As Mike McCarthy begins his head coaching tenure with the Green Bay Packers he has relied on lessons learned from his previous boss, Mike Nolan.
"He's just been a mentor," McCarthy said. "He has great insight."
Nolan, the San Francisco 49ers head coach who hired McCarthy as his offensive coordinator in 2005, has offered timely advice to the Packers' new head coach. He can relate to the same challenges McCarthy faces. After 18 years of coaching in the NFL, Nolan became head coach for the first time last year.
The two have talked on almost a nightly basis since the Packers anointed McCarthy as the franchise's 14th head coach. Nolan has instructed him to be patient. Because the enormity of the head coach's responsibilities can seem overwhelming, Nolan said to focus on the short-term, day-to-day obligations.
Nolan has also shared with McCarthy a checklist he made at the beginning of his inaugural head coaching year. He outlined every event that would happen during that year in detailed fashion.
"I kind of have the same format," McCarthy said.
Compiling a coaching staff likely served as one of the first items to check off. Nolan knew hiring the right offensive coordinator would be important. With a young offense and the No. 1 pick they would eventually use on quarterback Alex Smith, Nolan needed a coach who could groom a young offense. Having tutored quarterbacks like Marc Bulger, Jake Delhomme, Brett Favre, Rich Gannon, Matt Hasselbeck and Joe Montana, McCarthy became a natural fit.
The 49ers struggled in 2005, but they did double their win total from the previous year, going from 2-14 to 4-12. Nolan lauded McCarthy's ability to develop quarterbacks, pay attention to detail, teach and lay the foundation for his young 49ers club.
"Green Bay made an outstanding choice in selecting Mike McCarthy. Everything that I heard about McCarthy prior to him coming here was true," Nolan said. "That showed itself throughout the year. He did an outstanding job."
In his new job, McCarthy has not hired many 49ers assistants. Packers tight ends coach Ben McAdoo worked under both Nolan and McCarthy as 49ers assistant offensive line/quality control coach, but he remains the exception.
"Mike Nolan was great to me," McCarthy said. "I'm not going to raid his staff. I have too much respect for him."
The respect is mutual. For that reason McCarthy's departure represented a mix of emotions for Nolan. He was sad to lose his offense coordinator after just one year but knows the chance to serve as head coach of the Packers is an once-in-a-lifetime job.
"I'm happy for Mike," Nolan said. "I know how exciting a time that it was a year ago for me when I got my opportunity. I think he'll do an outstanding job."