The Green Bay Packers finally fired Mike McCarthy. Now the real work starts for a franchise that has lost its way.
In 18 words, the Packers sent millions into celebration on Sunday night.
The team sent out a tweet informing the public that head coach Mike McCarthy had been fired, a move many fans had been begging for over much of the past two seasons.
McCarthy, 55, had been the coach in Green Bay since 2006. His resumè is stellar. The former Saints and 49ers offensive coordinator won a Super Bowl, six NFC North titles and 125 games, posting a .618 winning percentage. The five coaches directly below him in that category are Marty Schottenheimer, Sean Payton, Andy Reid, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.
For McCarthy, the wait for a new job might not take long, with sources telling FanSided the Cleveland Browns are already exploring a way to hire him.
Still, in Green Bay, it was time. Green Bay had only see a single NFC Championship Game since 2010 and lost it. In recent years, the relationship between McCarthy and future first-ballot, Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers had become contentious. This had to be done.
However, those celebrating McCarthy’s departure must pause to consider this. Firing McCarthy is a treatment to a symptom of Green Bay’s malaise, not its cure.
To cure the ailment, the Packers must find the right replacement in a year not brimming with quality candidates.
GOING DEEP: Browns exploring a McCarthy hire, per sources
The team will likely look at NFL assistants first, including Josh McDaniels and John DeFilippo. Both are young, offensive minds that would bring creativity and a bold look to Green Bay, something sorely missed in McCarthy’s last few campaigns. In a league tilting further by the minute towards offense, the team bolstered by the rocket right arm of Rodgers needs to play that advantage to the hilt.
Speaking of Rodgers, the former Golden Bears star turned 35 years old on Sunday. His birthday gift was losing at home to the horrid Cardinals, who scored 20 points and somehow convinced Green Bay’s offense — and Mason Crosby — to let that be enough.
There’s an oft-repeated notion that with McCarthy gone, Rodgers will find his old game again. The truth is, Rodgers is still playing high-quality football, but he hasn’t been the same demigod he was in his prime.
None of that is to suggest he can’t have the otherworldly outing. Hell, just ask the Bears what their thoughts are on the matter. Still, Rodgers hasn’t been as dangerous outside the pocket, and he’s missed more throws than usual within it.
Perhaps that’s a function of Jordy Nelson being gone and Randall Cobb being plagued by injuries. The chemistry isn’t there yet with Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown, a pair of athletic rookies still finding their grooves. Regardless, Rodgers hasn’t been his fear-inspiring self nearly as much this year. We’re about to find out if that’s from a stale scheme, the wears of in-fighting, or the raptures of age.
On Sunday, the Packers finally reached their breaking point. As Crosby’s attempt to tie the game in the dying seconds faded wayward into the afternoon, so did McCarthy’s employment. It was a fitting end to a tenure that will be remembered with mixed emotions but ultimately defined by a yearning for more.
Now, Green Bay goes searching for the coach who can revitalize Rodgers and inspire a more dynamic brand of football.
It won’t be as easy as some believe.
Top 12 quarterbacks to never win a Super Bowl
1. Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins
2. Dan Fouts, San Diego Chargers
3. Warren Moon, Houston Oilers
4. Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills
5. Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings
6. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
7. Ken Anderson, Cincinnati Bengals
8. Boomer Esiason, Cincinnati Bengals
9. Archie Manning, New Orleans Saints
10. John Brodie, San Francisco 49ers
11. Jim Hart, St. Louis Cardinals
12. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles
"“We can still win out. I still have faith in all my guys to finish the season strong. I need them boys to win so I can get back on the field.”"
– Denver Broncos corner Chris Harris Jr. following a season-ending broken leg in Cincinnati
It’s not getting much talk, but Denver could end up being the sixth seed in the AFC. Baltimore is 7-5 and currently one game ahead of the challengers, but the Ravens play both the Chargers and Chiefs on the road. The Broncos have a much easier path, getting the 49ers, Browns and Raiders before hosting Philip Rivers and friends in Week 17.
If Baltimore loses twice, Miami loses once and Denver wins out, the Broncos are a wild card team.
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Colt McCoy and Carson Wentz will meet up on Monday night when the Redskins and Eagles clash in Philadelphia. McCoy was drafted by the Browns in 2010 and has 29 career touchdown passes. Wentz, drafted in 2017, already has 65.
Incredibly, Wentz only has one more interception than McCoy, despite the former throwing 485 more career passes.
Info learned this week
1. Kareem Hunt, Chiefs dominate headlines all weekend
The NFL looks horrible, the Chiefs have been turned upside down, and Kareem Hunt will be sitting home unemployed for quite some.
The above is the cliff-notes version of what happened over the weekend, once TMZ released hotel security footage from February of Hunt shoving and kicking a 19-year-old woman at The Metropolitan at the 9 in Cleveland.
From a strictly football standpoint, it’s impossible to conclude Kansas City is the same team as it was a week ago. The Chiefs are still supercharged with Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, but Spencer Ware, while talented, isn’t Hunt. Can Andy Reid and Co. overcome the loss? Time will tell, although the 40-33 win against the Oakland Raiders is an indication that the fense can still function without its leading back.
IN the end, though, it’s another ugly incident of violence against women. It’s a problem that the NFL must exhaust all resources to punish swiftly, and not nine months after the fact.
GOING DEEP: NFL dropped ball with Hunt, not video
2. Chargers beat Steelers in wild SNF affair
For a night, the Steelers and Chargers decided to switch histories.
Typically, it’s Los Angeles making one mistake after the next in critical moments. Typically, Pittsburgh makes all the big plays, finding a way to pull out a last-second win in front of a national audience. On Sunday night, though, it was the Chargers winning 33-30 after trailing by 16 points in the third quarter, becoming the first road team to ever overcome a 14-point deficit at Heinz Field.
For the Steelers, the loss basically relegates them to the fourth seed in the AFC. Pittsburgh is 7-4-1 and while it remains the favorite to win the North, it’s hard to see Houston or New England losing twice over the final month of the season.
The Chargers have kept their hopes alive for the AFC West crown, a game behind Kansas City with a tilt at Arrowhead Stadium come Week 15. If nothing else, Los Angeles appears a certainty to be no worse than the fifth seed. Should it end up slotted there, a rematch with the Steelers feels inevitable.
3. Rams clinch division as NFC playoff picture heats up
A division was clinched along with a few significant upsets on Sunday, shaking up the NFC playoff picture.
The Rams took care of the Lions in Detroit, winning 30-16 to move take the NFC West, all while moving into the conference’s top seed at 11-2. Coupled with the Cowboys taking down the Saints on Thursday night, Los Angeles has home-field advantage in its control.
Then there were the upsets over the weekend. The Panthers have all but bowed out of the race, falling to the Buccaneers while losing tight end Greg Olsen for the season. At 6-6 and with two games remaining against New Orleans, it’s over in Carolina.
Meanwhile in New York, the Giants outlasted a furious Bears rally at MetLife Stadium, winning 30-27 to knock off the NFC North leaders. With Chicago falling to 8-4, the Cowboys have to believe they can reach the third seed, especially with the Rams visiting the Windy City on Sunday night.
Finally, the Seahawks pasted the 49ers in Seattle, giving them a third-straight win. At 7-5, the Seahawks have both the Cardinals and 49ers once more, along with Minnesota and Kansas City. If Pete Carroll’s crew can handle Arizona and San Francisco, it simply needs to split the harder games.
4. Bengals’ years of ineptitude, indifference catching up to them
The Bengals are toast. This much has been true for weeks, punctuated by the loss of Andy Dalton for the season with a thumb injury. Still, it was jarring to see rows upon rows of empty seats at Paul Brown Stadium during their 24-10 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday afternoon, dropping the Bengals to 5-7.
Owner Mike Brown has to begin making changes, something that should start with the ousting/retirement of Marvin Lewis. Lewis deserves credit for turning the team around when he took over in 2003, but that was ions ago. He’s done little since. Additionally, Cincinnati can’t move on to Hue Jackson. Jackson has to go when Lewis packs up his belongings.
The Bengals have no choice but to either shake things up or accept becoming a permanent second-class NFL franchise.
GOING DEEP: Verderame on why the Bengals must change
5. Texans, Colts going opposite directions in AFC South
Two hot teams, one major misstep.
It was the Indianapolis Colts losing one of the ugliest games of the season, being shut out by the lowly Jaguars, 6-0. For the Colts, the loss is potentially crippling. Indianapolis drops to 6-6, a full game behind the Ravens in the race for the sixth seed. Baltimore took care of the Falcons fine form, winning 26-16 down south.
Conversely, the Texans just continued rolling with a resounding 29-13 beating of the Browns. Deshaun Watson throwing for 224 yards and a score, while Lamar Miller averaged 5.4 yards per carry on his 103-yard afternoon.
At 9-3, the Texans are threatening for a bye in the AFC playoffs after beginning the year with three straight losses. Not bad.
Vinny Testaverde is 13th all-time in passing yardage. The dozen men above him are either already in Canton or will likely arrive there, save Carson Palmer.
Of the players who have thrown for more yardage, only Warren Moon played for more than three teams in his career. Testaverde played for seven, ranging from the Buccaneers, Browns, Ravens and Jets to the Cowboys, Patriots and Panthers.
Underrated player who blossomed late, or a compiler who played until he was 44 years old? The debate continues.
The Tennessee Titans survived on Sunday. At this juncture of the season, that’s all that matters.
Against a lackluster Jets team, Tennessee trailed 22-13 in the fourth quarter before scoring 13 unanswered points, clinched on a game-winning touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota to Corey Davis in the final minute.
At 6-6, the Titans are far from consistent. Tennessee has beaten the two Super Bowl participants from a season ago, and also been handled by the Ravens and Colts. Ultimately, first-year head coach Mike Vrabel finds his team in the thick of a playoff race, sitting one game and a lost tiebreaker behind Baltimore.
If the Titans are going to make a run into the postseason, though, Mariota must play his best football. Through much of Sunday, the former No. 2 overall pick was more of a hindrance than help, losing two turnovers including a Trumaine Johnson pick-six.
Going into the final quarter of the campaign, Tennessee faces the Jaguars, Giants, Redskins and Colts, with New York and Indianapolis at home. If the Titans play their best ball, a 17th game is well within reach.