It must have been a hair-raising moment for the Green Bay Packers' coach.
And on Friday afternoon, after the Packers had put their finishing touches on preparations for Sunday's Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers, McCarthy stood on a high school practice field some 1,125 miles from home and said something that should put a chill down the fans' spines.
"We respect Pittsburgh but we feel that this is our time and Sunday will be our night."
Absorb that line for a moment.
Our time. Our night.
The Steelers might have the championship pedigree but this is the Packers' time, plain and simple.
Aaron Rodgers is at the top of his game. He's got more weapons at his disposal than the Steelers can match up against. The Steelers' defense might be fearsome but not even the great Dick LeBeau should be able to keep Rodgers off-balance for too long considering Rodgers faces practically the same defense throughout the offseason. That's not even mentioning a Packers defense that has held six opponents to seven points or less and has made clutch plays look commonplace.
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For five years, he's toiled. He almost got here in 2007, but this time, he's got the quarterback who's his extension on the field. Rodgers is every bit as talented as his predecessor but without the fatal flaws. He's got a team that's, well, a team. There's no doubt that the Packers that will be running through the tunnel of Cowboys Stadium on Sunday night aren't as talented as the team that pedaled toward Ray Nitschke Field on Aug. 1. There's also no doubt that the Packers that will be playing for the Lombardi Trophy are much, much better.
Somehow, McCarthy seemed like a man who knew his destiny would take him to Dallas for this game. Think back to New England, when the Packers were edged by the Patriots a week after a bang-your-head-into-a-wall loss at Detroit. Reporters tried to put a positive spin on the outcome, with backup Matt Flynn pushing the AFC powerhouse to the limit. McCarthy would have none of it.
"I don't care what you guys think. We're nobody's underdog," McCarthy stated with defiance, even with his team on the brink of elimination.
If there was a circle-it-in-red moment for the season, that was it. If nobody else believed in his team – if there were doubters in an injury-ravaged locker room – the coach had their back. He believed in them. He knew, even if nobody else did, that a shot at winning the Super Bowl was much, much more than just a fantasy.
Five consecutive must-wins later, here they are.
The Steelers, as the saying goes, have been there and done that. They've got a two-time Super Bowl winner at quarterback, a strong running game and a defense that led the NFL in sacks and points allowed.
Whatever. This is the Packers' time. This should be their night.
And to drive home that point, McCarthy queued up "Hoosiers." The coach played by Gene Hackman showed his small-school underdogs that the basket is 10 feet tall and the free-throw line is 15 feet away. Similarly, the Super Bowl is just another game. The Steelers are just another challenge on the way to McCarthy fulfilling a mission to touch – and this time, not let go of – the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
"Chasing perfection and catching excellence on the way," McCarthy said in borrowing one of Lombardi's favorite phrases, "is something I think exemplifies everything that every football team, particularly ours, is trying to accomplish."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.