Chris Mortensen, NFL correspondent and seasoned teleprompter-reader, did his segment on ESPN Sunday morning and suggested Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy as a possibility for the vacant head coaching position at the University of Texas.
It was a case of simply connecting the dots rather than actual hard reporting. And on the surface the speculation makes sense, a school as prestigious as Texas will be swinging for the fences with their next football hire. Never mind that most lists thus far for Mack Brown’s old gig include several big names, including current NFL coaches, but not McCarthy.
When asked during a Monday press conference about the speculation, McCarthy responded by saying, “I’m proud to be a Green Bay Packer.”
What did you expect him to say?
It’s called business. It is also something that as a fan I wouldn’t worry too much about.
In eight seasons McCarthy has quietly etched his face onto the Packers’ coaching Mount Rushmore, a tenure that saw him help coordinate the awkward transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers, and more recently kept the team afloat after losing Rodgers for seven games (and counting).
And if he is indeed interested in the Longhorns job, the dramatic 23-point second half comeback in Dallas over the weekend was not a bad audition tape.
But take a simple look at Packers history.
Vince Lombardi remains the most iconic NFL coach ever. To a younger generation it seemed like he was in Green Bay forever. He was actually there just nine years. He laid low for a year in the Packers organization after stepping down as coach in 1968. He then took the Washington job in 1969. Had the Big C not claimed him a year later at the way too young age of 57, he would likely had been as successful as George Allen was with the Washington team during the 1970s.
Mike Holmgren was only in Green Bay seven years. By 1998, ESPN and other media outlets had his name connected on a weekly basis with the Seattle Seahawks and the resurrected Cleveland Browns franchise. It became a circus, highlighted by a verbal altercation between Holmgren and a fan after a lackluster first half late that season.
By the time Holmgren took the Seahawks job, it was time for both parties to move on. And Holmgren wound up with a solid run in Seattle, actually coaching there longer than he did with the Packers.
Which leads us to McCarthy, who has quietly run a ship with great success without the drama of a Bill Belichick or Jim Harbaugh. To this point that has included not being in the rumor mill for other positions in the NFL or college football world.
When he took the job in 2006, a segment of the fan base was not happy that general manager Ted Thompson didn’t seek a more high profile hire.
But we are in the seven to 10 year window. In baseball, General Manager Theo Epstein left the Boston Red Sox for a similar position with the Chicago Cubs. At the time, he referenced the “10-year burnout” syndrome Bill Walsh alluded to when he stepped down from the San Francisco 49ers.
Maybe Mike McCarthy stays around for another decade. As a fan I hope he does. His chances for continued employment at 1265 Lombardi Avenue are excellent.
But at 50 years old, I would not blame McCarthy for contemplating career options. How much more is there to achieve with the Packers? How much could he achieve at a tradition-laden college program like Texas?
If the Packers were to fail to advance to the postseason, McCarthy would be fair game on Dec. 30. In his world, McCarthy hopes to be coaching well into January. I’m sure his staff have a personal schedule booked through the first weekend of February. If the Packers were to make an unlikely Super Bowl trip, the Longhorns would likely be tired of the wait (during recruiting season). Jim Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin have both said they aren’t interested in leaving for Texas, which means the Longhorns could be out of NFL options.
Whatever the case, don’t expect this to be a distraction in Packerland. Worse case scenario? McCarthy goes to Texas, Ted Thompson makes another solid hire of someone casual fans are not familiar with, and football life continues in Green Bay.