GREEN BAY, Wis. -- On the surface, the Green Bay Packers have one of the most attractive head-coaching jobs in the NFL.
There’s the state-of-the-art facilities in and around Lambeau Field, no singular owner prone to impulsive decisions, a new general manager with a willingness to make aggressive moves to build the roster and a two-time NFL MVP quarterback who, even at age 35, should have a handful of seasons left as an elite player.
What other coaching job has all that?
In fact, some might consider Aaron Rodgers the most attractive thing about the job.
But consider this: What if the Packers are vying for coaches who also have the option of working with a young, impressionable quarterback like, say, Baker Mayfield in Cleveland?
Perhaps that coach might look at what Mike McCarthy went through in recent years with Rodgers and decide that he’d rather work with a quarterback he can mold rather than one he’d have to manage. McCarthy's relationship with Rodgers wasn't the sole reason he was fired moments after Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals; they successfully co-existed for years before this with conflict they both often described as positive and had a successful run.
Coaching an elite quarterback with high-level intelligence like Rodgers isn’t easy, and any candidate for this job might be wise to ask McCarthy what that’s like. Or just cue up Rodgers’ postgame media conference after this year’s win over the Bills in Week 4, when Rodgers trashed McCarthy’s offensive plan.
Earlier this season, after Rodgers rekindled the talk of a disconnect with McCarthy’s game planning, former Packers coach Mike Holmgren told ESPN.com that he was disappointed Rodgers brought it publicly. Holmgren said he never had to deal with that while coaching Brett Favre and that no coach should.
"It’s a different time now with social media and the stuff that gets out that previously would have been behind closed doors, it’s out there now," Holmgren said at the time. "But still, my approach to those types of things was, first of all, I’d want to find out if in fact that’s what was said. Then if it was said, let’s talk about this. I had a rule -- I didn’t have a lot of rules -- and one of them was we’re going to operate from a mutual respect. I won’t embarrass you, and I don’t expect you to be embarrass me.
"When I read stuff like that, first of all I don’t know exactly what to believe. But secondly, it’s sad to me a little bit. I certainly did not want to hear that, no one does. I know both of those guys. I know Aaron a little bit, and I know Mike pretty well. I have tremendous respect for those guys. If in fact he was critical, then I would say, ‘Don’t do that. You don’t have to do that. You’re too good to do that.’"
McCarthy was careful to never publicly criticize Rodgers, though any coach couldn’t help be feel emasculated by that. McCarthy’s public demeanor changed after that. He looked like a dead-man walking, at times.
From McCarthy’s perspective, even though he had one more year left on his contract, the situation had to be right for him even if the Packers wanted him back, and it clearly wasn't.
There will be pressure on the next coach just like there is with any job in the win-now NFL, but there will be plenty on Rodgers, too.
His play must return to an elite level, a place it hasn’t been since before he broke his collarbone in Week 6 of the 2017 season.
The next coach will have to build a relationship with Rodgers and do it quickly otherwise Rodgers will leave the game with as many Super Bowl titles as McCarthy had in 12-plus seasons in Green Bay: one.
McCarthy was fired on the day Rodgers turned 35. Rodgers has said he’d like to play into his 40s, although that’s no guarantee.
A longtime NFL executive said Sunday night that the next coach will have to take the good with the bad when it comes to Rodgers, but that it won’t be a deterrent.
The first question isn’t who will be the next Packers coach, but who will get to make the hire?
Schefter: McCarthy firing had been building
Adam Schefter reports Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has been fired following Green Bay's 20-17 loss to Arizona in Week 13.
As things stood on the day McCarthy was fired, it was team president Mark Murphy’s call. He changed the organizational structure in January, when he forced out aging general manager Ted Thompson and promoted Brian Gutekunst. In the same move, he took the power over the head coach away from the GM’s office and gave it to himself, straying from the Packers’ long-standing successful model that began when Ron Wolf was brought in as general manager in 1991.
Perhaps Murphy will return to that power structure. If so, one league source said he expected Gutekunst to want a "no-nonsense guy." The source said Gutekunst has long been a fan of Jim Harbaugh, the current Michigan coach and former 49ers coach.
Whether it’s Murphy, Gutekunst or some combination of both making the hire, the Packers would almost certainly have to hire an offensive-minded head coach to work closely with Rodgers. Harbaugh fits that description, but so do myriad candidates who will be discussed. Among them: interim head coach Joe Philbin, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael.
Both Murphy and Gutekunst also have strong ties to college football. Murphy served as athletic director at Northwestern before he was hired by the Packers in 2007, which would make Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald a natural candidate although he has a defensive background. Gutekunst was a scout on the college side for most of his career and his extensive relationships there could come into play, as well.