McCarthy proves legion of doubters wrong

Ted Thompson was bashed for hiring Mike McCarthy, who coordinated a historically bad 49ers offense in 2005, but no coach in the Class of 2006 has done a better job,'s Steve Lawrence says.

Mike McCarthy? Outside of coordinating one of the worst offenses in NFL history, what had he done to get a chance to coach the fabled Green Bay Packers?

The fans, or at least the ones who bothered to write in, were steadfastly against Ted Thompson's decision to hire McCarthy in January 2006. The word "idiot" — and much, much worse — was frequently used to describe McCarthy. And Thompson, for that matter.

The rap was an obvious one. As offensive coordinator in San Francisco in 2005, the McCarthy-led 49ers offense wasn't just bad, it was historically bad.

The 49ers averaged 224.2 yards and 14.9 points per game. While their point total was nowhere near the worst in league history — the 1992 Seattle Seahawks averaged a record-low 8.8 points per game — their yardage average trailed even that Seattle club by 25 per game. By 2005 standards, the 49ers lagged the 31st-ranked Jets offense by a whopping 24 yards and by 0.1 point per game.

So, you know, clearly McCarthy didn't know diddly-squat about football, and it didn't help that he wasn't exactly the most eloquent of speakers.

All of which set off another round of Wisconsin's third-most popular sport, Ted Thompson bashing, which ranks behind only Packers season and deer hunting.

So, here we are, with the Packers an astounding 6-1 and tied for the best record in the NFC. That's better than any of the other nine coaches hired during that offseason. In fact, if the playoffs were to start tomorrow, McCarthy, Detroit's Rod Marinelli and Kansas City's Herman Edwards are the only coaches from that class who would have their teams in the postseason.

Buffalo is going nowhere with Dick Jauron. Gary Kubiak needs more players in Houston. It looks like Minnesota made a disastrous mistake with Brad Childress. Sean Payton and Eric Mangini were geniuses last year in New Orleans and New York, but the Saints and Jets are two of the league's biggest disappointments this season. Art Shell was canned after one year in Oakland. No team in the league has been a bigger bust than Scott Linehan's winless Rams.

McCarthy's 14-9 record is tops among the Class of 2006, one win ahead of Edwards and Payton. McCarthy's record comes with the NFL's youngest roster, while Edwards (Larry Johnson and Tony Gonzalez) and Payton (Reggie Bush and Drew Brees) benefit from two of the marquee players at their respective positions.

I guess that McCarthy fellow ain't so bad after all.

Actually, what McCarthy is doing is incredible. His magic began to show last year. The Packers were 4-8 and had lost three straight, including awful home losses to New England and Mangini's Jets. Out of the blue, though, the Packers won their last four to end the season.

What he's done this season is amazing. The defense isn't the dominating unit a lot of people predicted. The offense can't run and is almost entirely dependent on a 38-year-old quarterback. There isn't that one special player who is so good that his play lifts an entire unit. The special teams, especially since the opener, haven't done anything noteworthy.

Yet, the Packers are looking like Super Bowl contenders.

More often than not, players, not coaches, win games. But McCarthy deserves a lot of the credit for the Packers' success because of one word, and that's trust.

He's trusted Brett Favre, an over-the-hill gunslinger the past couple of years, to do the right thing. The play-calling is a joint undertaking of McCarthy and Favre, with Favre often getting the choice of two plays to run once at the line of scrimmage.

Instead of leaning on his one proven, dynamic offensive playmaker, Donald Driver, McCarthy has put his trust into Greg Jennings and James Jones to be more than secondary options.

McCarthy has put his trust into a maligned offensive line and inexperienced running backs to protect Favre so he can take advantage of his best position by frequently running three- and four-receiver sets.

It's too soon, of course, to start making a spot for McCarthy in the Packers Hall of Fame. It's not too soon, however, for Thompson to start considering a contract extension for McCarthy, who is working under a three-year, $6 million deal.

There are challenges ahead to be sure, but with the tandem of Thompson and McCarthy running the show, the Packers appear to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to E-mail him at

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