Who? McCarthy hiring a surprise

Mike McCarthy. Who? Many Packer fans are probably scratching their noggins this morning wondering aloud over Ted Thompson's decision to hand pick the former Green Bay quarterbacks coach. Count me as one of them, but all we can do is put our trust in Thompson.

Of the seven candidates that Thompson interviewed over the past week, it certainly appeared, from this perch along Oneida Street near Lambeau Field, that McCarthy, 42, was the least likely to succeed ex-head coach Mike Sherman. McCarthy has had some success grooming quarterbacks, and will be good for Aaron Rodgers, but it seemed like he was still a few years away from becoming an NFL head coach.

However, it has been obvious in the last week that Thompson was seeking a young, up-and-coming NFL coordinator with head-coaching potential, and McCarthy got the nod. Dallas assistant Sean Payton and Chicago defensive coordinator Ron Rivera seemed to be good matches, especially Payton. Payton also has had success grooming quarterbacks and has worked with some very successful head coaches in Jon Gruden and Bill Parcells. Rivera led the Bears to the league's best defense this year, but, hey, he is a former Bear and that would be tough to swallow seeing him roam the Packers sideline.

Jim Bates, though at 59 is much older than the aforementioned coaches, was the front-runner in the eyes of many Packers fans. Bates resurrected in one season a defense that was ranked 25th in the league in 2004 in total yards allowed to seventh. He was admired, respected and recommended by many of the current players on the team to coach the Packers, but was denied the opportunity by Thompson.

With the exception of Brett Favre, expect Thompson to continue cultivating the Packers roster with young talent behind a young head coach. With any luck, Thompson will retain Bates as defensive coordinator, which will result in continuity among the defensive assistants. Though many feel Bates will bolt elsewhere, he has only had one interview this off-season to be a head coach, and he didn't have to travel far when he met with Thompson. Bates may not get another interview to be the head coach of another team, which will be good for the Packers and their fans, since he is under contract in Green Bay.

All Packer fans can do is put their trust in Thompson. That's probably difficult for many at this point in Thompson's tenure. He didn't provide for a whole lot of help along the offensive line this past season, drafted a quarterback that may not play for a while, and plugged the roster with free agents when injuries decimated three skill positions on offense this season. Then he fired Sherman after the team finished 4-12. But all we can do is trust that Thompson is sticking to his plan.

The general manager for drafting unknown, but talented safety Nick Collins, and for signing free agent tight end Donald Lee. He also appears to have hit on running back Samkon Gado, linebackers Brady Poppinga and Roy Manning, and maybe (who knows?) Rodgers. Thompson is shaping a new nucleus of players, and now McCarthy is in the center.

Within a year or two, we'll know if Thompson's key decisions this off-season will have thrust the franchise back to prominence in the NFL, or if the Packers will be swirling around the bottom of the NFL toilet.

Nobody around Green Bay and Wisconsin heard of Vince Lombardi, Mike Holmgren, or Mike Sherman when they were first hired by the Packers. But all three departed their tenures as head coach of the Packers with winning records. Two of them have streets named after them in Green Bay. So all we can do now is put our trust in Thompson that he made the best decision and bear with the Packers as the Mike McCarthy Era begins.

Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.

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