The Packers absorbed a surprising amount of criticism for firing coach Mike McCarthy with four games left in the season. But NFL teams firing coaches with games remaining in the season is hardly uncommon; nearly every year, one or more teams part ways with a coach before the final game is played.
With McCarthy, his longevity and the fact that he has won a Super Bowl caused some to believe that McCarthy should have received the ability to finish the year before being fired. Also, some have questioned Green Bay’s explanation that it wanted to get a head start on hiring a new coach, arguing that teams do that all the time without firing their current coach.
The Packers clearly didn’t want to do it that way, presumably out of respect for McCarthy. If the Packers had decided after the home loss to the Cardinals that a change will be made after the season, if the Packers had started reaching out to agents who represent potential candidates for the job, and if only one person had blabbed to one of the many reporters constantly searching for Sunday Splash! ammunition, McCarthy could have become the subject of a claim that the Packers already have begun actively looking for his replacement.
While some may say letting McCarthy coach the last few weeks reflects “respect” for McCarthy, others would say that the ultimate respect for McCarthy comes from being honest and direct with him.
NFL and college football coaches get fired all the time. It’s already happened twice this year in the NFL, and it likely will happen several more times through the middle of January. It’s a basic and fundamental aspect of the industry, a reality that everyone who aspires to become an NFL or college football head coach freely accepts.
It happens to players all the time, without second thoughts or regrets. It happens so often to players that a move to cut (fire) one of them rarely triggers an eyebrow raise.
And what do we always hear when a player who wants to remain on a roster is told to go? “It’s in the best interests of the team.” If that standard is good enough to justify the constant churning of an NFL roster via the unapologetic firing of players, it’s good enough to justify the periodic changes made at head coach.
The Packers obviously believed that firing McCarthy with four games left was in the best interests of the team. The Packers clearly believed that doing it with four games left would assist the process of finding the best possible successor, while also giving McCarthy time to think through whether he wants to interview for vacancies elsewhere. The Packers apparently preferred starting that process in a clear, open, and transparent way, without making moves behind the back of a coach who deserved not to be part of a month-long charade.