We praise Mike McCarthy and search for the next Mike McCarthy.
Plus, we acknowledge the most underrated defensive player in the NFL and the worst quarterback in the league this year, bar none, in our weekly sizzle and fizzle.
If the Packers go 16-0, when the Packers go 16-0, there is no debating who should be the NFL coach of the year for 2011. The Packers won the Super Bowl last year. There is always a bulls-eye on the Super Bowl champs. And yet they’ve survived every single challenge. Let’s not minimize perfection.
I think Jim Harbaugh has shocked the NFL world with how he turned the 49ers from chumps into NFC West champs in his first year on the job. I had Gary Kubiak rated as the worst head coach in the league this summer. He just won a division and the Texans could get a No. 1 seed with a third-string quarterback and several injuries to key stars. If the Broncos finish in first, John Fox deserves a ton of praise. These cats would be my second, third, and fouth choices respectively. But these coaching jobs fall incredibly short of the perfect season.
Are the haters numb to it because the Patriots went 16-0 in the 2007 season?
That’s not right. And consider the lack of an offseason this year and then analyze the seemingly flawless play. That’s coaching. I’ve heard some say, “Well McCarthy has Aaron Rodgers.” Yes, yes he does. And Mike McCarthy developed Rodgers in his critically acclaimed quarterback school. And Mike McCarthy calls the plays. He’s not just a head coach who roams the sideline aimlessly. Rodgers will be the first one to tell you that McCarthy’s teaching, coaching and play-calling have taken his game to another level. McCarthy and Rodgers are attached at the hip, seeing the game the same way.
The Packers have had major injuries to starting offensive linemen and starting linebackers. Greg Jennings is now hurt. McCarthy has had his team ready with the “next man up” philosophy. And McCarthy has eliminated distractions in dealing with the undefeated seasons by prepping his team every Wednesday for what the media might address. He tells us on the SiriusXM Blitz that he is very proud of his team and how they have handled the omnipresent topic.
Teams lose games. Teams lose games in zany and unfathomable fashion. The Jags beat the Ravens. The Saints lost to Tampa and St. Louis. The Packers, according to McCarthy, “have accepted every challenge since the goal-line stand against the Saints in Week 1.” That’s coaching. That’s your 2011 coach of the year. Don’t overthink it.
Quietly, this unit has made a ton of progress this year under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Even more specifically, they have been flat-out dominant in recent weeks. I am very much considering voting for Calais Campbell for first team All-Pro at defensive end. He has 7 sacks this year and has been a force in every single phase. I think Calais Campbell is the single-most underrated, most defensive player in the NFL. Darnell Dockett is one of the best defensive tackles in the sport. Rod Graves and Steve Keim stole Sam Acho in the middle of the draft and he’s become a player. Linebacker Daryl Washington has a nose for the ball and is a consistent tackler. Veteran safety Adrian Wilson is the glue at safety, playing through pain all season and making plays and providing leadership.
The Cardinals are 6-7 this season. Let me channel my inner Dennis Green. The Cardinals are exactly who I thought they were when I picked them to go 9-7 and win the NFC West. The offensive line was brutal earlier this year. As a result, Kevin Kolb has dealt with injuries all season and hasn’t lived up to expectations. I’m not giving up on the Cardinals for 2012. They have actually laid an excellent foundation for the future with the play of this defense. And Kolb will get better with a full offseason and some new offensive linemen.
And let’s remember, the Cards were robbed against the Giants on a botched call on Victor Cruz. And they should’ve knocked off the Skins. Arizona will smother the Browns this weekend. It’s not out of the realm they can win their next three games (Cleveland, Cincy, and Seattle) and go 9-7. This season has been a disappointment, but if you look closely, there are reasons to be optimistic in the desert.
I’ve been killing Seattle this season for the Seahawks up-and-down play. The quarterback situation has at times resembled a “clown show.” And I stand by that with Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst. Likely, the Seahawks 2012 quarterback isn’t on the roster right now.
But I can do nothing but praise the effort and the execution of this outfit in recent weeks. Marshawn Lynch has been a beast. The young defense, from Kam Chancellor to Earl Thomas to Brandon Browner, is making plays. Doug Baldwin has been an energizer bunny on offense and special teams. Heck, I’m picking them to win in Chicago this weekend and improve to 7-7! Seattle general manager John Schneider joined us on the SiriusXM Blitz this week, and he acknowledged the up-and-down season the Seahawks have had. He wants the Seahawks to be an annual contender with “personnel that other teams crave across the board.”
But Schneider is very proud of how the Seahawks have fought. He says he wanted a team, “that could win a street fight” and says the Ravens win proved that was the case. You can’t question the effort of this team, and they’ve dealt with major injuries (especially on the offensive line) and adversity. Color me impressed.
The next Mike McCarthy
When the Packers hired the San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator to replace Mike Sherman, they didn’t exactly win the press conference. McCarthy’s appointment was treated with an eye-roll and a yawn. Now, they are going to name a street after him and build a statue. The Falcons’ Mike Smith wasn’t a “hot name” and he’s turned around Atlanta. John Harbaugh went from special teams coach in Philly to one of the better coaches in the league in Baltimore.
Talking to executives around the league, there isn’t much of a consensus on the assistants who haven’t been head coaches who are ready to take over for what could be several head coaching vacancies. You need to dig and find the next McCarthy if you go the route of first-time head coach.
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will rightly be the hot name and he has earned it through the years. But who’s next? I don’t buy the Rob Ryan hype. I’m not sure what he’s done as an assistant. Mel Tucker? Brian Schottenheimer? Bill O’Brien? Tom Clements? Perry Fewell? Anyone excited yet? I’ve been told that Russ Grimm is very happy being Ken Whisenhunt’s assistant head coach in Arizona.
I’ve give you two “McCarthy-esque” names I would consider; Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. They both get overshadowed because it is Sean Payton’s offense and Rex Ryan’s defense. But they are excellent teachers and football junkies who would be great leaders of men.
Then you have the assistant coaches who are former head coaches looking for another turn on the head coaching carousel. We are talking about guys like Dom Capers, Mike Mularkey, Gregg Williams, Mike Nolan, Bill Callahan and Josh McDaniels. I know some executives who like Mularkey and Capers to get interviews for the vacancies. I wouldn’t let Josh McDaniels order my lunch.
Bank on seeing some “no-name” candidates emerge. The “hot assistant” doesn’t really exist. And that’s why fans rightly clamor for the likes of Jeff Fisher, Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher. That’s why Super Bowl champion Brian Billick is absolutely in play.
This was an easy first guess in April. How the heck did the Jaguars get three primetime games this year? That was a grotesque no-show performance on Thursday night in Atlanta.
I know he’s a rookie, but his internal clock makes it seem like he has absolutely no feel for the quarterback position. And this is even beyond the fumbles on Thursday night. This is an evaluation in watching him all season. It’s alarming. Congrats, Blaine Gabbert, on being the single worst starting quarterback in the NFL this year.
Browns medical staff
It’s totally unthinkable and irresponsible that the Browns training staff and doctors didn’t test Colt McCoy for a concussion after he was clocked by James Harrison. Everyone watching thought a concussion was possible. When the NFL Network cameras showed McCoy’s face upon return, he looked totally dazed. The process needs to change.