6 Candidates to Replace Mike McCarthy as Green Bay Packers Head Coach


The Packers may be mathematically alive, but their season is in all likelihood over. As I’ve said repeatedly as a Packers fan, Mike McCarthy is more responsible for the aggregate success during his tenure in Green Bay than he is generally given credit for. Nevertheless, a new voice is needed to salvage the end of Aaron Rodgers’ window (Rodgers, by the way, is definitely not blameless in their struggles, but he just re-upped and isn’t going anywhere). Here are a list of six candidates to replace McCarthy — the first three are the most realistic options, while the last three are interesting but do not have the same level of candidate efficacy.

[UPDATE (12/2): McCarthy has been fired and we’ve added a seventh candidate.]

John Harbaugh

There have been persistent reports that Harbaugh and the Ravens would mutually part ways after this season if Baltimore does not make the playoffs. These have quieted a little given that they’ve won their two games since the bye. Nevertheless, if Harbaugh were available, this would be the slam dunk no brainer for the Packers to hire someone with a great temperament and Super Bowl pedigree.

Lincoln Riley

The NFL is bending towards offensive innovation, and a lot of that innovation is taking root in college. Riley is going to be a sexy name in NFL circles until he takes a job. There was some thought that he’d be a candidate for the Cowboys (which would be very hard for him to turn down) and Browns (obviously he has a preexisting relationship with Baker Mayfield), but right now Dallas looks like they could be a playoff team and therefore might not get rid of Jason Garrett, and Gregg Williams seems to have galvanized Cleveland. Maybe it’s a pipe dream for the Packers to lure him to the Midwest, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try.

Josh McDaniels

If I were a betting man, I’d say this is where they most likely wind up. Albert Breer broached the subject a couple weeks ago. McDaniels knows what it’s like to work with a legendary talent at QB. I’m not a thousand percent sold on the hire because Bill Belichick’s coaching tree is basically a telephone pole as far as the NFL is concerned (obligatory mention that Nick Saban is remarkable in college; Bill O’Brien has not been as bad as the rest in the NFL but he also is not a sterling beacon of success). I can see why the Packers would do this, though, because they need an offensive mind and the hot young coordinators have been picked off right and left the last couple years.

Dabo Swinney

Dabo coaching in the NFL may be a pipe dream that is only held by my boss Jason McIntyre and me, but I think this would be a great idea for the Packers. In my vision, Dabo would be a figurehead in charge of quality control and general motivation. Mike Pettine would stay in charge of the defense. Aaron Rodgers would essentially get the Peyton Manning treatment as offensive coordinator. It bears mentioning that Rodgers is not blameless for the Packers’ issues on offense this season, but at this point in his career I’m not sure he’s going to get along with any tight-reins coaching so we might as well see if he’s capable of handling the playcalling responsibilities like Manning was under Jim Caldwell.

There is, I think, a mistaken belief that college coaches are doomed to be bad hires because of prominent busts like Steve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino, and Nick Saban. Nevertheless, as Jason Lisk pointed out in 2014, college coaches like Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll (who did have previous unsuccessful NFL head coaching experience) have actually been amongst the best hires in recent decades.

Matt Rhule

Rhule, who has rescued Baylor from the ashes of the unyielding Art Briles scandals, turned down the opportunity to be part of the Colts’ coaching search last year. Though Baylor is just 6-6, they have been more competitive to this point than expectations. I expect Rhule to be a little like Riley where we are going to hear his name in NFL coaching candidacy circles every year until he takes a job.

Pete Carmichael Jr.

This is one that I qualify as highly unlikely to happen, but it bears mentioning that Carmichael has been the offensive coordinator for Sean Payton and Drew Brees since 2009. I know that Payton is the one who is really in charge of the offense there, but couldn’t the same be said for Andy Reid, who’s coaching tree has been exemplary? I guess now that I mention it I don’t think I’ve ever seen Carmichael speak so I have no idea if he could be the type of presentational force that NFL front offices covet, but it’s just weird to me that he’s had so much success and never gets mentioned for open jobs.