How does McCarthy measure up?

There's a good chance Mike McCarthy will be 1-4 against his fellow coaching newcomers after Sunday's game. But, says's Steve Lawrence, that's more a reflection on the Packers' talent than McCarthy's coaching acumen.

Who's the best of the 10 new NFL coaches? Must be Sean Payton, who has led the New Orleans Saints to a feel-good turnaround, not to mention first place in the NFC South, right?

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

During his 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton said, "It's the economy, stupid." In the NFL, it's the players, stupid. Players win and lose games. Through their weekly planning and gameday adjustments, coaches put teams in position to win or lose, but it's the players and their ability to execute that decides games.

At 6-2, Payton has the best record among the new coaches. Impressive, sure, but let any coach add a solid quarterback like Drew Brees, a game-changing nightmare named Reggie Bush at running back and out-of-nowhere wide receiver Marques Colston — a rookie seventh-round pick whose 44 catches are 17 more than first-rounders Santonio Holmes and Chad Jackson combined — to a decent number of quality veterans, and practically any coach would look good.

The Packers' new coach, Mike McCarthy, will face his fifth newcomer of the season on Sunday. He's beaten Detroit's Rod Marinelli but lost to Buffalo's Dick Jauron, Payton and St. Louis' Scott Linehan. Next up is Minnesota's Brad Childress, who was considered a favorite to land the Green Bay job but never got the chance to interview after the Vikings jumped on him.

By Sunday evening, McCarthy very well could be 1-4 against his fellow neophytes — the Vikings are favored — but that shouldn't be a black mark on his first-year resume.

The Saints are more talented than the Packers. The Rams probably are, too, and they had the added advantage of having a veteran group facing a young Packers team that really was trying to find its way at that point. The Vikings, on paper, have a ton more experienced talent than the Packers.

But, you say, how about that Buffalo game?

Yes, the Packers are more talented than the Bills, and they proved it by dominating the game. But is it McCarthy's fault Favre threw a bad interception that was returned for a touchdown? No.

Of course, I can hear you thinking about Favre's second interception. And you are right, but McCarthy didn't lose the game. A better pass by Favre takes away any chance of an interception. Beyond that, say McCarthy does the wise thing and lets Ahman Green bully his way into the end zone. That touchdown only would have tied the game. Who's to say the Bills wouldn't have ripped off another big kickoff return and won the game on a last-second field goal? Who's to say the game wouldn't have gone to overtime, and Green wouldn't have fumbled or Favre wouldn't have lost the ball after getting nailed from his blind side for a killing turnover?

If I were forced to choose between Sunday's foes — McCarthy or Childress — I'd pick McCarthy every day and twice on Sunday. On defense, the Vikings have one of the top front sevens in the entire NFL and perhaps the best duo at defensive tackle. They have a playmaking safety in Darren Sharper and a couple proven first-round talents at cornerback. They have a powerful offensive line and a Pro Bowl fullback clearing the way for a productive running back. They have a veteran kicker. That's a recipe for success, yet they somehow lost at lowly San Francisco last Sunday to tumble to 4-4.

The Packers are 3-5 but have improved a lot over the last month or so. There's a reason for that, and it's coaching.

Only time will tell whether McCarthy is the right man for the job. Give him some time — and some talent — before passing judgment.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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