Former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Holmgren had a very successful head coaching tree. In his stint as the Packers head coach from 1992-1998, Holmgren had six of his assistant coaches go on to become NFL head coaches. Andy Reid (Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs), Marty Mornhinweg (Detroit Lions), Dick Jauron (Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills), Ray Rhodes (Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers), Steve Mariucci (San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions), and Jon Gruden (Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) all were assistants in Green Bay under Holmgren and most had some type of success in the NFL as head coaches. That list doesn’t include Jim Zorn (Washington Redskins) and Mike Sherman (Green Bay Packers) who served under Holmgren while he was head coach for the Seattle Seahawks. While Holmgren’s coaching tree is quite impressive, the same can’t be said for the current Packers head coach, and with the firing of New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, it is even more unsuccessful. The head coaching tree of Mike McCarthy hasn’t been successful.
Both Holmgren and McCarthy have had success as the Packers head coach. McCarthy even declared that himself, so you can never take that away from either of them. It isn’t McCarthy’s job to groom his assistants to become NFL head coaches, but many have to wonder why so few of them have gone on to become head coaches and why the few that have failed.
Right now, there are only two assistants under McCarthy who have gone on to become head coaches in the NFL. The first was Joe Philbin who was with McCarthy from 2006-2011, serving as the offensive line coach and then the offensive coordinator. Philbin would go on to become the Miami Dolphins head coach from 2012-2015, although he was fired after just four games in his final year. Under his guidance, the Dolphins never had a winning record and never made the playoffs. Along without a winning season, Philbin was in charge when the Richie Incognito bullying incident occurred. The Philbin/Dolphins era was an unsuccessful one.
Unlike Philbin, McAdoo did lead his team to the playoffs with him as the head coach. In his rookie head coaching season, McAdoo guided the Giants to an 11-5 record, with their season ending to the Packers in the NFC wild card round. But his second season in charge was a disaster. The Giants offense has been a failure this season, an offense that McAdoo was in charge of before he relinquished his play-calling duties during the season. Before being fired, the Giants had a record of 2-10 and became the laughingstock of the Big Apple. Just like Philbin, McAdoo also oversaw an incident that made shock waves around the NFL.
With the Giants sitting at 2-9, McAdoo decided to bench longtime starting quarterback Eli Manning, ending his longtime starting streak. The decision was handled poorly and what made matters worse, Manning was benched in favor of Geno Smith, a quarterback that never had much success as a starter. During his tenure as starting quarterback of the Giants, Manning led them to two Super Bowl victories.
Oddly enough, for a franchise that has had so much success, mostly during the regular season, there haven’t been many assistant turned head coaching successes under McCarthy.
What Does This Mean for McCarthy?
Both Philbin and McAdoo were longtime assistant coaches under McCarthy. Philbin from 2006-2011 while McAdoo was with McCarthy in New Orleans (McCarthy as the offensive coordinator), San Francisco (McCarthy as the offensive coordinator), and Green Bay, covering from 2004 to 2013. The only other assistant under McCarthy who would go on to become a head coach at a high level was his former offensive coordinator from 2006 Jeff Jagodzinski. Jagodzinski led Boston College for two seasons and accumulated a 20-8 record, but he never went on to become an NFL head coach and hasn’t been a head coach, at any level, since.
As stated previously, it isn’t McCarthy’s job to groom future NFL head coaches. But it does make people wonder if McCarthy is picking the right people to be a part of his staff. It isn’t just head coaches that aren’t coming from McCarthy’s staff, there hasn’t been an assistant that has gone on to become a successful offensive or defensive coordinator for another NFL team.
The NFL is a copycat league. If one team is having success, others will follow. And if there is an assistant that is a part of a winning franchise, most teams that are looking to turn around their franchise will look at that winning assistant coach to help turn around their program. However, for the most part, that hasn’t been the case when it comes to McCarthy and his coaching staff.
It might be that McCarthy is only hiring coaches that are best fitted to be assistants. But with the lack of coaches going on to become head coaches and with the ones that are not succeeding, you have to wonder if McCarthy is surrounding himself with the best assistants that can help the Packers succeed.
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