Originally written on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 12/27/11

During the Christmas edition of Sunday Night Football, the Green Bay Packers methodically dusted off the Chicago Bears 35-21. That shouldn’t have really been that difficult a job to start; as Ian Darke might say on Premier League Soccer, the Bears roster is currently loaded with a collection of ‘Poets, Passers, and Dreamers…’

That line would make absolutely no sense to this American, but I kind of like it. The ‘passer’ in this case would had been Josh McCown, who Lovie Smith brought out of retirement over some guy named Brett and another guy named McNabb for the temporary assignment.

McCown fell short in keeping Chicago’s miniscule playoff hopes alive, but didn’t have that horrible a night for someone who spent the year on a high school coaching staff. And win or lose, McCown will always have a special place in the hearts of Packers Nation over this contribution eight years ago.

And who’s the team that Lovie makes it a point to target over any other in the National Football League? The Bears finish the 2011 calendar year going a perfect 0-4 v. the GBP.

During the telecast, Al Michaels proved once again why he is still one of the best PBP men in sports, even after three+ decades. Whether it was pointing out the TD/INT ratios of Favre ’04-’07 (96 TD’s/79 picks) v. Rodgers ’08-’11 (131 TD’s/37 picks) or noting GB’s two starting quarterbacks over the past 19 years (actually three if you count Matt Flynn’s start last year) versus the Bears’ 15 during the same timeframe.

The Great, Underrated Mike McCarthy

Then for the second consecutive GB appearance on SNF, Michaels again analyzed the methods and madness of Coach Mike McCarthy, noting that MM is still not a total household name among NFL coaches and mentioning his one-time stint as a Pennsylvania toll-taker to make ends meet. Michaels also notes McCarthy being the father of five kids, the youngest being four months old. That would be the second of McCarthy’s current marriage, which outside of a brief mention in a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story in October, was not announced publicly.

That’s the way McCarthy likes things, with zero fanfare.  It’s also what I happen to admire and respect about MM. While other coaches make brash proclamations that their teams simply can’t back up (won’t name names, OK, his initials are RR…), McCarthy manages to eliminate all the noise outside of 1265 Lombardi Avenue.

If we project a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance by the team, McCarthy is on pace (if not there already) to putting himself on the Mt. Rushmore of Packers coaches, right alongside Curly, Vin, and the Walrus.

Best thing is, one has to think McCarthy is perfectly happy in Green Bay and will stay put for several seasons to come. By contrast, by the time Super Bowl 32 rolled around the first speculations on what Holmgren might do with his next career move was already starting to surface.

Holmgren would go on to coach the 1998 season in Green Bay, with rampant rumors linking him with either the then-expansion Cleveland Browns or the Seattle Seahawks – Holmgren would eventually end up working for both franchises. During the ’98 campaign, a fan touched a nerve with Holmgren making mention of the Cleveland scuttlebutt (being fueled on pre-game TV shows), leading to a heated confrontation between the two in the tunnel at halftime of a game when the Packers were underperforming.

Circumstances are always subject to change with the next wire report. The Miami Dolphins or Dan Snyder in Washington could always open their checkbooks at anytime and make McCarthy (or anyone else) an offer so crazy that they would have no choice but to consider. Maybe someone jumps at that kind of offer, but I believe even McCarthy would refuse a hypothetical offer “too good to refuse.” The only other option I would see down the road is if McCarthy’s hometown Pittsburgh Steelers were to ever come calling – that would be a legit possibility, but at the present Mike Tomlin is as good a fit there as McCarthy is Green Bay.

Statue/Street Name Soon To Come?

And then Michaels (again) gets into the inevitable street naming coronation for McCarthy. During the SNF telecast from Atlanta earlier in the year Al suggested a toll-road (a nod to his toll-taking employment) and during the Bears telecast suggested an entire interstate.

Someone has to educate Al…

  • First off, we don’t do tolls here in Wisconsin. When I make a list of things I love about the state, this is at the top of the list, along with the football team. By contrast, on New Year’s Day, the asking prices on the Illinois Tollway are set to NEARLY DOUBLE. As if a 7-9 Bears season and possible six-game losing streak is not enough.
  • Second, most of our interstate segments have already been rightfully named after our veterans who have proudly served this country in previous wars. Our current servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan will have sections of interstates named long before any Green Bay football coach, and rightfully so.

And getting past those two points, WHAT THE HELL is the rush of doing the street naming ceremony already? Naming a garbage dump after Scott Walker wouldn’t be a bad idea, but the McCarthy story is still in its early stages.

There are already several examples of these coronations backfiring. Holmgren Way went up not long after the Packers Super Bowl XXXI title – and at the time people were over the top giddy. That stretch of road got a little more awkward when years later Holmgren was on the Lambeau sidelines with the Seahawks trying to knock GB from the playoffs.

And then there is Favre Pass, dedicated before Brett cost the franchise a couple more chances at the Super Bowl (’03 at Philly, ’07 v. Giants) with his gunslinger act in overtime. Then he finished up his career as a Minnesota Viking, breaking the hearts of that fan base in New Orleans.

More recently, there was the ‘unveiling’ of the Albert Pujols statue outside his restaurant in St. Louis. That probably sealed up that $260 million contract with the Angels right there.

And finally, that creepy Joe Paterno statue. That sure seemed foolproof. 50+ years with university, 40+ years as the head coach – the most legendary coaching name in the history of college football. By the time that went up in State College, there was no way anything could happen for that to possibly go wrong?? And now there’s a stench even there – along with a 24/7 security detail to protect it.

One gets a feeling McCarthy himself isn’t excited about having his name going on Green Bay’s Walk of Fame anytime in the near future. I’m fine with Curly and Vin and even Bart Starr and some others from earlier generations being honored, as I don’t think there is much left to come out of those closets.

And in all probability there isn’t much in the McCarthy closet, but what’s wrong with letting the entire ‘McCarthy Era’ play out first, one which holds the promise of several more years and potentially more championships?

If there’s any sign of Mike McCarthy planning an exit strategy, Al Michaels will need pretty good odds to make a wager on it…

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