GREEN BAY — Mark Murphy and Brian Gutekunst didn’t want to delve into too many specifics when asked what they’ll be looking for in the Green Bay Packers’ next head coach.
Apparently, for Murphy, the team’s president/CEO, and Gutekunst, the team’s general manager, there was only one clear-cut requirement Monday: It has to be someone other than Mike McCarthy.
“I really felt that change was needed, and Mike’s tenure had run its course. I think we needed a new voice,” Murphy said during an afternoon news conference, held less than 24 hours after the Packers’ uninspired, last-straw 20-17 loss to the lowly Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field dropped them to 4-7-1.
“In terms of the timing, I think we all would have preferred to make the change following the season (because) we’ve been in these situations with Mike before. You think back to 2016, we were 4-6, all of our efforts were in turning the season around. I really think if we’d gotten a key win here or there (this season), things would have changed. But the way the season unfolded, we were never able to get that win. And quite honestly, the performance on Sunday night to me made it very clear that a coaching change was needed.
“The performance last night, in my mind, was unacceptable.”
Murphy said another reason the team decided to move on from McCarthy sooner rather than later was to get a head start on the search. Murphy called it “a competitive process” and moving on from McCarthy “gets us into the market earlier.”
Murphy said he huddled with Gutekunst after the game and the two agreed that it was time to make a change, despite McCarthy’s nearly 13 years in charge. Gutekunst, who was named general manager 11 months ago, won’t have final say over who the next coach is, but Murphy insisted that he’ll be “actively involved” in the process as part of the organizational flowchart Murphy redesigned after demoting previous GM Ted Thompson last January.
McCarthy, 55, was in his 13th season as the Packers’ coach, having compiled a 135-87-2 record, including his 10-8 record in the postseason, and led the 2010 team to the Super Bowl XLV title. The Packers haven’t had to search for a new coach since Thompson fired Mike Sherman in January 2006, after Sherman had been stripped of the GM portion of his dual role a year earlier.
Both Murphy and Gutekunst pooh-poohed any reservations fans might have about how the next coach will be chosen. Murphy grew slightly defensive after repetitive questions about the front-office structure.
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“Brian and I will work together and we’ll hunt together and we’ll hire the best coach,” Murphy said. “I’m not going to hire a coach that Brian is not comfortable with. We’re going to find the right head coach for the Packers and he and I will both agree on it.”
Said Gutekunst: “I feel really confident we’ll come to conclusion that’s best for the organization and we’ll move forward that way. We’ve got a lot of strong people in the building that will be going through that process. … I feel very confident that we’re going to get the right guy in this.”
Who that guy will be is anyone’s guess. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who was chosen as interim head coach after McCarthy was fired, is definitely a candidate, Murphy said — although Philbin downplayed the idea that this will be a four-game audition for him. After his successful five-year run as the Packers’ offensive coordinator from 2007 through 2011, the Miami Dolphins hired Philbin as their head coach in 2012, and he compiled a 24-28 record before being fired early in the 2015 season.
Murphy wouldn’t say whether the team was looking for its next coach to already have NFL head-coaching experience, whether he would consider college candidates, or if it needed to be someone with an offensive background to benefit two-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“I’m not going to get into, ‘We’re going to look at this or that.’ Other than, the process is just getting started, and we’re going to hire the very best candidate, the best person, and the best fit for this organization,” Murphy said.
Added Gutekunst: “This is going to be an attractive job. This is the Green Bay Packers, this is one of the cornerstones of the National Football League with a Hall of Fame quarterback. Going forward, I don’t think there’s anything here that should (prevent) any coach from considering this job.”
Among the possibilities:
- Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots offensive coordinator: He has orchestrated the Pats’ productive offense and should have learned valuable lessons from his first head-coaching experience in Denver. Given Rodgers’ close relationship with Tom Brady, McDaniels should get the QB’s blessing.
- Jim Harbaugh, University of Michigan head coach: He led the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl berth before heading back to the college ranks and is believed to be someone Gutekunst likes a lot.
- Lincoln Riley, University of Oklahoma head coach: He’s got the Sooners’ offense humming its way into another College Football Playoff but might also interest the Cleveland Browns, where former OU quarterback Baker Mayfield resides.
- John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens head coach: He beat his brother in the Super Bowl and is expected to part ways with the Ravens.
- Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator: With the Chiefs’ previous two offensive coordinators (Doug Pederson, Matt Nagy) having landed head-coaching jobs, Bieniemy is next in line given Kansas City’s explosive offense.
- John DeFilippo, Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator: He worked under Pederson in Philadelphia but the Vikings’ offense has struggled of late.
- Joe Lombardi, New Orleans Saints quarterbacks coach: The grandson of legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi is part of the Saints’ high-octane attack with Drew Brees at the controls.
- Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern University head coach: He and Murphy have a connection — Murphy hired him as the Wildcats coach in 2006.
- Zac Taylor, Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach: Taylor, who is Sherman’s son-in-law, might need some coordinator experience to become a more serious candidate in the future.
- David Shaw, Stanford University head coach: Shaw previously has drawn interest from the NFL but is unlikely to leave Palo Alto.
“I don’t think we’re going to put any kind of parameters on anything as we go forward,” Gutekunst said. “I don’t think we’re going to close the door on anything.”