Building a New Lambeau Legacy
When Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson went in search of a new head coach after a disappointing 4-12 season in 2005, there was obviously no shortage of stalwart, experienced head coaching candidates lined up interested in taking over the storied franchise. At the end of his search he decided on a younger candidate known for not only his acumen when it came to hoaxing defenses with his creative offense, but also his ability to connect with his players and get them to buy into his vision as well.
NFL, however by the way Thompson had been starting to shape his roster that seemed like a franchise approach at the time. Coach McCarthy had already worked with a bevy of great signal callers in Brett Favre, Joe Montana, Rich Gannon, Marc Bulger and Matt Hasslebeck and would be in charge of bringing the Packers back to NFC North dominance. It didn’t take him long.
Green Bay notched an 8-8 record in McCarthy’s first season after an impressive finish to the campaign and the following year, they blasted into the playoffs with a 13-3 record. Their overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship ended the run; however the tone had already been set for a fresh regime.
In his first 25 games as a head coach with the Pack, Mike McCarthy led his team to a 16-9 record, beating the previous franchise record set by the legendary Vince Lombari and tying the NFL record of the legendary Joe Gibbs.
The following season meant the end of an era for one of the game’s greats in quarterback Brett Favre and the start for a new one in Aaron Rodgers. It was then when the NFL and the world truly got to see both the creativity and leadership ability of McCarthy.
Over the past three seasons with Rodgers at the helm and his own players in place, Coach McCarthy has won a Super Bowl and led the Pack to a 36-12 record. Over those three seasons his prolific offenses have had three different leading rushers in each year and in 2011, had five players with over 35 receptions in a season.
Vince Lombardi once said that, “Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate.” This it seems is McCarthy’s gift and perhaps what Ted Thompson saw in him as well when he hired the young coach.
As brilliant as McCarthy has been on the field, the Pittsburgh, Pa., native who used to supplement his income by taking our tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike has also been a blessing to the Green Bay community along with his wife Jessica.
Very passionate about the welfare of children, Mike and Jessica have completely entrenched themselves into as many opportunities as they can to raise money in the area. In Green Bay, there is the Mike McCarthy Celebrity Golf Open which supports cystic fibrosis organizations and over the past two years he and his wife have held the Mike & Jessica McCarthy Golf Tournament in Madison, Wisc., as a second fundraiser. This money goes to benefit American Family Children’s Hospital and the Greatest Need Fund, both of which assist children and their families.
McCarthy visits cancer patients at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, served as honorary chairperson for the local Cerebral Palsy Telethon and worked with the American Heart Association. He has also taken time to include himself in the Lombardi Award of Excellence Dinner Ball which supports the Vince Lombardi Charitable Funds in the fight against cancer. Its other purpose is to serve as host of the Green & Gold Gala, a fundraiser for Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of the coach’s contribution to his community as there is much more to list and hundreds of thousands of his own money that he gives back. However, growing up the son of a man who owned his own business, was a police officer and a firefighter as well most likely set the tone for who we honor here – another man who also devotes his time to making other’s lives better on his own accord.
Back on the gridiron, the Packers and Mike McCarthy will certainly have something to prove next year after a quick exit from the playoffs this season. A man who always comes across as calculated yet very honest in his interviews; any former player such as himself has to be seething at the opportunity to get back to OTA’s after some down time with his children Alexandra, Jack, George and Gabrielle.
In fact, even as we’ve talked about the Packers triumph throughout the years under McCarthy with different running backs and through different quarterbacks – we haven’t mentioned the pitfalls of injuries and adversity they’ve overcome. How they won a Super Bowl with the most amount of players on injured reserve of any team in the NFL. When you query as to McCarthy’s approach and what his players are buying into, one would have to think it goes back to his playing days under Charlie Richard at Baker University.
“Well the one thing I think everybody would say to a man who play for Coach Richard is you knew you were better than your opponent from the time you stepped on the field,” McCarthy said about his former coach. “He was always bringing in players to challenge you for your job.”
Anyone who has put those pads on knows that your coach is the catalyst of the machine. When he believes, the team believes. The right attitude, confidence, preparation and belief trickle down from the top and become the oil runs the engine of your franchise. It seems that in the case of the success of the Green Bay Packers, Mike McCarthy has been and will continue to be keeping his men at the peak of their game.