Making a “bold” prediction can be tricky. For this writer in particular, if a “bold” prediction doesn’t spring to mind immediately upon being asked for one, the best I can do is either something that is “barely an italicized prediction much less a bold one” or “proof I need to up the meds,” usually because I said something about Jeff Janis saving a planet (I’m just saying, this wasn’t a UFO…)
I think this prediction is realistic though. McCarthy has one of the best teams in the NFL every year, so he has a legit chance to win Coach of the Year, so Vegas has good odds on him already.
McCarthy’s record of 104-55-1 is fantastic, but let me put that record in perspective. Here’s McCarthy’s record compared to other coaches who were hired in 2006 or 2007:
Mike McCarthy 104-55-1
Mike Tomlin 92-52
Sean Payton 87-57
Gary Kubiak 73-68
(records courtesy of Pro Football Reference)
Yes, I know haters, you’re already complaining. Let me sum up your arguments…
“But McCarthy sucks and he’s a terrible head coach and bad at life and his record should be way better because he has Aaron Rodgers!”
As the records show, McCarthy has been better than other coaches hired around the same time (2005-2007.) He’s got more wins than any of them, only three more losses than Tomlin (who started one season later,) and an equal number of Super Bowl wins as each one of those guys. How much better do you expect another coach to be? Kubiak failed in his first head coaching job, Payton has been dreadful when he doesn’t have any defense, and Tomlin is pretty awesome (I can’t say a bad word about him, I must concede on that point.)
As for the “he’s got Rodgers! That’s the only reason McCarthy’s been so good!” argument, maybe that’s why the Packers have been so consistently good, but what head coach wins a Super Bowl without a lot of amazing talent? The talent has to stay healthy and get the job done on the field. You can execute the same eight plays over and over; if you execute them perfectly, you are unstoppable.
Keeping in mind all of the great talent and great teams in the league, knowing you instantaneously become the target of the league when you win the Super Bowl, and knowing how rare it is to repeat as conference champion (The Seahawks just did it in Super Bowls 48 and 49, prior to that was the Patriots in Super Bowls 38 and 39,) I don’t know how often you’d expect the Packers to be in the Super Bowl in the last ten years. Keep in mind, if the Pack makes the Super Bowl one year teams prepare differently for them the following year, different people could get injured and that’s delving into a whole different space-time continuum that results in arguments I can’t begin to get into.
Here’s Some Points You Can’t Argue…
There are people who have never liked McCarthy. There are people who didn’t like Ted Thompson. Both critics had to shut their yaps for a while after the Pack won Super Bowl 45. For a year, there was peace in our kingdom. Then the next season played out, the Packers didn’t win the Super Bowl that year, and the nay-sayers came out of the woodwork. There will always be people who don’t like McCarthy, Thompson, Dom Capers, etc. but I can tell you this with certainty: if Mike McCarthy is going to be the NFL’s Coach of the Year, he’ll need a great effort from his assistant coaches, especially Capers.
Looking at the last ten Coach of the Year winners, I’ve found a few common threads:
…almost. There’s one exception to this, that being Bruce Arians was interim coach for the Colts in 2012 won the award with just 12 games coached and both the offense and defense were in the lower half of the league. He held the fort effectively until Chuck Pagano ultimately returned.
Beyond that, seven of the remaining nine have had a top five offense or defense (only one had both.)
Of the remaining two winners, one had a defense ranked sixth (Marvin Lewis,) obviously just barely outside the top five.
Only Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons won without a top six offense/defense. He had the 10th best offense and 11th best defense (.1 points more allowed than the 10th place team.) Plus, Smith had the “feel good” angle of making a strong team out of a Falcons squad that was rebuilding physically and emotionally.
Can Mike McCarthy’s 2016 Packers be a top five team offensively and/or defensively? Absolutely.
Ten out of ten. Eight of the last ten years, McCarthy has gotten his team into the postseason, including each of the last seven years.
Ten out of ten again. In that time, only once has a coach improved their team’s record by one win. In the other nine years, the coach has improved their team’s record by at least four wins. Coming off of a 10-6 season, McCarthy has a very tough task to gain four more wins than last season, although if the Packers went 14-2, it would certainly make his case for COTY an easy one.
Also of note, only seven of the last ten COTY winners actually won their division, so even if you don’t like the Pack to win the division, that shouldn’t count McCarthy out. Two of those three teams that failed to win division had massive turnarounds, and the other team only improved their record by one game (2014, Bruce Arians took Arizona from 10-6 to 11-5.)
Why Aren’t They Giving Him the Trophy Now?
Realistically, who is McCarthy’s opposition? This is with the presumption that McCarthy leads the Packers to at least an 11-5 record, better than last season.
Bruce Arians – best odds of winning according to MyBookie; last year Arians led the Cards to a 13-3 record, had a top five offense and defense, and of course, made the playoffs.
The case in his favor: he could improve on the 13-3 record, he has basically the same team back, and he’s been COTY two of the last four seasons.
The case against him: if the Packers and Cards both went 14-2, the Pack’s record would be a bigger improvement, thus McCarthy would probably get more credit, Carson Palmer isn’t getting any younger and if he gets hurt, the Cards may not have a quality replacement (and the odds of Palmer getting hurt are better than Arians winning COTY. By a lot.)
Mike Zimmer – led the Vikes to an 11-5 record, had a top five defense last year, won the NFC North
The case in his favor: there is room to improve from an 11-5 record, fits the mold of a COTY winner by making strides with his team in their first three year (7-9 to 11-5 to ???), has basically the same team back,
The case against him: his offense is still led by Teddy Bridgewater who has yet to establish himself as a quality QB, if Green Bay goes 11-5, it’s not likely the Vikes will have done better than split their season series with the Pack
Ron Rivera – led the Panthers to a Super Bowl last season, won COTY last year, top six offense and defense last year
The case in his favor: has won two of the last three COTY awards
The case against him: a coach hasn’t repeated as COTY since the ’82-’83 seasons (Joe Gibbs,) lost a couple pieces from last year
Bill Belichick – Really? You need me to explain why he’s in consideration?
Pete Carroll – Same here. Without Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, it should be interesting to see how they cope, plus that Legion of Boom is getting older as well. Interesting point: with all the success he has brought Seattle, he has never won COTY.
There are “plenty of balls in the air” as they say. McCarthy winning Coach of the Year will hinge (in part) on what else happens around the league. Look at what we know about the Packers. The offense still has Aaron Rodgers at the helm with Jordy Nelson returning, which means the Pack has one of the most lethal QB-WR duos in the league again. Davante Adams will either make an impact or get bumped out of the way for either Jared Abbrederis or Jeff Janis. Rodgers has a new weapon at tight end in Jared Cook. My gosh…if you likened these weapons to a Mario Kart race, McCarthy would be driving with three blue shells circling his vehicle right now.
As for the defense…if McCarthy is going to win COTY, he will need a stellar effort from Dom Capers and his defense. We know it has a young though talented secondary, a slew of pass rushers, and questions in the middle at nose tackle and inside linebacker. If those questions in the middle are answered, start putting McCarthy’s name on that COTY trophy.