Maybe McCarthy's the problem, not solution

Are the Jets more talented than the Packers? Maybe, maybe not, but the big difference in Sunday's game was at head coach,'s Steve Lawrence says.

When Ted Thompson woke up this morning, you wonder if he was having second thoughts about who he hired to be his head coach.

As the losses grow in quantity and unsightliness with each passing week, Thompson must be wondering if Mike McCarthy is, indeed, the man for the job.

I can predict the majority of our letters to the editor will be calling for the firing of McCarthy, Thompson or both. Canning the coach is every fan's favorite pastime when things get rough, but, as much as this will pain some of you to read this, McCarthy deserves at least another year to get his plan into motion.

With that said, for the first time, I'm having serious doubts about whether McCarthy is qualified to be leading this proud franchise.

McCarthy entered Sunday's 38-10 debacle against the New York Jets with a 2-3 record against fellow first-year coaches. He had beaten Detroit's Rod Marinelli and Minnesota's Brad Childress, and lost to New Orleans' Sean Payton, St. Louis' Jim Haslett and Buffalo's Dick Jauron.

As this season has unfolded, it's obvious why Payton's Saints beat McCarthy's Packers. The Saints have skilled players the Packers can only dream of having. In a lesser sense, the same is true of the Rams, especially on offense.

Getting blasted at home by Chicago and New England by a combined 61-0 was hard to watch, but the Bears and Patriots are among the cream of the NFL crop. The Eagles looked like contenders back in early October, with Donovan McNabb on top of his game. There's no shame in losing at defending NFC-champion Seattle, either.

In short, the Packers lost only one game to an inferior opponent, and that was at Buffalo.

But what happened Sunday — against first-year coach Eric Mangini and the New York Jets — was, in the words of McCarthy and several of his players, "embarrassing."

Are the Jets more talented than the Packers? The records say they are — the Packers are 4-8 and out of the playoff chase in perhaps the worst division in football, while the Jets are 7-5 and in the playoff chase in the powerful AFC — but look at Sunday's starting lineups, and there's no way the Jets have three wins' more talent on their roster. In fact, the talent bases look pretty similar.

The big difference, it seems, is McCarthy vs. Mangini.

That Green Bay's defense yielded 38 points — it could have been 50 or 60 had the Jets not backed off after halftime — to a pedestrian offense with a rag-armed quarterback in poor conditions is disgusting.

Week after week, opposing quarterbacks treat the Packers' defense like it's a doughnut and continually gnaw away at the big hole in the middle. It was so bad Sunday, Jets tight end Chris Baker said 7-on-7 passing drills in practice pose a bigger challenge than Green Bay's pass defense. Despite having an enviable pair of starting cornerbacks at their disposal, the coaches seem unable to get a grip on the problems.

A few weeks ago, Green Bay ranked third in the league in sacks. On Sunday, the pass rushers couldn't have been further away from Pennington if he were protected by the Secret Service.

A bunch of running backs you never heard of ran through Packers tacklers as if they were Earl Campbell and Jim Brown.

The Packers' MVP on Sunday was the halftime break. Without it, the Jets might have kept on scoring, because it was clear neither McCarthy nor defensive coordinator Bob Sanders had the foggiest idea how to slow — much less stop — the Jets' no-huddle, motion-heavy, keep-you-off-balance offensive attack.

To say it's the same old story, week after week, on defense is wrong. For a few weeks, so-called communication breakdowns — aka blown coverages — were the problem. Now, it's just opposing offenses capitalizing on mismatches, bad schemes or both.

Sanders will be fired at the end of the season (as will defensive backs coach Kurt Schottenheimer), and for good reason. But he's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. His blitzers almost never get to the quarterback, and that only exacerbates the problems in the secondary. Either Sanders' blitzes are predictable, his blitzers are poorly coached or his players aren't any good.

Let's hope it's one of those first two choices, because the Packers can fire assistant coaches but they're stuck with the players.

Regardless of scheme or defensive play calls, the Packers have to be better than this on defense, don't they? They've got two first-round picks starting at linebacker. They've got cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson. They've got high-priced Ryan Pickett leading a solid group of defensive tackles. They've got Aaron Kampman at one end and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila at another end.

There are no head cases in the bunch. Nobody's stealing money. No Cletidus Hunts. No Ahmad Carrolls. It's a good group of people and a good group of athletes. The results should be better, plain and simple.

Nobody believes this unit should rival the Chicago Bears for defensive supremacy, but there's no way this group should be last in the league in points allowed, either.

"We're not throwing anybody off the building or anything like that, no," McCarthy said when asked if changes were forthcoming.

That's fine, but McCarthy had better make it abundantly clear — to assistants and players alike — that improvement had better be fast and dramatic, or else he will be shoving them off the building.

Otherwise, Thompson will be shoving McCarthy off the building, and the Packers will have to rebuild anew.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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