IRVING, Texas — In this light, darned if the guy doesn't look a little bit like Vince Lombardi. Especially around the chin.
Mike McCarthy stood at the lectern, the spotlight of the Super Bowl all over him, and furrowed his brow. He was talking about the task at hand, about winning a Super Bowl for the Green Bay Packers. He stared into the cameras without blinking, and there was something as familiar about his glare as an old photograph.
In this setting, you might even suggest the guy sounded a bit like Mike Holmgren. Especially around the second chin.
Behind him, there was a backdrop with trophies and Packer emblems. He was talking about the task at hand and attention to details, and his voice neither rose nor fell. He sounded a bit like your fifth-grade science teacher, to tell the truth.
These days, McCarthy looks a lot like a success. There is nothing like success to add wisdom to your eyes or toughness to your walk. These days, it is easy to compare him to Lombardi or Holmgren or Curly Lambeau or the other Packer coaches who have walked before him. These days, he is a visionary.
A few months ago, he was the resident idiot of a village called Green Bay.
Nothing like a Super Bowl to smarten a guy up, is there?
• • •
"MM is awful. He's always been awful. He would have to bounce back from really awful to be awful."
"He is the coach, it is his responsibility to have his team focused, disciplined and ready to play each week. I see none of these things happening, even when we do play great, it will only be for a quarter or two. It is also his job to light a fire under their butts and get them emotionally fired up, and again this is not happening."
"I don't have any faith in MM any more. Things are not changing quickly enough and the same mistakes are being repeated over and over again."
• • •
It was October, and McCarthy was a moron. At least, that seemed to be the consensus of the visitors to the forum at packerforum.com. The question was not whether McCarthy should be fired; it was how soon.
He lost too many close games. He was 0-5 in overtimes, and he was 3-14 in games decided by five points or fewer. The fans hated the way he called plays, and they hated that he was still calling them. His team was 3-2, and if anyone wanted to compare him to an old Packers coach, there were going to be a lot more Lindy Infante votes than Lombardi.
Such is the lesson for our times. Sometimes, you have to ride out the turbulence. If nothing else, give McCarthy credit for that much.
The guy can coach, too. He has transformed Aaron Rodgers into a star. He has led a team that suffered 14 season-ending injuries to the Super Bowl. He has won as an underdog, and on the road, to get here.
When it comes to coaching, do you know of a better IQ test?
• • •
"If you're going to go for it on 4th down at the one, you'd better believe you can hammer it in with your FB or sneak it over. Otherwise, kick the … field goal moron!"
— Triple Guy
"I was an assistant coach for a high school team that had three straight undefeated seasons and I can tell you that, yes, it is the coach's fault. No, it's not easy making adjustments as a head coach it is your job to do so."
— Spanish Rose
"MM — Learn how to run your own offense. I said it once before, I want MM out if his trendy predictable play calling continues. I want GRUDEN!"
• • •
This is the sound of passion, of course. But this is also the sound of Green Bay, where the town owns the team and, at times, wants to coach it, too.
There for a while, a lot of people in Titletown seemed to think they could do it a sight better than McCarthy.
He was too bland, they said. He threw too much. He blew too many leads. He didn't adjust. Not only that, but he didn't fight hard enough for Brett Favre.
If McCarthy is nothing else, however, he is tough. Maybe that's the Pittsburgh in him. Maybe it's from being the son of a man who was a cop and a firefighter and a bar owner. So the son grew up with some thickness to his skin.
Now, he is here, in the Super Bowl, coaching against the team he cheered for as a boy.
• • •
So, how many MORE years do we need to give TT and MM the benefit of the doubt? I am just curious because this came up last year too. I personally think we have collected more than enough data on these 2 to make an informed decision.
After the season, I want McCarthy fired.
He hasn't done it in the 5 years or what ever he has been here. What makes you think he will start now?
• • •
The thing is, beneath all the criticism, the guy is a pretty cool story.
Consider this: With this as the 45th Super Bowl game, there have been a lot of coaches over the years. Some came from the offensive side of the ball, some from the defensive side.
Never before, however, has one come from the toll booth.
When he was younger, McCarthy spent a summer watching the cars pass in the middle of the night. He was a young, unpaid assistant at Pitt trying to crack into the business, and to keep a little bit of money in his pocket, he worked from midnight to 8 a.m. at Exit No. 5 (Allegheny Valley) on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
"It didn't pay much," McCarthy said Monday evening. "It was something I felt I needed to do after graduating from Fort Hays State. You get your master's degree, and you go and collect tolls. That doesn't quite add up.
"Really, it was a good experience. I did my job and I studied (the playbook) while I was there when there were no cars coming."
Eventually, he left a lucrative career in coin-taking to get into coaching. At times, that seemed to take a toll, too.
Now, he is here, and the rest of the world is applauding. The Super Bowl does that to a coach.
Who knows? If McCarthy wins Sunday, maybe the critics will even invite him back next year.
• • •
"I like Mike as a coach. Always have."
"Even if MM looks like a terrible playcaller during regular season, he transforms into Bill Walsh in the playoffs."
"As soon as I see great clock management, I will be sold."