FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Green Bay Packers are coming to New Jersey this weekend without the man who led them for 13 years -- recently fired coach Mike McCarthy, who nevertheless will be part of the narrative Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The New York Jets are expected to commence a coaching search in 12 days, and that search likely will include McCarthy. Let's put it this way: He'd better be on their short list, because not only he is qualified for the job, he's the best fit out there.
McCarthy has three things going for him that have been in short supply at One Jets Drive:
Previous head-coaching experience, a winning pedigree (see the Super Bowl ring on his finger) and expertise with offense and quarterbacks.
The Jets have been hiring the same guy over and over, from Al Groh to Herm Edwards to Eric Mangini to Rex Ryan to Todd Bowles -- highly-regarded defensive assistants with no experience in the big chair. Their last recycled head coach was Bill Parcells, who didn't stick around long enough but did a terrific job while he was here.
At this stage of their development -- Year 2 of a so-called rebuild -- the Jets need someone with credibility, a coach who can walk into the room and show off his pelts (to use a Parcells term). They don't need another on-the-job training situation because that would add more time to the rebuilding process. Enough is enough.
McCarthy is a known commodity, not a projection. He was 125-77-2 with the Packers, capturing six NFL North titles and one Super Bowl championship. A coach with that kind of resume doesn't hit the open market that often, and the Jets, of all teams, are in no position to look the other way.
Winning aside, McCarthy is attractive because he's an offensive-minded coach who could develop quarterback Sam Darnold, who is everything to the franchise. For a change, the Jets need a leader who sees the game through the eyes of the quarterback and can build a program in that fashion.
Under McCarthy, the Packers were a top-10 scoring offense for eight consecutive years, from 2007 to 2014. He was blessed with great quarterbacks, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, but it's not like they were surrounded by an all-star cast. Only two non-quarterbacks made multiple Pro Bowls on offense -- fullback John Kuhn and guard Josh Sitton.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh would be a solid candidate as well, if he's fired, but the difference between him and McCarthy is Harbaugh never built a consistently strong offense. His background is special teams. If the Jets want a CEO-type of leader, they should make a strong play for Harbaugh, who also has a Super Bowl ring. But they need to consider the current and future landscape of the NFL -- offense, baby! -- and that's why McCarthy makes the most sense.
"He's one of the best coaches I've ever gone up against," New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick once said.
McCarthy isn't the perfect candidate. Some of the criticisms:
He won only one Super Bowl with one of the best quarterbacks in history. If you're comparing every coach-quarterback tandem to Belichick and Tom Brady, yeah, it's disappointing that McCarthy and Rodgers won only once. (By the way, they reached four NFC Championship Games.) But should the Jets, who haven't won anything in 50 years, hold that against him? Come on, man.
He didn't get along with Rodgers. Probably true, but it happens with long-term relationships in the NFL. It's also not an easy situation when the player thinks he knows more than the coach.
His offense became predictable. There may be some truth to this, as the Packers finished 26th last season in total offense, the worst ranking under McCarthy. But let's not forget Rodgers played only seven games. They're back up to 10th this season, although they don't scare anyone. He might need to re-invent his offense, but a fresh start can do wonders for a coach. Call it the Andy Reid Factor.
It would take quite a sell job to get McCarthy out of his comfy life in Green Bay, where he has strong roots. His wife is a Green Bay native and together they have five children, including four school-age kids. McCarthy will get paid through the 2019 season by the Packers (his contract averaged $8.5 million per year), so he might be content to sit out the year and start fresh in 2020.
It'll take a lot of green to get him out of Green Bay, but the Jets owe it to themselves and their fans to give it a shot.