Just after the Green Bay Packers’ 2018 season likely expired Sunday, the team made a swift but surprising move: They fired head coach Mike McCarthy.
The question on many Packers fans’ minds after the 20-17 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals had to be about whether McCarthy might make it to Monday. Instead, the team announced in a brief statement that it has “parted ways” with McCarthy and named Joe Philbin interim head coach.
Philbin now will oversee the disappointing Packers for the remaining four games on their schedule.
“The 2018 season has not lived up to the expectations and standards of the Green Bay Packers,” team president Mark Murphy said in a statement. “As a result, I made the difficult decision to relieve Mike McCarthy of his role as head coach, effective immediately.
“Mike has been a terrific head coach and leader of the Packers for 13 seasons. ... We will immediately begin the process of selecting the next head coach of the Green Bay Packers.”
Before the McCarthy news broke, he said in his postgame news conference that he wasn’t sure what might happen down the stretch.
“I mean, I’ve never been in this spot,” McCarthy said. “I’m not going to act like I know what the [heck] I’m going to do tomorrow when they get in here. So we’re going to do what we always do; we’re going to represent the Packers the right way, I know that. Other than that, we’ll focus on what’s in front of us.”
McCarthy won’t get that chance. He’ll end his Packers tenure 125-77-2, with a Super Bowl victory on his résumé. But the Packers’ brutal season, along with playoff failures in recent years, sealed his fate.
The Packers hadn’t lost a game in which Aaron Rodgers started at Lambeau Field since Week 9 of the 2016 season against the Indianapolis Colts, going 10-0-1 over those 11 home starts. Oh, and Sunday was Rodgers’ 35th birthday; was McCarthy’s firing a gift from Murphy? Rodgers and McCarthy reportedly had been at odds for some time, but certainly the losing helped raise the tension.
Rodgers got the ball back with 1:49 remaining in the game after the Cardinals took a 20-17 lead, and he led the Packers into field-goal range. But Mason Crosby’s 49-yard attempt, which would have sent the game to overtime, as time expired was no good.
The Packers’ defense did its job much of the day, but Larry Fitzgerald hauled in a miracle 32-yard grab to extend what would be Arizona’s game-winning drive. The Cardinals struggled early offensively but ended up with six plays of 20 yards or longer, most of them in the second half.
Clay Matthews and Davante Adams each briefly left the game with injuries, but this is a loss that McCarthy could not live down. He already was on borrowed time given how the Packers had struggled this season after a dramatic Week 1 comeback against the Bears. Even Rodgers fighting through a knee injury he suffered in the opener was nowhere close to excusing their level of play this season.
Poor weather – a mix of snow and rain throughout – also contributed to both the Cardinals and Packers struggling offensively at times, but this should have been an advantage for Green Bay. Rodgers attempted 50 passes but completed only 31 of them for 233 yards and a touchdown. It was tied for the fifth-most attempts in a regular-season game for Rodgers and easily his lowest yardage total for a game with more than 45 attempts.
Philbin amassed a record of 24-28 as head coach of the Miami Dolphins from 2012 to 2015.