Packers coach Mike McCarthy knows his job future is uncertain
GREEN BAY — Mike McCarthy acknowledged Friday afternoon he is aware of the chatter about his job security and the debate outside the building about whether his 13th year as the Green Bay Packers’ coach should be his last.
“I don’t think you can tune it out. That’s the old days. That’s when you had newspapers,” McCarthy said one day after the Packers’ 27-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks dropped them to 4-5-1 on the season — putting them at risk of missing the playoffs for the second straight year. “But I think today’s world, everything’s accessible, everything’s instant. I’m sure (the players) are all aware (of the talk).
“The externals are always going to be there, one way or the other. The head coach, it’s important for him to stand in front of that and take that. I’m a big believer in, ‘Protect the locker room.’ That’s a constant focus that we’ve had since Day One here. The most important room in this building is the locker room and the hardest job in the building is the players’. It’s our job to prepare and make sure those guys are ready, and that’s definitely not helping us win if we’re talking about external opinions.”
Thus, McCarthy insisted he and the team are focused on a pivotal NFC North matchup on Nov. 25 with the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis — and not his own predicament
“That’s the job. That’s the way this business has gone,” McCarthy said. “We set a standard here the past 12 years, and it’s our responsibility to play to that standard. That’s the way we approach it.”
With the team’s new power structure of McCarthy, general manager Brian Gutekunst and executive vice president/director of football operations Russ Ball all reporting to team president/CEO Mark Murphy, it will be Murphy’s call on whether McCarthy, who signed a one-year contract extension last season and is under contract through 2019, will return next season.
Under Pro Football Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf (1992-2001) and Gutekunst’s predecessor Ted Thompson (2005-2017), the general manager had the power to hire and fire the head coach.
When the new hierarchy was announced in January, McCarthy and Murphy said they’d be meeting regularly. Asked Friday how those meetings have been going, McCarthy replied: “It’s gone well. It’s informative. I think it’s a bit of a challenge more in-season for me than offseason.”
Asked if his job security has come up in those meetings, McCarthy replied: “No. We talk about the focus — focus on winning games, what’s in front of us.”
What’s in front of the Packers are six games that will go a long way to deciding McCarthy’s future. The loss to the Seahawks left the Packers at 0-5 on the road this season and trailing the division-leading Chicago Bears (6-3) and the Vikings (5-3-1), and while a seemingly softer portion of the schedule follows after the game in Minnesota, a loss to the Vikings could render the final five games almost moot.
Just two years ago, the Packers stood at 4-6 after 10 games when quarterback Aaron Rodgers famously said they could “run the table” over the final six weeks – and they did just that, winning eight straight games overall to advance to the NFC Championship Game, where they fell to the Atlanta Falcons.
That was Green Bay’s fourth NFC Championship Game appearance under McCarthy, who led the 2010 team to the Super Bowl XLV title and eight consecutive playoff berths before missing the postseason last year, when Rodgers missed nine-plus games with a broken right collarbone.
“I have great confidence. I’ve been in this position before, so I have confidence in how we do things,” McCarthy said Friday. “I think it’s real important in these particular junctures in the season to … you have to react – there’s no doubt about that – but you can’t overreact. So, you’ve just got to stay in tune with the specifics and the details of why we’re not getting it done in those situations.”
Against the Seahawks, the Packers had a 21-20 lead with 9 minutes left and facing third-and-5 at Seattle’s 12-yard line when Rodgers was sacked, forcing them to settle for a field goal to make it 24-20. Seattle responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive to take the lead at 27-24, and when Rodgers missed an easy third-down throw on the ensuing possession, McCarthy opted to punt the ball away on fourth-and-2 with 4:20 to go rather than going for it. Green Bay never got the ball back.
It marked the third time in four games that the Packers were in position in the fourth quarter to collect their first road win and failed. They had a 27-26 fourth-quarter lead at the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 28 and were tied, 17-17, with the New England Patriots on Nov. 4.
“It’s tough losing on the road, it’s tough losing by one possession. Obviously, I’m frustrated, not just by the last throw but some other stuff that we could’ve done better out there,” Rodgers admitted. “This is an important, obviously, six-game stretch left. I still believe we have a lot to play for.”
Said veteran defensive back Tramon Williams: We’re not going to turn on each other or nothing. We love each other and we stick together as a team. Is it frustrating? Yes, it’s very frustrating to come out on these types of losses when you know you should be winning these games.”
McCarthy refused to comment on an NFL Network report that veteran tight end Jimmy Graham broke a thumb Thursday and will be sidelined. “I don’t have the exact extent of the injury,” McCarthy said. … With Graham likely sidelined, first-year tight end Robert Tonyan, whose first NFL regular-season catch went for a 54-yard touchdown against the Seahawks, is in line for more playing time. “Robert’s definitely ready,” McCarthy said, adding that Tonyan’s limited playing time has been “really just a product of who’s in front of him.” … Players had a light workout Friday and have the weekend off before returning to practice Monday. … McCarthy acknowledged that having to play rookie wide receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown with Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison beset by injuries has forced him to alter his play-calling. “You play to your personnel, and we have plenty. We’re not short by any means. No excuses,” McCarthy said. “But yeah, I think there’s definitely things and we’re a multiple offense that has a lot of intricacies to it, a lot of specifics, and it’s really the benefit of having Aaron Rodgers as our quarterback. (But) that takes time. I don’t care who you are, (even) if you’re a proven veteran coming in here. So you do have some hurdles you have to get over there. But I think the young guys are doing a good job.”