With his thumb throbbing and the Packers trailing 24-21 very late in the game, Favre led the Packers down the field and the winning touchdown on a 1 yard TD pass to TE Jeff Thomason. Favre was so emotional after the game that he couldn't finish his press conference. One thing was sure, Favre was still a master in leading the Packers in their two-minute offense. On the sideline offering encouragement and insight was McCarthy. There was an obvious connection between the two men. That connection was tested again over the next three weeks.
After losing to the Lions in Pontiac in Week 2, the Packers returned home to face the Vikings at Lambeau. It was yet another classic finish. The Packers trailed 20-16 with just a few seconds on the clock as Favre went back to pass on fourth down from the Vikings' 23 yard line. Most people expected Favre to throw a short out pattern to get the first down and to take a shot at the end zone on the next play. But Favre made a great pump fake to the right and then threw a perfect pass to WR Corey Bradford down the left seam for another game winning TD. The crowd was electrified as the Packers went wild on their sideline. Favre was so excited that he started hyperventilating on the bench. The Favre legend was continuing to grow.
The third classic finish happened at Lambeau in Week 4 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night football. Again it looked bad for the Pack as the Bucs scored a late TD to go up 23-19. Favre had a little over a minute to basically drive the length of the field against one of the NFL's toughest defenses. Before he took the field, Favre consulted with McCarthy. Their conversation turned out to be a good one as Favre hit WR Bill Schroeder on a deep pass down the left sideline. The pass set up another unbelievable finish. The Bucs brought a safety blitz and Favre just got off a pass as John Lynch was ready to lay the lumber. The pass was perfect as WR Antonio Freeman, covered tightly by CB Ronde Barber, caught a 21-yard TD pass to beat the Bucs on national TV.
QB Trent Dilfer of the Bucs described how the loss felt. "We got Favred." Indeed the Bucs were "Favred." Just like the Raiders in week one and the Vikings in Week 3. The rest of the season would be disappointing, but no one would ever forget those thrilling weeks that started the 1999 season. I know McCarthy will never forget.
Like most people that cover the Packers, I expected Jim Bates to be named head coach by Ted Thompson on Wednesday. There were even rumors that Steve Mariucci was seen in Green Bay earlier this week and that really heated up the speculation. Bates and Mooch had the same agent, and there were hopes that they could be a tandem in leading the Packers. Thompson did decide to go with a former QB coach of the Packers. His name was not Mariucci, but McCarthy. McCarthy ironically has the same agent as Bates and Mariucci. So the choice was McCarthy. What will the future look like?
It has been reported that Favre and McCarthy enjoyed working together and that they remained friendly after McCarthy left the Packer coaching staff. McCarthy and Thompson both have said that they want Favre back. Now they need to prove it. They need to get on the first plane to Mississippi and let Favre in on their plans. McCarthy runs the West Coast offense so Favre will not have to learn a new system. McCarthy also has a great track record in coaching quarterbacks. That certainly can't hurt. He also has a fiery personality with strong communication skills. That is a key component in making sure everyone is on the same page in 2006 and beyond.
McCarthy needs to put together a strong coaching staff. Hopefully he can persuade Bates to return as defensive coordinator. On offense, McCarthy has reportedly hired Jeff Jagodzinski as his offensive coordinator. Jagodzinski would implement the zone blocking technique utilized by the Atlanta Falcons who led the NFL in rushing in 2005. It would be nice if running backs coach Edgar Bennett can be retained on the staff.
McCarthy could help his cause with Favre by bringing in a former teammate to be the QB coach. Possibilities include Doug Pederson or Ty Detmer. One other possibility for QB coach would be Jim Bates' son, Jeremy Bates, who was the Jets QB coach this past year. McCarthy also needs to get the very best special teams coach he can find. Thompson must do his part as well. He has to be aggressive in free agency and he needs re-sign some key Packers that have contracts expiring. He also needs to find several gems in the draft that can contribute right away.
This is a marriage that can work. But like all good marriages, the key factors are trust and communication. It will be up to Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson to make sure that the union gets off to a good start. They need to have their honeymoon in Hattiesburg, Miss., where the best man for the Packers resides. McCarthy and Favre have already shared some magical moments. Time will tell, but I have a feeling that there are more thrills to come.
Bob Fox is a freelance writer from the Tampa, Fla., area. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.