GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mike McCarthy used the word "fit" eight times Thursday when the Green Bay Packers coach discussed working for a new general manager.
McCarthy never specifically elaborated on what he meant, but his word choice was telling for a man who in his 12 seasons as the Packers' coach has worked for just one GM, Ted Thompson, who will not return as general manager.
Fit has many definitions, but this one from Merriam-Webster perhaps best describes what McCarthy was saying: “Adapted to the environment so as to be capable of surviving.”
McCarthy is under contract through the 2019 season, thanks to the one-year extension he received late last year. And while team president Mark Murphy was emphatic this week that McCarthy would be the coach, there’s more to it than just a signed paper and some news conference jibber-jabber.
The coach and the GM must be able to coexist.
“It has to fit,” McCarthy said. “I have the best job in pro football, and no disrespect to the other 31 clubs. I love it here, I want to be here, but it has to fit for me, too. I’ve done this job long enough, I wouldn’t want the GM to hire me or partner with me if we don’t fit together.
“Because you’re on a path for ... in the short term and long term, it’s going to be a lot [more] difficult to get to where you’re going to go. It has to be a partnership. I go back to Ted’s opening press conference ... when he hired me and he talked about partnership, and those words have always rung true. We had a hell of a partnership for 12 years.”
That’s three fits.
Sure, McCarthy and Thompson may have clashed over the years about the GM’s reliance on the draft and reluctance toward free agency, but they couldn’t have coexisted at Lambeau Field and in the fishbowl of the NFL’s smallest town if they didn’t fit together.
“Frankly, it’s fit,” McCarthy said. “I’m very comfortable where I am in my career. I’m more focused on the fit of the GM. Frankly, fit’s a two-way street. It has to fit together. That will fall clearly under what’s best for the Green Bay Packers. Like I said, I’m very, very confident, comfortable with that approach.”
That’s four more fits.
Unlike his predecessor, Mike Sherman, who became coach and GM after Ron Wolf retired and before the jobs were separated again with the hiring of Thompson in 2005, McCarthy doesn’t believe a dual role is feasible.
“It’s about working together,” McCarthy said. “It’s not a one-man show. I believe that. I don’t believe in the total control. I think the job’s too big for one person. I think everybody in our business has an ego. If you don’t, you get squashed. But the maintenance of your ego is critical. So this is not a power-hungry moment. This is about doing what’s in the best interests of the Green Bay Packers. Mark Murphy and I have talked numerous times about the ‘Packer way,’ and I believe in it, and the decisions that are made will be in the best interests of the Packers, and I’m at peace with that.”
The best fit for McCarthy might not be available. That’s Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider, the former Packers personnel executive who introduced McCarthy to his wife, Jessica, and remains a close friend. Even if Schneider were interested in the job -- and why wouldn’t he want to come back and run his hometown team without the interference of an owner and with a Hall of Fame quarterback still in his prime? -- he’s under contract with no out clause. Seattle would have to either let him go or accept compensation from the Packers. As of Thursday, when Murphy began to conduct interviews with in-house candidates, there had been no contact between the two sides.
If any of the three internal candidates -- Russ Ball, Brian Gutekunst or Eliot Wolf -- gets the job, there’s no telling what might happen with McCarthy.
It would be a mistake to assume that just because Ball and McCarthy date to their days with the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1990s, that they would be copacetic. Ball wasn’t even with the Packers when McCarthy was hired in 2006.
McCarthy acknowledged that, “yes, Russ and I have a long relationship,” but he didn’t offer much more than that.
As for Gutekunst and Wolf, sure, they’ve worked in the same building with McCarthy, but their direct contact with the head coach’s office has been much less than Thompson’s.
“The two of them together have had a great run,” Murphy said of his coach and GM. “We have all the confidence in the world in Mike; we're going to have great success moving forward. So, yeah, he will be our coach.”
Near the end of his 35-minute news conference to wrap up the season, McCarthy was asked if he was confident Murphy would find a GM who fits with him.
“He has to fit with his boss, first,” McCarthy said.
That was fit No. 8.