Tis the season to be fighting over end of the year awards. It could be who should go to the Pro Bowl, some sort rookie of the year, Defensive Player of the Year, or even MVP, but in the end these discussions are a chance for us fans to quibble over the finer points of who is better and who is worse in a way that goes just a little beyond the scope of the scoreboard. Now these awards don't necessarily go to the most popular or even the most deserving. Often it's just a combination of current performance, name recognition, expectations for him and his team, and how his team is doing. In this sense the media controls this about as much as the players and coaches themselves do.
With these things in mind let's talk about an award that has been on my mind the last couple weeks....Coach of the Year. It's a fairly important award and handed out every year by the AP (there's that media influence again).
Anyways, before I get to my point I want to tell a story. Once upon a time there was a team in a bit of transition. The team was turning over its roster, but still had some talent. It was being led by a first time head coach going into his second year and coming off a year that was pretty mediocre. Needless to say expectations were low going into the year, but then something happened. The team got off to a fast start and won some close games. The QB that many thought were washed up and proving that he could still play in the league. The weeks went past and this team kept winning. It may not of been the most impressive team that year, but it was a fun feel good story that went on through the year. That team won its division and ended up taking second seed in the NFC playoffs.
Now many of you know I'm talking about the 2007 Packers. It was a great little team that could. Those who may not have remembered that year, as close as it is in time, may have thought that I'm talking about a team like the San Francisco 49ers or popular story teams surfacing now. Whenever a team jumps out beyond its expectations, like the 49ers, or the Bengals, or the Lions, or the Titans, or the Broncos, people start talking about the coach for coach of the year honors. Rightly so, but what happened to to that 2007 squad and its head coach? Did McCarthy win for improving a team beyond people's expectations and taking previously middling group to the edge of the Super Bowl?
There was another coach in 2007 that did something that hadn't been done before and won the award based on that performance. Bill Belecheck won coach of the year because his team was undefeated. Since coach of the year is a regular season award, and BB won every single regular season game, he was thought as the only real candidate.
Fast forward back to this year though. How often do we hear about MM as the only real contender in much the same way that Rodgers is talked about as MVP? His name may be kicked around, but really all those overachieving teams tend by be more popular conversation points currently.
Why is that? Well it might have something to do with his dynamic and engaging personality with the media. After all, many of us can remember the excitement and following that MM was able to draw at the combine this past spring. For those that don't remember, McCarthy (just after his Super Bowl victory) didn't really get many reporters at his table while Rex Ryan had a fairly large national audience. McCarthy doesn't give aggressive handshakes, a brother in the league, or pick fights with a coach after the game. He doesn't snub coaches after games, throw hissy fits on the sidelines, or make big boasts in press conferences.
You know what he does year in and year out though? Teach guys to be great football players. Year after year young players are stepping up for the Packers and making the most of the opportunities given to them. In the time that he's been here the Packers have won a Super Bowl, been within one game of making another, transitioned from one Hall of Fame QB to a top 3 QB in the league, and accomplished things that have not been seen in this town since Vince Lombardi himself strolled the sidelines.
Despite this he's still thought of as lagging behind Sean Payton as an offensive play caller and coach (even though it was McCarthy who beat out Payton for the Packers job). He's not mentioned in the same breath as Tomlin or even Rex Ryan really. Really he's like the stud LT of coaches. When he's doing his job he just kicks ass and goes unnoticed, but his screw ups are broadcast and studied under a microscope. He may even be underrated in this league.