Packers, McCarthy unite

49ers offensive coordinator named as team's 14th head coach

The Green Bay Packers Thursday afternoon made it official and named Mike McCarthy as the team's 14th head coach.

McCarthy, 42, signed a three-year contract that averages slightly less than $2 million per year with the Packers. In the process, he becomes the league's youngest head coach, nearly three months younger than Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden and seven months younger than Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio. And, McCarthy inherits one of the league's youngest teams. Green Bay's roster at season's end averaged 26.04 years of age.

McCarthy's familiarity with Brett Favre was a "positive factor," according to Packers general manager Ted Thompson. But Thompson also said his comfort level with McCarthy, and McCarthy's offensive background played into his decision to forego an interview with Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm scheduled for Friday, and offer McCarthy the job.

Thompson also was impressed with McCarthy's leadership ability, toughness, football knowledge and awareness of the organization, its players and the team's role in its surrounding community. McCarthy beat out six other assistant coaches interviewed by Thompson, including Dallas assistant Sean Payton, San Diego defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, Cleveland offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon, New York Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, and Packers defensive coordinator Jim Bates.

"I interviewed seven outstanding people," Thompson said. "There are some guys who are going to make outstanding head coaches. I just feel like at this time and this place, Mike was the best fit.

"I like that Pittsburgh macho stuff, you know? I like the fact that he's a tough guy. He's a player's coach, but also understands the bounds of that. I think he's a good fit for us."

McCarthy plans to meet with Bates on Friday to discuss the defensive coordinator's status in Green Bay. Bates said he was disappointed that he did not receive an offer from the Packers to be the head coach, but he is under contract with the Packers. When asked if it is important to retain Bates and his staff, McCarthy alluded to his mission statement that he handed out to the media, stating three key components that he hopes to attain in Green Bay - "Packer people," "stable structure," and "character and chemistry."

"Continuity and cohesiveness is obviously important, but number one, there are three key components to the foundation that we're going to build here," McCarthy said. "That's character and chemistry. You don't just buy chemistry. That's something that is built up from the following year. Chemistry is built in a dynamic structure year in and year out. We're going to what is in our best interest to move forward from today on."

McCarthy, a Pittsburgh native, was Green Bay's quarterbacks coach in 1999 under Ray Rhodes and knows the West Coast offense. Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks had his best years under McCarthy and struggled this year after McCarthy left to join the 49ers. Thompson was Green Bay's director of player personnel under general manager Ron Wolf in 1999 when McCarthy was with the Packers.

"We're going to do what's best to win championships," McCarthy said. "I think you keep your eye on the target at all times."

In guiding the 49ers' offense, which ranked last in total yards in the National Football League in 2005, McCarthy worked with No. 1 overall draft choice Alex Smith. The 49ers, however, were hampered when quarterback Tim Rattay was traded to Tampa Bay and Smith sustained a knee injury. Their woes at quarterback and lack of talent at receiver hampered the offense throughout the season.

Besides Smith, McCarthy also has tutored Favre, Matt Hasselbeck, Brooks, Jake Delhomme, Marc Bulger, Rich Gannon, Elvis Grbac and Joe Montana. That group has combined for 25 career Pro Bowl selections and eight Super Bowl starts.

Schooled in the ‘West Coast' offense, McCarthy has coached 19 years combined at the pro and college levels, including 13 in the NFL. He has called plays over the last six years as an offensive coordinator, and has coached in eight NFL playoff games.

"In the National Football League, as I've had the opportunity to take different jobs, you're either purchasing the dream house, or building the dream house," McCarthy said. "My last two opportunities were building programs … I think the situation I'm walking into here, clearly, we're purchasing a dream home. Now, we might knock down a few walls and give all the rooms a fresh coat of paint, but this definitely is not a rebuilding process. We're not building a dream house here. There's a great foundation. We have tradition, resources that are second to none in the National Football League and I think that gives us a springboard to get ready for the upcoming season."

Five players who finished 2005 on Green Bay's roster played for the Packers in ‘99, including Donald Driver, William Henderson and Favre. Led by Favre's 4,091 yards – his third-highest career total – Green Bay ranked seventh in passing and ninth overall offensively.

"We had a very positive working relationship in 1999 and I'm looking forward to working with him again," McCarthy said said of Favre. "I've found him to be one of the most coachable quarterbacks that I've worked with."

The Packers, for the second time in their history, hired a 49ers offensive coordinator. In 1992, Ron Wolf elevated Mike Holmgren from that role in San Francisco.

During his five years (2000-04) as Saints offensive coordinator, he presided over the most prolific offensive era in the team's four decades. Named 2000 NFC Assistant Coach of the Year by USA Today, McCarthy guided the Saints to 10 offensive team records and 25 individual marks. In addition:

o In McCarthy's first year, 2000, Joe Horn became the Saints' first 1,000-yard receiver in eight years. A four-time Pro Bowler, Horn during McCarthy's tenure caught 437 passes for 6,289 yards and 45 touchdowns.

o The team produced its first 1,000-yard rusher in 10 years, launching a player past that landmark during each of McCarthy's five seasons (Ricky Williams and Deuce McAllister).

o New Orleans led the league with 432 points and 49 touchdowns in 2002.

"I think, particular in a place like New Orleans, his record was very good on a team that did not have a history of being that good on offense," said Thompson. "When they (New Orleans) had good teams 10 years ago, they just had great defenses, but they broke records in New Orleans on offense. I like the way he works with quarterbacks and understands the offense. He has a keen sense for the defensive side of the ball and how to attack it. He knows what he likes and doesn't like. He's very knowledgeable football guy."

Prior to the 1999 campaign in Green Bay, McCarthy served six seasons (1993-98) in Kansas City, working first as an offensive assistant with Montana. With McCarthy as quarterbacks coach from 1995-98, Kansas City's 52 interceptions marked the lowest total in the AFC over the four-year stretch. McCarthy worked with three starters – Gannon, Grbac and Steve Bono.

From 1989-92, McCarthy honed his coaching ability on Paul Hackett's staff at the University of Pittsburgh, where he served three years as quarterbacks coach and one season in charge of wide receivers. Under McCarthy, Alex Van Pelt topped the school's career and single-season passing yards records established by Dan Marino.

Before his stint in Pittsburgh McCarthy started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Fort Hays State in Kansas. He had remained in the state after completing his collegiate playing career at nearby Baker University. An all-conference tight end, McCarthy as a senior captain helped Baker to a runner-up finish in NAIA Division II.

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