McCarthy's rookie season is a winner

Ten teams hired coaches last season. Few teams are as improved as Mike McCarthy's Packers.

For as much scorn as Ted Thompson endured for hiring Mike McCarthy last January, and for as much ridicule as McCarthy received for some of his coaching decisions, the numbers don't lie.

The Packers, with seven wins entering tonight's game at Chicago, are a vastly improved team compared to the 4-12 outfit McCarthy inherited from Mike Sherman.

Of the 10 new coaches, only Sean Payton in New Orleans has guided his team to the playoffs, though Eric Mangini of the New York Jets will get in with a win today.

Both Payton and Mangini took over lousy teams. The Saints went 3-13 last season while the Jets finished 4-12.

Payton, however, was fortunate to take over a team that drafted running back Reggie Bush, added quarterback Drew Brees in free agency and lucked into receiver Marques Colston in the seventh round, and had some marquee players like Deuce McAllister and Joe Horn. With a powerful offense, New Orleans is 10-5 and has earned a first-round bye.

Mangini should be the NFL's coach of the year considering the Jets really didn't add any blockbuster names during the offseason and rely on rag-armed quarterback Chad Pennington to manufacture points. Mangini's Jets already have won five more games than last season.

Both coaches beat the Packers.

Give McCarthy and Jauron credit for keeping their teams afloat.

The Packers looked like one of the worst teams in the league when starting 1-4, and then crumbling during an awful three-game losing streak that shoved them to 4-8. But the Packers have won three straight entering tonight's game, thanks to a woeful schedule and a defense that's improved by leaps and bounds during the final month.

While the Packers haven't beaten anyone of note, the talent margin between teams often is so minute that McCarthy deserves credit for beating the teams placed in front of him.

He's in position to join Payton and Mangini as the only coaches to double their team's win total from 2005.

Jauron's Bills started 2-5, but have won four of the last six, including wins over Miami and the playoff-bound Jets. The Bills are 7-8 after finishing 5-11 last season. One of those wins came against the Packers.

The other six coaches have ranged from bad to downright awful. They are, in order:

Scott Linehan, St. Louis — The Rams are 7-8 and were in the playoff hunt entering the final week of the season after finishing 6-10 last season. One of the wins came against the Packers. Still, more should be expected of a team with a Pro Bowl quarterback, a stud running back and two veteran receivers.

Gary Kubiak, Houston — The Texans went 4-12 last season and are 5-10 this season. They rank in the bottom quarter of the league in offense and defense and still can't protect the quarterback.

Herm Edwards, Kansas City — The Chiefs went 10-6 in Dick Vermeil's last season and are just a perplexing 8-7 this season, even though their always-troublesome defense is pretty good. Losing quarterback Trent Green didn't help, but Edwards' luster is dimming after his Jets team bombed last season and he couldn't do more with this year's club.

Brad Childress, Minnesota — The Vikings went 9-7 last year but are 6-9 this year, despite an offseason of big spending. Minnesota started quickly but fell apart. The Vikings were swept by the Packers, including the debacle last week when they managed a franchise-worst three first downs due in part to an uninspired game plan.

Rod Marinelli, Detroit — The Lions went 5-11 last season and are 2-13 this season and in control of the No. 1 pick in the draft if they can lose today. The Lions are winless on the road and in the division, including a sweep by the Packers. Will Marinelli's hard-line approach work if the losses continue to pile up? Oh well, as long as Matt Millen is running the show, it won't matter who's coaching.

Art Shell, Oakland — The Raiders went 4-12 last season and are 2-13 this season. The offense is perhaps the worst in NFL history. Maybe not a surprise since his choice for offensive coordinator, Tom Walsh, had been out of the league for 12 years. Walsh's previous gig? He ran a bed and breakfast.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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