"Could you see yourself becoming a personnel guy or general manager someday?"
Packers' fans might remember Holmgren giving his first hint of an interest in pursuing such matters 10 years ago when he was queried during Super Bowl XXXII week. Because the Packers were going after their second straight Super Bowl, though, the comment was really secondary on everyone's mind. Except maybe Holmgren's.
Less than a calendar year later, after a deflating playoff loss to the 49ers, Holmgren was on his way to Seattle, eventually signing an eight-year contract to become the Seahawks' coach and general manger.
So what was McCarthy's response when asked about such matters just days after receiving a hefty raise and contract extension from the Packers (during a Feb. 5 conference call)?
"That's something I do not desire at this point," he said. "I think structure, lines of responsibility, organization charts are very important to any successful operation. I think the fit between Ted Thompson and myself and the way we're structured with our personnel department and coaching staff, the way they work hand-in-hand, I think it's an extremely healthy situation, and it's something I look forward to being a part of for a long time."
A lawyer might highlight the "at this point" part of McCarthy's comments as a reason to raise an eyebrow. It certainly leaves McCarthy's response open to the possibility of following in Holmgren's footsteps. But the rest of the quote provides a truer answer to what McCarthy is all about.
McCarthy realizes a good thing when he sees it, and he is not about to disrupt that for any personal gain. It is really not his nature. He is much different than Holmgren and previous Packers' coach Mike Sherman, who both were intrigued by the chance to take their careers to the next level and did. And who could really blame them?
The fact remains that most around the NFL who have tried to simultaneously hold a head coach/GM position have failed. Of those who have transitioned from coaching full-time to a personnel role full-time, success has only seemed to follow as the gray hairs became more prevalent. In other words, it takes time.
McCarthy has shown every sign that he will not become a victim of his own success like those who came before him. He is remarkably level-headed for his age (44) and has a great working relationship with his players. While constantly reminded them of how to handle success, he practices what he preaches.
It is easy, in retrospect, to knock both Holmgren and Sherman for what became their downfall in Green Bay, but it should be equally easy to see why they fell into a trap of their own success. Even as early in their coaching careers as McCarthy is now, they displayed temperamental personalities that would eventually work against them.
Holmgren was tough on his team, even feared by some players, and then his ego got in the way. He became almost too big for himself in Seattle. Though he has continued to do well there as a coach, he was stripped of his GM duties when the Seahawks hit a downturn.
Sherman wore his heart on his sleeve almost to a fault. His coaching style showed compassion, but was bull-headed in other ways, too. He was much too prideful a man to handle a dual role then accept losing that role. Consequently, he lost his head coaching job one year after losing his GM job.
Both coaches had great records of success in Green Bay and were driven to achieve, so it is not necessarily their fault that they felt like they could take on more. McCarthy will not likely burden himself in that way.
Consider how McCarthy handled his recent contract extension. No agent. No distraction. No fuss. Just all appreciation.
"I'm very pleased with the deal," he said. "I think it's an outstanding commitment from the organization. I have no interest in being an agent. The process of doing it myself was something I was very comfortable doing because of the Green Bay Packers. I didn't want to go through the agent process. Sometimes it can get to a situation where it gets drawn out and things happen that don't need to happen. It was a very mutual understanding on the contract, and I'm just very thankful for Bob Harlan, Mark Murphy, Ted Thompson, everybody involved, for this opportunity."
A situation that could have been of concern to McCarthy (after all, his original contract was set to expire after the 2008 season) came off relatively harmlessly. Working out the biggest contract of any coach in Packers' history seemed more like a mere formality.
The Packers should feel fortunate to have a guy like McCarthy and should feel confident that any future success he has will never go to his head. He is blue-collar through and through, and if he has shown anything in his first two years, it is that he will be a football coach and a football coach only.
Matt Tevsh is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.