Green Bay's franchise seems to be on solid footing under the guidance of head coach Mike McCarthy, who boasts a record of 88-50-1 (including playoff games) during his nine-year tenure with the Packers.
This is the 11th in a series of 13 previews leading up to the Green Bay Packers’ July 26 start of camp.
TODAY’S FOCUS: COACHES
Rating (1-to-10 scale): 8
Head coach: Mike McCarthy (ninth season), 88-50-1 (playoffs included)
Coordinators: Tom Clements, offense (third season in position, 19th in NFL); Dom Capers, defense (sixth season in position, 28th in NFL); Shawn Slocum, special teams (ninth season in position)
Position coaches: Edgar Bennett, wide receivers; James Campen, offensive line; Jerry Fontenot, tight ends; Alex Van Pelt, quarterbacks; Sam Gash, running backs; Winston Moss, linebackers; Darren Perry, safeties; Mike Trgovac, defensive line; Joe Whitt, cornerbacks
From the top down:
Only three NFL head coaches have been with their current teams longer than Mike McCarthy has been with the Green Bay Packers. That list includes Bill Belichick in New England, Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati and Tom Coughlin with the New York Giants. That demonstrates just how rare it is for a coach to stick around with one team as long as McCarthy has already with the Packers. If he truly is at "halftime" of his career in Green Bay (as McCarthy stated this offseason), he would end up spending 16 seasons as the head coach of the Packers. For comparison’s sake, Belichick is about to begin his 15th season with the Patriots.
Clearly a coach doesn’t get to remain with one team for so long without a great deal of success, and McCarthy has had that. He’s had only one losing season, and that happened in 2008 in the first year without Brett Favre. Since then, McCarthy has taken Green Bay to five consecutive playoff appearances, won a Super Bowl and strung together three division titles in a row.
However, he’ll continue to face a tremendous challenge of getting the Packers back to (and winning) a Super Bowl in the next five seasons. With quarterback Aaron Rodgers only 30 years old and in the prime of his career, finishing with just one Super Bowl ring during the McCarthy/Rodgers era would qualify as a disappointment (especially considering Rodgers won his first just months after turning 27).
More than ever in recent years, Green Bay seems to really be "going for it" this season. Signing a big-name free agent like Julius Peppers while also re-signing nearly all of the Packers’ key free agents (including $39 million to Sam Shields) has the roster better prepared to win it all. So often McCarthy has had a very young team, one that depends heavily on rookies and other young players to perform at a level that most of them aren’t capable of. It’s not that Green Bay is now a team with all veterans and no youth, but many players at important spots have been in the NFL for at least a couple seasons. That will help McCarthy, but it also applies the pressure that it’s time to make a deep playoff run again.
Defensively, Dom Capers has been given another season as coordinator. However, Capers will have to make sure his defense performs at a consistently high level this season. Bringing in Peppers to complement Clay Matthews will help, as will having experienced players at both outside cornerback spots and at inside linebacker. Datone Jones and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix need to impress in order to help Capers get the most out of the defense, but the tools are there for him to work with. How well Capers is able to integrate the elephant position with Peppers and Mike Neal could go a long way in determining how successful of a season this is for Green Bay.
Rising star: Ben McAdoo got the big call-up this offseason, leaving his spot as the Packers’ quarterbacks coach to become the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants. So who’s next amongst Green Bay’s coaching staff? The most likely answer is Winston Moss, as he’s held the "assistant head coach" title since 2007. But that’s a long time for Moss not to advance any further, so perhaps that’s as big of a title as he’ll get as a coach in the NFL. After the departure of outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene, Moss takes over coaching all linebackers, so this will be a good test for him. Tom Clements had an interview before the 2013 season to be the head coach of the Chicago Bears, but he wasn’t a finalist for the job. Edgar Bennett will likely rise up the coaching ranks sooner or later beyond his current role with wide receivers.
Ranking against the rest of the NFC North: 1. Packers, 2. Bears, 3. Vikings, 4. Lions.
McCarthy is going to need to do his homework just to be reminded of his fellow NFC North coaches. McCarthy’s been in place for nearly a decade, but half the teams in the division are starting fresh. Chicago goes into Year 2 with Marc Trestman, who has the Bears on the right track offensively. Now Trestman just needs to make sure that Chicago’s defense isn’t as dreadful as it was in 2013. Minnesota and Detroit both have new faces in charge, but the Vikings’ hiring of Mike Zimmer might be just what they need. Zimmer is a defensive-minded, fiery coach, but it will likely take him a couple years to get Minnesota back into serious contention. Unfortunately for Zimmer, that will likely happen just as Adrian Peterson’s career is dwindling. The Lions went in the complete opposite direction of now-former head coach Jim Schwartz, who was fired this offseason. Instead of Schwartz’s unpredictable behavior and attitude, Detroit went with the calm demeanor of Jim Caldwell. There is plenty of talent for Caldwell to work with, but he’ll need to prove that he can get the most out of key players like Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh.