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“This was extremely heart-wrenching for me. I knew I had to say goodbye to a coach who is also a very good friend. I don’t think people really understand what a good person he is. He treats the janitor in the building the same as the quarterback.”

It’s been almost six years since Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said that, on the day he dismissed Andy Reid, his head coach of 14 seasons. And it was that press conference that I remembered when I saw the Packers’ announcement early Sunday night —a stunner only in that it came now, and not in four weeks—that they were firing Mike McCarthy.

No one I’ve talked to about McCarthy over the last few weeks thinks the guy forgot how to coach. Most people still really like him. And as such, lots of Packer-connected people will be rooting for their now ex-coach wherever he lands next.

It was just time.

KAHLER:Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers and how it all went wrong in Packerland

The reality? When you’ve got a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, the clock’s always ticking. McCarthy’s not blind to it. In fact, he conceded as much when he and I sat down over the summer, and he looked forward to a season in which the Packers’ franchise, the worthy successor to Brett Favre, would celebrate his 35th birthday.

“I get where he is,” McCarthy said. “There’s an urgency every single season. It’s clear. From my perspective, from my viewpoint, I do everything in my power to improve the program. Clearly, I understand the value of the quarterback. Clearly, I understand the value of Aaron Rodgers. But this is the ultimate team game. We need to be the best team. If this was all based on how the quarterback plays, we may win ‘em all, just being honest.

“It’s the other 52, that’s the part that we always have to make sure that we’re focused on. Yeah, I hope that when we’re sitting here 10 years from now, we’re looking back and that question isn’t asked.”

McCarthy’s last walk-off at Lambeau—as Packers coach, at least.

McCarthy’s last walk-off at Lambeau—as Packers coach, at least.

Indeed, the question of how the Packers will maximize what’s left of Rodgers’ prime years is still front-and-center in Green Bay, and a reason why McCarthy is being shown the door. It’s certainly not all McCarthy’s doing that they haven’t gotten back to the Super Bowl, eight years after he and Rodgers made their only appearance, and won their only NFL championship. The rest of the roster, as McCarthy mentioned, is part of the problem. Rodgers should shoulder some blame, too.

So as was the case with Reid in ‘12, a great run had gone stale. And when it became clear that things weren’t right—that happened well before Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the Cardinals—someone had to pay the price, and now McCarthy’s gone.

Those who were involved and affected on Sunday can only hope they get the type of mutually beneficial aftermath that the Eagles and Reid wound up having.

Upset Sunday in the NFL! It turns out the Cowboys upending the powerhouse Saints on Thursday was a just a table-setter for a weekend during which the Bears fell to the Giants, the Jaguars blanked the Colts, and the Buccaneers took out the Panthers. And so we’ve got a lot to get to this week, including:

• Joey Bosa flashing big-time on Sunday night against the Steelers—and it was the capper on a long, frustrating road back to the field for the Chargers’ 23-year-old defensive dynamo.

• Why Bill O’Brien loves his Texans, and it goes well beyond their ability to rip off a nine-game winning streak after starting the season 0-3.

• On the other end of the spectrum, Jaguars DL Calais Campbell taking personal responsibility for a lost season, and explaining what he and his teammates are fighting for, now that a year that started with the highest of expectations has come undone.

• Where the problem with the league’s investigation into Kareem Hunt lies.

• Some exciting stuff from the college conference title games.

And we’re going to start with the biggest upset of all of them—and how it sent a Super Bowl-winning coach looking for a job.

• Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened on Sunday afternoon: Get the full Sunday breakdown from Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling on The Monday Morning NFL Podcast. Subscribe to The MMQB Podcasts now and it will be in your feed first thing Monday morning

Of course, it does start with the quarterback-coach relationship, because that’s where it starts for almost every team. And that Rodgers hasn’t been himself for chunks of this year—he was human on a big stage against Tom Brady a month ago (89.2 passer rating), had a messy night against Minnesota last week (94.0), and was worse in the Cardinals game (79.8)—only accentuated the problem.

The friction between McCarthy and Rodgers has been well-documented. As I understand it, it’d had gotten to the point where Rodgers—who has autonomy to adjust as he sees fit—was regularly changing plays, which would make it difficult for McCarthy to find his rhythm as a play-caller. As one coach who knows them both told me, “It’s almost ‘who’s got the better call?’ … Two really smart guys, ultra-competitive guys.”

Exacerbating all of it was the state of the roster, as McCarthy hinted at in the summer.

He would go to former GM Ted Thompson asking for specific additions to help Rodgers. And as Thompson’s health became an issue, word was McCarthy became increasingly frustrated, with the feeling that his requests were not being heeded. It eventually got to the point where McCarthy didn’t see the value in asking. So he stopped.

Fan sentiment had been long building for a coaching change.

Fan sentiment had been long building for a coaching change.

Those who know the situation say that McCarthy was doing a lot to try to help Rodgers from that standpoint that others didn’t know about. So when the roster’s construction fell into decline, McCarthy wasn’t redirecting Rodgers’ annoyance, he was taking it on himself.

It’s not hard to see where the failings were. Not a single member of the team’s 2015 draft class is on the Packers’ 53-man roster now. And where most teams would address the problems left in the wake of that on the veteran market, Thompson remained true to his draft-and-develop model, even though others in the organization saw the needs that were left unaddressed.

Thompson wound up retiring after last year, and the man widely believed to be McCarthy’s preference to take over, young exec Brian Gutekunst, got the job. Under its new GM, the team even showed a little aggression with vets, bringing in Seattle tight end Jimmy Graham and Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. But by then, other issues were brewing.

After the 2016 season, assistant head coach Tom Clements left. A year later, quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt was fired. The two served as buffers between McCarthy and Rodgers when anything went off track, and were effective in the role. Which makes it little wonder that Rodgers grew incensed with the changes.

2019 MOCK DRAFT:Bosa to Niners, Herbert and Haskins top QBs

“Well, my quarterbacks coach didn’t get retained,” Rodgers told ESPN Radio’s Mike Golic and Trey Wingo at Super Bowl LII. “I thought that was an interesting change, really without consulting me. There’s a close connection between quarterback and quarterbacks coach, and that was an interesting decision.”

So when things started off-center this year—Rodgers got hurt in a dramatic comeback win on opening night, and Green Bay only won two of its next seven games thereafter—the foundation of the McCarthy/Rodgers relationship wasn’t strong enough to give that hope that things would come back around. Which brought everyone to Sunday, where the Packers failed to rebound from a slog of the previous week’s loss to Minnesota against a 2-9 Arizona team.

Truth be told, it was no secret that this conclusion was on the table. Losing to the Cardinals only gave the Packers the opening to ask, Maybe we shouldn’t wait? So team president Mark Murphy, in tandem with Gutekunst, decided to make the move now, to get a head start on the coaching search, and give McCarthy a chance to start preparing for his next job.

And again, despite the public criticism levied against the coach, those in charge at Lambeau Field don’t think McCarthy suddenly lost the ability to do his job. More so, his way had run its course, and sometimes these things aren’t to be blamed on one person or another.

That’s how it was in Philly in 2012. At that point, few in the public saw Reid as an offensive innovator anymore. Then he went to Kansas City, reimagined his offense, first for Alex Smith, then Patrick Mahomes, and today he’s seen as one of the most forward-thinking coaches in football. Meanwhile, the Eagles lived and learned through the Chip Kelly era, and came out of it with a Lombardi Trophy two years later.

Everyone won, in the end. Now, we’ll get to see if that sort of thing could happen again, under circumstances that are pretty similar.


One sequence of plays on Sunday night might just have flipped the dynamics of the AFC race—and it shouldn’t be a surprise that Chargers phenom Joey Bosa was right in the middle of it. So we’ll let him explain what happened on second-and-19 from the Steelers 21, with Ben Roethlisberger and company holding the ball and a 23-15 lead.

“I really didn’t expect him to drop back on that play,” Bosa said from the visitors’ locker room at Heinz Field. “I thought it was going to be a quick screen or something, but they left me on an island, and I kind of was setting up 71 [Matt Feiler] with speed and moves outside all day, and power, and it worked perfectly with the spin. It was a really clean move, but Ben saw me and bounced outside.

“I thought he was gonna get outside of me. But JJ [Justin Jones] did an unbelievable job of covering me up and wrapping out, and the second Ben saw him coming, he stepped right back into me. It was a great, great rush for the D-line.”

Bosa and the Chargers brought the defensive heat in the second half.

Bosa and the Chargers brought the defensive heat in the second half.

Bosa dropped Roethliberger at his own 11, and that set up Desmond King’s 73-yard punt return for a touchdown, which drew the Chargers within two. Philip Rivers found Keenan Allen on the ensuing two-point try to tie it up, and the Chargers wound up outlasting their hosts by a 33-30 count.

For Bosa, based on all he’s been through, this felt like more than another win. He now has three sacks in three games after returning from a foot injury that cost him the first nine games of this season. And for one those sacks to be one of the biggest momentum-building moments in a pivotal prime-time game meant everything.

“It’s ecstasy,” he said. “No better feeling, to be able to not just play well myself and make an impactful play, but for that to turn into a win—I mean obviously that play didn’t cause the win—but just have such an impact after being out for such a long time, it’s unbelievable. Other than maybe a Michigan win and the national championship [for his Ohio State alma mater], this had to be the most unbelievable win of my life.”

JONES:Chargers step into the spotlight with Sunday night win in Pittsburgh

That’s a result of all the uncertainty of the last three months, from injuring the foot, to having a specialist in Green Bay cast it and put it in a boot, to finally finding a doctor in California who could figure the injury out. It was a long road back.

The final doctor told Bosa he’d deal with about 12 weeks of pain, and that he had to differentiate the soreness from a more severe pain—when he could identify that it was just soreness, he could play again. That’s where he is now. With the exception of having to take a rest every so often to let the foot calm down, he says he really does feel like himself again. Better yet, he really appreciates feeling that way.

“You do take so many things for granted, and this process has been horrible for me,” Bosa said. “I was depressed for a little while, but now that I’m healthy again I think it’s really important to look back on that and reflect and realize how much this game really means to me. And I mean, playing games like this, there’s nothing better in the world.”

The Chargers are pretty excited too. To be 9-3 and have one of the best defensive players on the planet rounding into game-wrecking shape is a pretty good spot to be in.

Episodes 1 through 6 available now: An exclusive True Crime podcast series from SI, re-examining the murder of Titans great Steve McNair. Subscribe on iTunes, or wherever you download your podcasts. And visit the podcast homepage for additional materials and updates. 


During the weekend that Deshaun Watson took a bus to Jacksonville, Texans coach Bill O’Brien and I spoke about his quarterback’s decision to do it—a result of doctors telling Watson, who was suffering from a chest injury, not to fly. And O’Brien kept steering our discussion back to how Watson’s decision, more than anything, embodied how his players felt about one another. So I kept listening to O’Brien over the weeks to follow.

That led me to a really simple conclusion. O’Brien loves the group he’s got in Houston. And it’s not just because, with Sunday’s 29-13 win over Cleveland, the Texans have won nine straight, to turn 0-3 into 9-3.