Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Trickle-Up Accountability

When the Packers lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the knee-jerk reaction was swift and loud: fire McCarthy and Thompson. Now.

Give a Packer fan (or writer) time to think about it and calm down, and you sometimes see the vitriol soften. You are now seeing more and more fans predicting that McCarthy will survive the season and get another chance next year.

I'm not so sure.

Mind you, I'm not getting on any high horse and calling for anyone's head. I've been a Thompson Critic since 2005 and not once have I ever called for him to fired, including this year. That's not something I think is worth really calling for right now. It takes a truly terrible and dysfunctional team to make that kind of change mid-season, because who the heck are you going to get to run the team in the interim? It sure isn't going to be Mike Holmgren or Bill Cowher.

I've also tried to give McCarthy every benefit of the doubt since the day after he was hired. I say that, because I was adamantly against him during the interview process. Why would you bring in the guy who was the QB coach when Favre threw the most interceptions of his career? If he can't hold accountable the one guy he's responsible for, what is he going to do with an entire team?

And I have given MM positive props from his first season through 2007. But last year, we saw the beginnings of a more passive, excuse-making McCarthy while our favorite team free-fell from 13-3 to a 10-14 record since.

The point many people make is that Ted Thompson is going to give McCarthy one more chance to show what he can do. Perhaps they think that Ted himself may realize that MM is working with NFL-E talent and stumblebums along the offensive line, and that an upgrade in talent will get the ship back on track.

However, the accountability train is a slippery slope. I'm not petitioning for McCarthy to go. But, I sure understand how it is becoming more and more of a likelihood as each week goes by, and the choice may no longer fall to Thompson.

Accountability, whether it be football, business, or any hierarchical structure, trickles up. The immediate supervisor has the responsibility to hold those under him accountable. If that supervisor fails to do so, you go up another level and the onus falls on the supervisor's supervisor to make everyone under him accountable.

And so it goes with the Packers. The players are held accountable by the coaching staff. The coaching staff is held accountable by the head coach. The head coach is held accountable by the GM. The GM is held accountable by the team president, who is in turn held accountable by the Executive Committee.

In a nutshell, if McCarthy doesn't clean up his house, it's up to Thompson to do it. And Mark Murphy is the one who will be supervising how well Thompson handles it.

Murphy offered some token support for both McCarthy and Thompson earlier this week.

“I still have confidence in Ted. Obviously for me, I work through Ted, and he and I are always in touch with each other, and I have a lot of confidence in Ted.”

“You’ll have to talk to Ted, but my sense is that he does have confidence (in McCarthy) but (is) disappointed in where we are right now. We’re all hoping that we can make the changes that are needed to get us to where we want to be at the end of the season.”

Murphy wisely and correctly dismisses any notion of a mid-season firing, but certainly spells out how the rest of the season is going to dictate how things go for McCarthy. In other words, if this team finishes 6-10 for the second season in a row, you get a strong feeling that McCarthy will not be here.

Note that while Murphy comes out and says that HE has confidence in Thompson, he never speaks towards his own confidence towards McCarthy. Not only does this establish that he is taking a "no comment" when it deals with how he feels about MM, it also shows those levels of supervision. It is Thompson's job to evaluate McCarthy.

However, last year, the Packers fell to 4-4 and proceeded to lose 6 of their last 8 games. When you consider the Offensive Line Shuffle continuing and the injuries beginning to mount, it isn't a far cry after looking at the rest of the schedule to think such a losing record this season is very realistic.

And, in the end, it may be that original reservation I had about McCarthy before he was even fired that will do him in. Despite the glaring problems along the offensive line, McCarthy doesn't hold his assistants accountable for it. “Our problems, to me, aren’t teaching and scheme," said McCarthy, placing the problems again on fundamental errors by the players.

How you cannot hold James Campen at least in part responsible for not developing many of these players to at least a competent level is beyond me. And the problem is that if Campen is maximizing their talent, it sure puts that spotlight back on the guy who is supposed to be putting the talent there to begin with...Ted Thompson.

So, the conundrum begins for Thompson. Perhaps he wants to be attached at the hip with his hand-picked head coach and to give him every opportunity to continue. But, he also has to realize that as McCarthy fails to hold his players and assistants accountable, the onus falls back onto Ted.

Thompson isn't exactly revered for his deft handling of public controversy, and this has all the makings of a major brouhaha. As players continue to not get benched for undisciplined play, and as the assistants continue to get a free pass, McCarthy continues to play the weak card of "pad level, fundamental errors, and gap control"...all subjective, vague problems that are nearly as hard to define as they are to actually fix.

So, it will fall to Thompson to make McCarthy be accountable. According to Greg Bedard over at JSOnline, there is already some cracks in the armor holding those two together. But the critical pressure may come from above.

Mark Murphy, quite honestly, has been pretty quiet as far as Packer Presidents go. His only major public showing was the $20 million contract he offered Brett Favre to remain retired, a move he later mentioned as being "poorly-timed". While I've spoken to Murphy on the phone and he seems like a guy trying hard to following in Bob Harlan's big footsteps, he is not an established entity in the eyes of the fans and those with the power to supplant an ineffective leader.

And, let's face it. This has been an emotional couple of years. We've gone from the emotional high of a 13-3 record and playoff run only two seasons ago, to the tearing apart of Packer fans over the Favre Divorce, to the disappointment of both the 2008 and the 2009 season after having such high expectations to start both years.

If accountability doesn't start with McCarthy, it's going to keep going over his head with every loss the Packers have the rest of the way. Chances are very high that if the Packers miss the playoffs, Ted Thompson is going to be given a choice to either fire McCarthy or join him on the unemployment line.

Furthermore, if Murphy doesn't make such a demad if this season is repeat of the last, such an ultimatum may be placed on him. Either he may be told to fire the Thompson/McCarthy tandem, or he can join them, too.

There are a lot of folks saying the whole season is riding on this next game against the Cowboys. I don't like that thought, if for no other reason, I see little optimism of winning the game, and it seems foolish to make that your do-or-die game. I think you are better off waiting until the 49er game, which would really be one of the few games we've played this season where the opposition is not clearly inferior or superior to the Packers.

My unscientific predictions as to the chances of each of these folks before they get sacked:

10-6: Both Thompson and McCarthy keep their jobs.

9-7: Both Thompson and McCarthy keep their jobs.

8-8: Thompson may consider firing McCarthy, but will not have pressure from above to do it.

7-9: Murphy will pressure Thompson to make a change at HC, and I think Thompson would do it.

6-10: Thompson will have an ultimatum to change or leave with MM.

5-11: Murphy will be strongly pressured to remove both TT and MM.

4-12: Murphy will have an ultimatum to remove both TT and MM or join them on the way out.

My intent isn't to try and show some sort of iron-clad prediction as to how I think things will go down, but to show that as the losses mount, how the accountability rises up the ranks, leaving those near the bottom out of control of the final decision.

So, for those folks saying that barring a complete meltdown that McCarthy's job is safe, I would say we better sit and watch the next couple of games. If the Packers are 4-6 heading into Thanksgiving, McCarthy will need to run the table to assure himself of a job in Green Bay next year. And neither he nor Thompson may have a choice in the matter.


Anonymous said...

you know i just really admire most of what you write
but this is really bad, really bad

this is the point, as you write

if Campen is maximizing their talent, it sure puts that spotlight back on the guy who is supposed to be putting the talent there to begin with...Ted Thompson.

but then EVERYTHING else you write ABSOLVES teddie
and places it entirely back on the coaches

what more do you need to see to know that the OL players are just bad, this list is impressively long

and impressively bad

yet here you are giving ted a pass and blaming the coaches

will whit/matt O/coston/college

Anonymous said...

assistants are going scott free?

what did MM say about benching jolly? WHO REPLACES HIM?

there is nobody

who replaces DC? there is nobody

who picks the roster?
it is ted, MM said ted had not crammed a player down his throat
that is not equality

MM after his new contract said we needed better players at guard

what do pad level and other excuses mean?

they mean the players are not good enough without calling out the guy who gave you a job you would never have otherwise received

seriously? you buy into "pad level" without seeing it means DC getting knocked over is not the cause but the result? he is a bad player

As players continue to not get benched for undisciplined play, and as the assistants continue to get a free pass, McCarthy continues to play the weak card of "pad level, fundamental errors, and gap control"...all subjective, vague problems that are nearly as hard to define as they are to actually fix.

PackersRS said...

That was a great article, C.D. Kudos for it!

IPB said...

I gotta say, ..MY knee-jerk reaction was very similar to just about all others. Although, I also commiserate that I've been calling for "changes" to the offensive-play-calling since (roughly) the middle of 2007. At the time, we were still seeing very little of the crossing routes. Favre does know how to throw a slant. He should ... after all, he's been in the League for how long? Rodgers still needs the option of throwing behind a (even halfway) decent Offensive Line.

My reaction was, and is, a culmination of almost two seasons of seeing HUGE HOLES in how the Offense play calling has mirrored something that Green Bay has tried to never be about. And, that's PREVENT FOOTBALL. It's certainly not what we saw in the Lombardi Years. How often did you ever see Prevent Football in the SuperBowl runs of the 1990's?

Why does a Play-caller shut off access to 50% of the playbook (available all thru 2007) and does so to his own CHOSEN QB-of-the-Future?

Ya know, I really hope Rodgers just says: screw it. And, does some play-action on his own, against the HC's micro-management wishes. And, let's see it be successful. It would be Deja Vu all over again. After all, isn't that part of what Favre is famous for? Just winging it even though that wasn't what Mike Sherman called? We've all heard those stories, correct?

I know this - Aaron Rodgers deserves the right to treat himself and his situation better than some of the Offensive Coaching Staff has to guts to do themselves. Campen may have played Center for the Packers a long time ago. That doesn't make him an Offensive Line Coach. There are many players from the NFL level that couldn't teach 5th graders the game. My opinion is Campen is on that level.

McCarthy's real handicap is the fact that Marty Schottenheimer as his first Head Coach and BOSS. He may have learned the game well enough, but he also learned to clam up in tight situations and to hesitate in making decisions (that could lose wars) when the time came.

Like you, CD, I've defended the new Adminsitration, mainly because at least it wasn't Mike Sherman any more. I'd had enough of that five year stretch of constant hope & endless disappointment. I coulnt at least 3 SuperBowls that SHOULD HAVE happened from 2000 to 2005.

And, weren't we BROKE when Thompson got here? Didn't it take a whole season for us to finally have money in the bank and afford better players? This convenience-memory-loss syndrome has to stop (in my book) for the whole of Packer Nation. Let's not forget how it got bad, and then repeat those same mistakes.

I would, however, wish that Trader Ted would actually become just that ... in the Free Agency Market, that is.

If anything, I would at least bring in a better Offensive Coordinator, who then could bring in a much much better Offensive Line Coach. When you hang around better intelligence, it rubs off -- Maybe MAC shouldn't be the guy who calls ALL the plays, either.

I would hope that during April, 2010, the Packers are at least able to spend almost every pick on the Scrimmage Line - both sides. We're going to need it. AND, I would offer that we do it like Dallas has always done... with BIG BEEF all across the line. If we do it that way, and stick with it? It certainly won't get like it is now. Don't you think Rodgers would maybe appreciate it, just a little?

Who would I bring in, to assist the Offense?

Possibly Gruden?
Someone who is available and has a proven record.

What say you CD - who would you take a hard look at?

Your comment that Campen is making the most of the talent given him...

Is that what's really been going on?

Somehow, I doubt it.

C.D. Angeli said...

Oh, IPB, I've learned long ago that anyone I wish for is the last person they will consider. :-)

The one guy I'd be most open to is Gruden. I think he's got a good attitude and can surround himself with some good assistants. Cowher? I think he will scare the heck out of Thompson. Thompson doesn't like confrontation, and Cowher will bring it.

Need to read up more on Callahan before I have an opinion on him. I still am somewhat bummed we didn't get a chance at Charlie Weis when we had it.

I think the guy who comes in is going to be a Dom Capers-esque assistant coach...strong willed with his own plan for coaching, but still willing to work with Thompson. But, I think Thompson has to be ready for someone who is going to walk in his office and say, "I need some talent HERE...SOON." and expect to have some results.