting the 6th best passer rating in the league, despite the fact that only 8 other quarterbacks threw more interceptions than the 15 that he threw. Favre ended the 2007 season (and his Green Bay career) by throwing a beautiful pass in overtime directly to Giants defensive back Cory Webster, thus snuffing out a 13 win season.

        Never mind the fact that even Favre has admitted that he “it wasn’t his job” to teach Rodgers, and that he didn’t do it. Maybe Sally Silva knows the truth.

        Also, you should learn that offensive coordinators do not make the draft picks. General managers do. So your comment that “Mike had his choice of the QBs & he picked, Yes! Alex Smith over Rodgers” is brutally and incredibly stupid. McCarthy didn’t pick anybody. San Francisco general manager Scot McCloughan picked Smith.

        Also, when you are an offensive coordinator, the GM is your boss, and he has hired you to coach up the people he selects in the draft. So if your general manager picks a quarterback, you might want to seem OK with it. Did you think that McCarthy was going to call his boss a idiot and then get fired? What exactly did you think MM was going to say? Oh, wait… you don’t think. Right.

        You say Favre “wasn’t turning the ball over in the Holmgren era? Really? He averaged 16.6 INTs per year during the Holmgren era (1992-1998), and led the league in interceptions in 1993 with 24. He had the second most interceptions in 1998, and the third most interceptions in 1997. In only one of those years did he throw fewer interceptions than the league average (1996).

        Your two posts above are just about the stupidest posts I’ve ever seen. But oooooh, I certainly am scared of you, big boy….

  3. Cory – I agree that Holmgren was a better coach than MM but not because Holmgren coached up Favre better than MM has coached up Rodgers. Holmgren’s overall team was better. His team had a better OL and a better defense. The current Packers do not have a defensive player close to Reggie White. Also, the current rule changes were not yet in effect during Holmgren’s tenure which are a factor that favors Holmgren’s defense. Holmgren, never went through the epidemic of injuries that MM has endured during the last 3-4 seasons. Holmgren had Ron Wolf as his GM versus TT for MM. While TT has done a good job for the Packers, Wolf was an acknowledged football mastermind. Both men are excellent football coaches and I would give a slight edge to Holmgren but he also had better circumstances. Finally, MMs story is still being written and for him rather than ‘finding something extra to squeeze out of Rodgers”, what he needs to do is get more out of his defense and his OL.
    Then he will surpass Holmgren. Let’s start by beating the Bears this Sunday evening. Thanks, Since ’61

      1. Bearmeat – the reason why I think that Holmgren’s OL was better is because Holmgren’s teams consistently ran the ball better than MMs. Whether Bennett or Dorey Levens was the ball carrier the Packers ground game was very consistent back then. And Holmgren’s OL played well against good DLs. Our current OL struggles against good DLs like Seattle, SF and Detroit. Holmgren’s 4 best seasons, 95-98, he was 48-16 with 3 division titles, 4 playoffs, 2 SB appearances with a win, 3 consecutive NFC title games, and robbed by a bad call against SF in ’98 first round of playoffs. MMs 4 best seasons so far, 09-12, 46-18 with 3 division titles, 4 playoffs, one SB appearance and win, 2 one and done in ’09 and’11 and one playoff win in ’12 followed by elimination in round 2. In the playoffs, when you have QBs like Favre and Rodgers, you go as far as your defense and OL can take you. Thanks, Since ’61

        1. The only year I remember GB being able to run the ball at will under MH was 1997. Whereas under MM, GB ran the ball at will in 2007 and 2013.

          IMO The rest of what you said is right on though.

          1. They ran the ball pretty well with Ahman Green under the Shermster.

            Not sure I’d want Shermie back, though.

  4. I will not say either is better than the other..the question you have to ask is right now who would you rather have coaching your team?

    1. If you just look at the numbers, and what the coaches are doing. For starters, McCarthy has won a SuperBowl. The team comes out 17 points down and pulls out a win in week 3 or 4. MH did win a higher percentage, but about .030 percent. MM is over .600 now, today. To find a coach, of the 32 teams who won that many or better, the odds are about 3/32 over a 7 or 8 year span. That’s to say there were only about that many over any time period. It’s not much worse than Holmgren and keep in mind the team support staff and talent on the field came from Ron Wolf the best in football at that day and age. Now you have Ted Thompson, pulling off the best off season (2014) draft and player buys the Packers had since Curly Lambeau went through the West End Tap, back in the day, setting up fights between wanna-be’s. Green Bay is Fine with McCarthy. Get rid of him now, and they might spend another 25 years in mediocrity, like between Lombardi and Holmgren.ONE MORE THING: Mike H went to Seattle for a bundle of cash. His record there for the first 6-7 years sucked. He was below .500 until the last couple years, and even then below MM. In Green Bay, yes he did a little better. But we are damn lucky to have McCarthy, who should make coach of the year one of these years, when they play right up to the end. MM is known to put in 80, 90 and 100 hour weeks doing his job. You cannot beat that.

      1. ” MM is known to put in 80, 90 and 100 hour weeks doing his job. You cannot beat that”

        Good thing they don’t pay him by the hour or overtime pay. He’d be a millionaire.

        1. Uh… pretty sure he’s already a millionaire. According to Forbes, McCarthy had been earning about 6 million per year BEFORE the extension, and at that price there were about 10 guys getting more than he was.

          1. I may be wrong, but I think he was making a sarcastic comment aimed at pointing out an NFL coach better be working 80,90,100 hours a week for the type of salaries they command…Those are pretty typical hours for NFL coaches.

  5. Your best post in quite awhile Cory. Well put. I can only hope that MM makes the comparison moot soon with another 2-3 Lombardi titles!

  6. Holmgren also took Seattle to the Superbowl . I think Holmgren probably has a slight edge on MM. One thing they both have a tendency to do is prevent offense when they get a lead. They need the killer instinct to put teams away. I used to cuss at Holmgren a lot. He would get a 7 point lead and go into prevent offense. One other thing, we should never mention Favre and Rodgers in the same sentence.

  7. Not that I am defending McCarthy here, but Holmgren wasn’t limited by a CBA which limits the number of padded practices the way the Packers are today. That limitation, IMO, hampers game-condition practice sessions and limits players and coaches when it comes to (a) conditioning and (b) game planning.

    No argument over who had the better defense and special teams…that was Holmgren. If McCarthy wins another Super Bowl, he’ll probably be considered the better of the two. McCarthy improves himself if he relinquishes play-calling responsibilities.

    I am also not a big fan of McCarthy’s lack of in-game adjustments.

  8. I’d probably say I’d want Holmgren to coach the rest of this season. But some of MM’s strengths don’t come into that calculation. The potential problems with Farve and Winters and Chmura never blew up in Holmgren’s face; it appears to me that he was lucky rather than the guy keeping the lid on it, but I can’t point to much to support my opinion. MM seems to have been very good in keeping his team behind him and together, particularly in the face of adversity, for the most part. I guess I’d take MM long term.

  9. For what it’s worth, if we’re talking about reigning Favre in, lest we forget that Mike McCarthy was credited with reigning in Favre and coaching him to one of the most, if not THE most, efficient seasons he ever had as a Green Bay Packer.

  10. Defensive backs in GB have an “I don’t have to tackle” clause in their contracts. They don’t really have to cover recievers either. Might mess up their hair.

    Has been the case for at least the last 10 years. THAT’s what kept Favre from getting more Superbowl rings. That’s what will keep them from getting another one.

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