Green Bay – Mark Murphy knew it was time.
After watching the Packers’ woeful performance Sunday at Lambeau Field in a 20-17 defeat to the 2-9 Arizona Cardinals, the usual post-game routine unfolded:
Players head to the locker room. Head Coach Mike McCarthy delivers his post-game message to the team. The media horde enters to interview players. McCarthy holds his post-game press conference, quarterback Aaron Rodgers then takes the podium.
Rodgers lingered a bit longer than usual at his locker before his presser, his head propped by his left hand as he solemnly scrolled through his cell phone. Several players dressed quickly and departed the locker room, but safety Tramon Williams and kicker Mason Crosby and others stayed to discuss with reporters their first home loss in a disappointing 4-7-1 season.
The team and coaching staff were oblivious to the fact that several stories above, on the team’s administrative level, Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst were meeting to discuss the fate of Green Bay’s 13-year head coach.
The consensus was to relieve McCarthy of his duties.
“In evaluating the season, I really felt that change was needed and Mike’s tenure had run its course,” Murphy said at a press conference Monday. “And quite honestly, the performance on Sunday night to me made it very clear that a coaching change was needed.”
McCarthy was summoned to Murphy’s office, where the 55-year-old coach was informed of the decision. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin was then brought up and told he would be the interim head coach. Philbin then had an emotional goodbye with his former boss and longtime friend.
““You come back here and you want to be part of the solution,” said Philbin, who rejoined the Packers after a head coaching stint in Miami where he was terminated. “You want to help a guy that’s been a great man, he’s been a great coach, been a friend, and you feel like you let him down.
“You know, I know how he feels. I’ve been through it. It’s not fun.”
McCarthy compiled a 135-85-2 overall record—second only to Curly Lambeau (212-106-21) and led the Packers to victory in Super Bowl XLV over Pittsburgh. He will one day be a member of the Packers’ Hall of Fame, and if so desires will be a desirable candidate for other NFL head coaching openings as the 2018 season concludes.
For now, Murphy and Gutekunst have a head coaching search to conduct and Philbin has to prepare the team for four more games. He is focused only on the Atlanta Falcons, who the Packers host at 12 noon Sunday. The game is televised exclusively on FOX 25/48 in Western Wisconsin.
“We’re not going to make sweeping, structural changes,” the 57-year-old Philbin said. “It’s not like we’re going to fly some magical players or magic coaches in here in the next four weeks. We’ve got a good group of men, we’ve got a good staff, we have to get these guys to play better and we have to make some plays. We have to help each other out and play more complementary football We just haven’t had a lot of momentum to sustain itself over a period of time. . . we have to play sounder, better football. We’ve got to step up and make plays.”
Rodgers, as was the case with most of the players, had lone left Lambeau Field when they found out McCarthy had been fired. Rodgers was at home celebrating his 35th birthday with family and friends.
“I think we are all surprised last night,” Rodgers said Monday afternoon. “There was a great deal of frustration about the performance individually and collectively as a squad, losing a game we should have won, and surprised about the timing. But, again, those are decisions that Mark is making with Brian’s help, and we’re just going to keep on moving forward.”