Whoever gets the Packers' job inherits one of the top QBs to ever play the game
It didn’t take long after the Green Bay Packers looked lackluster at best on Sunday in a 20-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals for the franchise to show Mike McCarthy the door. The move, unexpected only in its timing with four games left in the season, ends a 13-season tenure with the club that saw the now-former head coach deliver 125 wins and a Super Bowl to TitleTown back in 2010. It’s a "what have you done for me lately" league though and that answer is not much after missing the playoffs last year and winning just four times in 2018.
Now the speculation will ramp up as to who the Packers will turn to. Keep in mind, this will be one of the more unique searches in the NFL as there’s no owner to impress (or drive the bus for a particular candidate) and you can bet that team president Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst will cast a wide net to find the right fit for the most unique place in sports. Obviously, offense will play a role in driving the conversation with the team giving Aaron Rodgers a mega-contract but Green Bay figures to value fit and coaching acumen above all else.
Who could wind up replacing McCarthy? Here are 10 candidates to watch that could be the Packers' next head coach:
The NFL assistants
Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator
The Pats' offensive guru will likely be labeled the early favorite for the gig and he certainly checks off a lot of boxes. He’s been a head coach in the NFL before and he’d certainly be able to amp up the Green Bay offense. There will be plenty of questions about fit though, as he’d need to convince the front office that he wouldn’t bring a dictatorial approach like he’s used to in New England and would fit in with the more spread-out approach employed by the organization. Finding a strong defensive presence to fit alongside McDaniels will be key if he does get the nod but you can bet Rodgers would love to have him help extend his career just like he’s done with Tom Brady.
John DeFilippo, Vikings offensive coordinator
DeFilippo is in many ways a younger version of McCarthy, with a great resume full of stops as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. The front office has had an up-close look at what he’s able to do given that he’s at a division rival this season and that can both help and hurt his candidacy. He has an aggressive streak from his days under Doug Pederson and Frank Reich that would be nice to add to the rather conservative organization and also has coached under defensive-minded coaches like Mike Zimmer and Mike MacIntyre.
Pete Carmichael, Saints offensive coordinator
A trusted confidant of Drew Brees dating back to their Chargers days, Carmichael has been Sean Payton’s right-hand man in guiding one of the league’s best offenses for years. There will be plenty of questions regarding making the step up to head coach but you can probably find plenty of Saints that will vouch for him moving into the big chair and working in lockstep with the Packers' front office.
Vic Fangio, Bears defensive coordinator
If the Pack ultimately leans defense, Fangio makes a ton of sense. He obviously knows the NFC North well and can help turn things around on the side of the ball that has struggled much more in Green Bay. He’s a veteran presence in the locker room and has worked for a wide variety of head coaches, picking things up along the way.
The College Coaches
Jeff Tedford, Fresno State head coach
Tedford is a natural name to bring up for the Packers because he’s the guy most responsible for Aaron Rodgers becoming Aaron Rodgers outside of the player himself. At Fresno State, the Bulldogs were 1-11 when he took over the program in 2017 and he’s turned things around in a snap and made them a championship-winning team in just two years, so you know he can coach. He will be able to run a pro-style offense with added elements from the college game and he’s still just 57. He has been a pro coach before — albeit in the CFL — and you can’t deny the relationship with the team’s star quarterback working in his favor.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State head coach
Campbell’s name is bound to come up with every search in the NFL given his impressive background, finding success at Toledo and then turning around Iowa State in recent years as Big 12 Coach of the Year. He cut his teeth for the incredible Larry Kehres at Mount Union and would be able to be the perfect, young head coach that gets everybody in Green Bay on the same page. The NFL would be a step up but he’s proven that he’s more than capable.
Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma head coach
After the Sooners get done with the College Football Playoff, Riley’s name will become connected to every football opening from coast-to-coast. It’s hard to argue with that, given that he’s probably the best play-caller at the college level and isn’t too far off from what guys like Sean McVey have been doing in the pros. Finding a compatible defensive coordinator will be big if he seriously thinks about making the jump to the NFL but the small-town life of Green Bay and the organization’s history will appeal to Riley much more than other openings like Cleveland.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach
Another name that will be thrown around each offseason after such a successful stint with the 49ers under his belt. He brings a bit more of an attitude to the franchise and could either mix well with guys like Aaron Rodgers or potentially clash with other figures if he doesn’t get his way. It will be difficult to even pry the former Bears QB out of Ann Arbor as is, but the chance to work in Green Bay might be worth exploring given how limited these opportunities are.
Matt Rhule, Baylor head coach
Rhule interviewed last year for the Colts opening and he’s done a fantastic job taking a cratered Baylor program from one win to a bowl game this season. The former Penn State linebacker has plenty of NFL experience, having coached under Tom Coughlin with the Giants for many years so he’s no stranger to the league. His defensive mentality and ability to be flexible on the other side of the ball could play well for the Packers.
The NFL coach
John Harbaugh, Ravens head coach
We’ll see what other NFL head coaches like Ron Rivera or even Gary Kubiak get into the mix this offseason but don’t overlook Harbaugh, who may well part ways with the Ravens if they either miss the playoffs or fail to advance. He’d fit in well within the power structure with the Packers and he’s shown that he has no problem adapting to changes in the NFL. The former special teams coordinator would need to have a clear vision on offense but if he was winning games with Joe Flacco, imagine what he could do with a truly elite quarterback like Rodgers.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.