Rob DemovskyESPN Staff WriterClose
- Covered Packers for Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1997-2013
- Two-time Wisconsin Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association
That was the message from team president Mark Murphy on Monday, one day after he moved on from McCarthy 12 games into his 13th season as the head coach.
“Obviously, he’s free to provide input and talk to us,” Murphy said of his quarterback. “But he’s not going to be a part of the process. … The other thing I would say, Aaron was no part at all in the decision to move on from Mike.”
Instead, Murphy relied on first-year general manager Brian Gutekunst, who also will play a significant role in selecting McCarthy’s permanent replacement. Interim coach Joe Philbin, the Packers’ offensive coordinator and former Dolphins head coach, will get a shot at the job, Murphy said. But Murphy wouldn’t say whether defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, the former Browns head coach, will get a look. Nor would he identify any characteristics he’s looking for in candidates.
“I think that those are decisions that will happen down the line and right now I’m just focused on these next four games and the direction we’re going with Joe,” Rodgers said. “I’m obviously an older player in the league, I still have a number of years on my contract, would love to still play to 40. I think there’s an interest in who the next guy will be, but Mark and Brian and I have always had good lines of communication. Their offices, like they say, are always open. I’ve had conversations with them like I’ve had with Ted over the years. I’m not needing to be involved in that process.”
Given the complex relationship between Rodgers and McCarthy, especially in their final season when things went south, the coaching change after Sunday’s 20-17 loss to the woeful Cardinals that dropped the Packers to 4-7-1 was viewed by some as Rodgers winning a power play.
“I hope that’s not the reason,” Rodgers said. “I think him and I, like any relationship, we have our amazing times, we have our times where we butt heads. But the basis, like I said, was built on mutual respect and communication. We spent a lot of times here talking off the field, in my house, in his house. We spent time together and growing our friendship and we accomplished a lot together.”
Rodgers praised McCarthy for supporting him during the transition from Brett Favre in 2008. Two seasons later, the Packers won Super Bowl XLV. But despite reaching the NFC Championship Game two more times, they never went back to the Super Bowl.
“I really felt that change was needed and kind of Mike’s tenure had run its course,” Murphy said. “I think we needed a new voice, and it happens in our league.”
Both Murphy and Gutekunst said the loss to the Cardinals was the final straw.
“I think to come out at home in this particular situation against a team that we thought we should beat, it just wasn’t up to our standards,” Gutekunst said. “And it wasn’t acceptable for what we want around here.”
The news was met mostly with shock from players and coaches at Lambeau Field, not over the decision but rather the timing of it.
But Murphy said it will benefit the Packers because “the process of hiring a coach is a competitive process. It gets us into the market earlier” and could help McCarthy find another job if he wants to coach in 2019. He’s under contract with the Packers through next season, and a source close to McCarthy said Monday that the coach was going to take some time to decide his future.
Philbin said he had talked to McCarthy twice since the decision was made Sunday night, and Philbin became emotional when he spoke of his former boss. “I told him we missed him already when we were reviewing the film and talked about the game,” Philbin said. “It wasn’t necessarily a blessing from on high but I told him I loved him and he told me the same thing. “
In the locker room, players acknowledged mixed feelings.
“I mean, there’s obviously some negative stigma lately. You mention Mike McCarthy’s name in a public setting and I’m sure it carries a negative connotation,” receiver Davante Adams said. “But at the same time he’s done such amazing things for this town, more than anything. Obviously the football team, he’s been able to contribute a lot to us as men individually. I have a lot of respect for him and it’s sad to see him gone. I wouldn’t say that it’s like a cloud or anything like that. Hopefully things get better from here on out and hopefully things get better for him as well.”
It will be the first time since at least 1992 that the team’s general manager won’t hire the head coach. A year earlier, then-Packers president Bob Harlan hired Ron Wolf as general manager and gave him full control over the football operations. Until January, that’s how the Packers operated for more than 20 years until Murphy changed the structure when he forced out Ted Thompson and hired Gutekunst. Now, Murphy oversees both the head coach and GM.
“I think I said this when I got hired and the structure was kind of laid out, this is about people and I wouldn’t have felt comfortable if it wasn’t for the people involved going forward with that structure,” Gutekunst said. “And that’s what it’s about. It’s really about the people and I feel very confident that we’re going to get the right guy in this.” Said Murphy: “I’m not going to hire a coach that Brian is not comfortable with.”