McCarthy's tenure with Packers embodied success, but desire for change has loomed

13 years is a long time. Mike McCarthy will tell you that first-hand.

-- 13 years is a long time.

13 years ago, Pluto was downgraded from a planet to a dwarf planet. 13 years ago, the Wii was released for $249.99. 13 years ago, iTunes sold its one billionth song. Over this time, you could argue all three of these things lost their original value.

13 years ago, a Pittsburgh native became the head coach of one of the NFL's most prominent franchises and inherited a young, 23-year-old quarterback with perceived ego issues and a grudge held against the rest of the league for allowing him to drop so far in the 2005 NFL Draft.

While some things may have been ruled obsolete since 2006, the relationship between those two counterparts -- co-workers, friends -- flourished.

Mike McCarthy. Aaron Rodgers. Both basked in exponential amounts of success, including reaching the pinnacle of the sports world -- together -- in 2010 as Super Bowl Champions.

But not everything was sunshine and rainbows.

Any relationship between two individuals molded together for so long is also at a greater risk of combusting, and over the last few years, that's eventually what occurred. While it may not have been the fault of either party, both McCarthy and Rodgers had run their course together.

Every outsider realized this; they speculated, inferred, even prodded face-to-face. It was toxic, and as Rodgers matured and his own knowledge of his occupation expanded, so did the desire for something fresh.

That desire for something fresh eventually culminated with McCarthy's firing in December after a home loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

"As far as our relationship, you have to put it through the proper lens like you always have to do with reflection and change," McCarthy told ESPN's Rob Demovsky. "When there's change, let's be real, especially the way the change happened, there's things that come out after the fact. Things get said. He-said, he-said this and things like that.

"When I think about my relationship with Aaron, you're talking about 13 years. That's a very long time. It's been a privilege to watch him grow in so many different ways and see him do so many great things on the field and off. To think you can be in a relationship that long and not have any frustrations, that's unrealistic."

The Packers missed the playoffs last season for not only the second season in a row but for just the fourth time in McCarthy's tenure. In the midst of it all, they managed eight consecutive trips to the postseason from 2009-2016.

McCarthy fully expected change to happen if the Packers missed the playoffs in 2018 -- but in no way did he expect the move to happen with four games left in the regular season.

Rather than let McCarthy finish out the year -- games against the Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, New York Jets and Detroit Lions -- with the Packers still theoretically alive in the playoff race, Joe Philbin assumed the role of interim head coach and led the team to a 2-2 record.

It's fair to believe that without McCarthy, Rodgers' career arc could've looked far different. Once he stepped into the professional scene in 2005, he looked like a completely different player -- up until he ran through McCarthy's "QB school" and ventured through a crash course of quarterback mechanics.

The result was a confident quarterback. Confidence needed if he was going to replace an adored legend like Brett Favre after 16 seasons in Green Bay.

"He's challenging, very rewarding and fun. We had a lot of fun," McCarthy said. "Some of my greatest one-on-one conversations, accomplishments, adjustments and adversity we fought through have been with Aaron. The difficulty in coaching a Hall of Fame quarterback is keeping that connection, the efficiency and the fluency with the other players on offense. They want to do more. They're capable of doing so much more, but the reality is you have to remember is it's the coordination of 11 men on every play."

Rodgers ended up as a two-time league MVP (2011, 2014) and is widely renowned as one of the NFL's all-time most talented passers. Hitting the ground running with a chip on his shoulder, spending three seasons behind Favre and McCarthy shaping him into a formidable component to his west coast offense helped lay the groundwork for what was to come.

"It's pretty fun to go through your entire offensive playbook and know you can run everything in there with your quarterback. I mean, that's a joy. His job was to score as many points as he can. My job was to make it all work. We can all grow personally and professionally, but because of the experience I had not only with Aaron but with all my players, I know I'm a much better person and a better coach than I was 13 years ago.

"I hope Aaron and all the players I coached, I hope they feel the same."

Where did it all go wrong?

The Packers pitched a shutout win over the Buffalo Bills in September, but Rodgers instead spent the ensuing presser tearing apart the offense's performance and the gameplan.

Rodgers was two yards shy of 300, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams each finished with 11 carries -- Jones averaging 5.9 yards per carry to Williams' 2.5 -- and Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison combined for over 160 receiving yards. Even still, he felt they should've had more.

More than their 423 yards of offense considering the opportunities they had. The Packers were in 19 third-down situations -- signaling that they weren't efficient enough on first and second down -- and converted 11 of them.

It wasn't the first time that Rodgers jabbed McCarthy's efforts from the sideline or expressed even the slightest bit of agitation. But considering McCarthy was out of a job just two months later, this certainly offered one of the final glimpses into where the tipping point was in their relationship.

"In football, there are things that are said on the sideline that stay on the sidelines for players and coaches alike," McCarthy said. "As far as that situation, I honestly am not aware of it. Aaron has always been heavily involved in game-planning each week and scheme design each year. I entrusted him and empowered him more than any other quarterback I've ever been around, especially at the line of scrimmage."

For now, the Packers turn the page completely from the McCarthy era and clean their hands of the past. They hired first-year head coach Matt LaFleur in January, just over a month after McCarthy's removal.

The relationship LaFleur formulates with Rodgers is one of the primary fundamentals behind making it work. He'll at least have the blueprint from the previous administration to figure out what to do correctly -- or incorrectly.

"Totally embrace the Green Bay community with your family. It's a phenomenal place to live," McCarthy said, offering advice for LaFleur. "It's a phenomenal place to raise a family. ... Heck, coach your ass off, have fun and enjoy the honor because it goes fast. Enjoy the honor of being the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. Make the program your own. That's very important.

"You were hired here for a very good reason; don't get too far away from that. You have a great group of men in that locker room. I think they're special, and they'll work their butts for you."

__________________________

Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (20)

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Samson's picture

April 03, 2019 at 03:04 pm

It's very difficult to understand why so many perpetuate the myth that MM had something to do with AR's development as an NFL QB. -- AR was a college All-American & projected to be the 1st pick in the draft. -- MM had little if anything to do with AR's success as an NFL QB. (QB School - please! - List all the successful graduates)

In fact, many believe MM was an albatross that only held AR & the Pack back from achieving more since 2008.

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Mike Wendlandt's picture

April 04, 2019 at 08:22 am

It's not difficult at all, because it's not a myth. Rodgers was a very polarizing prospect coming out of Cal because of his brutally robotic mechanics and the lack of success for all other Jeff Tedford quarterbacks.

Rodgers himself looked awful during his first couple preseasons, and to claim that McCarthy didn't help a great deal is revisionist history at best.

And as far as the QB school goes, it worked beautifully early on, especially with guys like Rodgers and Matt Flynn, who were able to go through it. However, the value of the school diminished with the new CBA that was passed that limited time between coaches and players during the offseason.

While it was time to end the McCarthy era last year, so say he was an albatross is grossly misguided.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

April 04, 2019 at 09:24 am

"QB School - please! - List all the successful graduates"

List a draft pick taken before the 5th round that MM had to work with.

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Samson's picture

April 04, 2019 at 12:46 pm

Brian Brohm -- 2nd round. -- Next question.

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Leatherhead's picture

April 06, 2019 at 01:36 pm

Matt Flynn. Next question.

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John30856's picture

April 04, 2019 at 11:54 am

They say it because it is true. That and the years on the bench to watch and learn to be sure

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Samson's picture

April 04, 2019 at 12:25 pm

Gotta love all the MM apologists.
MM (being unemployed) will have ample time now for massages or he can continue to berate officials at HS sporting events. -- MM has always been overrated. I doubt he'll ever be a HC in the NFL again.

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Leatherhead's picture

April 06, 2019 at 01:37 pm

I can't imagine why a guy who went to the Championship game 4 times in 10 years would need an apologist.

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ILPackerBacker's picture

April 03, 2019 at 04:31 pm

Rodger's desire for something ""FRESH""led to the firing.

Yeah,that was it. On the super talent laden roster with HOF special teams and the best pass rush in packer history....that was it

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Handsback's picture

April 03, 2019 at 05:07 pm

May I say that Rodgers wasn't a finished product out of college. His release was changed as well as where he held the ball. I remember Favre coming out of a Ravens game and Rodgers going in and it wasn't pretty. The first game I thought Rodgers had arrived was a Cowboys game. Favre came out hadn't move the needle much on offense and Rodgers scored a couple of times against a very good defense.

So he took some time to become one of the best, it didn't happen overnight.

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Leatherhead's picture

April 03, 2019 at 05:54 pm

I agree with your recollection of events. It does take a while, but the question is when do spend a high draft choice at QB? I mean....we COULD possibly use that bonus pick on a franchise QB, couldn't we?

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Leatherhead's picture

April 03, 2019 at 05:46 pm

Clifnotze Version:

It was tearing apart after our shutout win over Buffalo. Any hope of keeping the tear from spreading kind of drained away as we ended the 2018 season. Injuries to Cobb and Allison combined with Montgomery's Boner just hurt us too bad, along with the Rodgers/ MM friction.

End of story. Dead and Buried, I hope. MM is taking a year off to relax and decompress, and Rodgers would like to have a GREAT season while MM is resting.

It's 2019. Go. Rodgers can make his case while MM relaxes. Let's see it happen.

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albert999's picture

April 03, 2019 at 07:44 pm

relaxes and gains another 50lbs

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Jonathan Spader's picture

April 04, 2019 at 09:26 am

MM was a coach not a player who cares how much he does or doesn't weigh?

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albert999's picture

April 03, 2019 at 07:43 pm

If he would have fired cappers and hired wade phillips and done his own job much better he wouldn’t have to cry in his beer

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croatpackfan's picture

April 04, 2019 at 06:46 am

Whatever you say now, Mike McCarthy have second best record in Packers history, just behind Curly Lambeau. He is in 50 NFL coaches by winning record. And these facts nobody will be able to change.

Claiming that Mike McCarthy has nothing to do with Aaron success would be similar to claim that Mike McCarthy success has nothing to do with who was his QB. Also, I want to remind you to the fact that under Mike McCarthy and w/o Aaron Rodgers Packers got into postseason 2013. Did you forget that fact?

And those stories how he would still be Packers HC if he just fired Capers and hired "John Doe (put any name you wish)" are ridiculous.

And do you remember that divisional round game against SF at Lambeau Field. Can anyone here write the number of the healthy players on D Dom Capers had during that game? I want to remind you that number was 9. Number of completely health players was 6. I remember that Andy Mulumba (do you remember that guy?) jumping around on one leg while he was playing OLB! Do you remember that?

Do not understand wrong what I wrote here. I believe that Dom Capers needed to go earlier than he went. And I believe that after 13 years Packers and Mike McCarthy needed "divorce".

But I believe that Mark Murphy did it on wrong way. His decision was good for the franchise, but how he handled that was not, I consider, Packers way.

It is always easy to spit people who can not defend themselves or to kick dead horse... That tells me more about "spitters" and kickers than about other side...

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stockholder's picture

April 04, 2019 at 10:09 am

I supported MM. I still believe this was assignation by the press. Yes the packers wanted change. But what they got was a rebuild. Something nobody said was needed. But look what we got. TT would never have spent the money on Free Agents. And Gute isn't signing his own. I wonder if MM was fired earlier, would Arron Rodgers have gotten his big contract? They blamed the coach for the record. But with such a big change in personal; MM should not have taken the abuse for Murphy's lack of insight. Sure MMs firing was cold. Murphy had the goat by the horns. The gun to MMs head was uncalled for. His wife shed light on everything. MM squeezed blood from a turnip. And Rodgers just didn't give a damn after he got his money. Rodgers is the new Goat. The biggest step to recovery is the past is the past. We now look to what new people can do. The leader who cared about the packers being a family, just left. It's ON! USE them up. The packers are a business. Get Loud and cheer! Nobody is going to miss MM. I can't wait to see who really has control.

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John30856's picture

April 04, 2019 at 11:56 am

Couldn't agree more

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RickInCali's picture

April 04, 2019 at 01:24 pm

McCarthy’s didn’t like the way it was handled? Your players were basically insubordinate — AR saying the scheme sucked, DR off the reservation after HHCD was acting similarly. Special Teams were a disaster. It went on and on.

Bottom line: Own your own sh*t. You lost it...you made horrible decisions on your staff, you allowed solid players to be used out of position regularly, your communication with your franchise QB was bad, and on, and on.

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stockholder's picture

April 04, 2019 at 02:05 pm

Looking Back? Fundamentals! Who fumbled the on side Kick? Now look who is retiring? Change or Timing? Bottom Line- It's on the players. The Minnesota Vikings never won a super-bowl. Was Bud Grant the reason? Was Fran Tarkington or Dan Morino bad QBs. No- It's on the players. (Thinking their to big to fail. ) When you train somebody, it's reps! Some have the ability to give more. We just haven't seen that on Mms teams. (Especially after making the playoffs.) . Most couldn't find the field. People melt, and don't show the courage it takes to win.

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