Let's just wait

Decision to hire McCarthy debatable; time will determine if it was a good move, or not

Once Ted Thompson made Mike McCarthy the 14th head coach in team history many Packers fans questioned the hiring, if not blasting it. Who's Mike McCarthy, and what has he done? Lead the 49ers to the worst offensive ranking in the NFL this past season as the offensive coordinator of a 4-12 team.

Some coordinators get fired for that, McCarthy got a promotion.

Admittedly, McCarthy's hiring was puzzling to this old scribe. I do remember McCarthy in his first stint in 1999 as Ray Rhodes' quarterbacks coach. He was a young up-and-comer, who the following season after Rhodes' staff was fired ended up in New Orleans as the offensive coordinator. It seemed like quite a jump for McCarthy, but he did well in the "Big Easy." He groomed Aaron Brooks into a Pro Bowl quarterback and the Saints ranked first in the NFL in offense in 2002. But McCarthy left after the 2004 season for San Francisco, and Brooks regressed badly and was benched.

This past year, McCarthy had no chance. He had the top pick of the draft, Alex Smith, at quarterback, but Smith was injured early and never was able to show much. But then again, it's more common for rookie quarterbacks to struggle than succeed, unless your name ends in Marino or Roethlisberger. Furthermore, what was there on the 49ers' offense? Kevan Barlow? Frank Gore? Brandon Lloyd? I'm surprised the Niners didn't rank 33rd with that "talent."

Enough with the history lesson. Let's talk about now.

Why was McCarthy hired? In Thompson's mind, he was the best candidate available. Although many of us don't know much about McCarthy, what you have to understand is Thompson did a ton of research before even deciding to interview his new head coach.

Thompson didn't page through media guides and look at names and say, "Yeah, he'd be a good interview." This is a job that takes a lot of time and Thompson didn't take this lightly. Thompson went through seven interviews, canceling one with Pittsburgh assistant coach Russ Grimm, and came up with McCarthy. We weren't in these interviews, we didn't talk to NFL personnel about McCarthy like Thompson did.

Certainly, Thompson had a better idea on who to hire than us, right?

I heard a radio interview on Thursday with New Orleans wide receiver Joe Horn, who said the Packers will be back in the playoffs sooner than later with McCarthy. Horn pointed out McCarthy helped himself, Brooks and Deuce McAllister become Pro Bowl players whereas prior to McCarthy's arrival none were.

Horn was adamant hiring McCarthy was a good move.

Nevertheless, this doesn't mean Thompson got it right. McCarthy wasn't on the radar screen for any other coaching job.

That was the same for Mike Sherman when the Packers hired him in 2000. He was an unknown, who led the Packers to three NFC North titles, four playoff appearances and five winning seasons in six years.

Despite the fact Sherman was fired, he didn't fail.

As for McCarthy, Thompson based this move on an interview. Personally, I need more than a guy who can "shoot the bull," say the right things and look the part. McCarthy is unproven, he hasn't been part of what would be called winning organizations and in his latest job his offense ranked last in the NFL, although it wasn't all on him.

Also, he doesn't come from a legendary coaching tree like Bill Walsh's or Mike Holmgren's. He's part of the Ray Rhodes' coaching tree, which should be cut down.

His past doesn't give us any reason why he'll succeed in Green Bay.

Still, to make a call on this hiring before McCarthy has even coached a preseason game is premature. Whether we like the move or not, let time decide this for us.

Actually, McCarthy has history on his side as the previous two Mikes (Holmgren and Sherman) who have coached the Packers won division titles and had winning records.

Also, the last time the Packers had a new coach and general manager, were coming off a 4-12 season and had a quarterback entering the second year of his career was 1992. The Packers then went on their most successful run since Vince Lombardi patrolled the sideline.

OK, those are not reasons why McCarthy will succeed. He needs to prove he's worthy of being one of 14 coaches to ever wear the green and gold. It's up to him to bring the Packers back into prominence in the NFL.

With McCarthy in Green Bay, keep an eye on Detroit, which is zeroing in on Grimm as its new coach. If Grimm becomes the Lions' coach, Grimm and McCarthy will be compared throughout their tenures, and if Grimm comes out on top, Thompson will be the one to blame as he decided to never interview Grimm.

If Grimm follows Detroit's recent tradition of losing, then Thompson' move will look good. And, if Sherman gets another job, and New Orleans is a possibility, Sherman and McCarthy will be compared. The same scenario plays out as it would with Grimm.

So, the Packers' coaching change is one all of us will scrutinize closely, but so should two other teams' coaching moves. Thompson's decision to fire Sherman, hire McCarthy and erase Grimm from the picture will be linked for the next few seasons, at least. Hopefully, Thompson and Co. comes out on top. If not, we'll be going through another coaching change much sooner than any Packers fan wants.

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.

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