Skip to main content

McCarthy Returns To Kansas City With Fond Memories

Mike McCarthy might have grown up in Pittsburgh during the Steelers’ four Super Bowl titles in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until he got his first NFL job in Kansas City that he truly became exposed to NFL fanaticism at full volume. - More Packers-Chiefs Game Center


Mike McCarthy might have grown up in Pittsburgh during the Steelers' four Super Bowl titles in the 1970s, but it wasn't until he got his first NFL job with the Kansas City Chiefs that he truly became exposed to NFL fanaticism at full volume.

To this day, McCarthy remembers his first game at Arrowhead Stadium as an offensive assistant coach. Seven years after concluding his playing career at nearby Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan., he was getting ready for the kickoff of Kansas City's 1993 preseason home opener against the Buffalo Bills, the three-time defending AFC champions and the same team the Chiefs would face in the AFC Championship five months later.

"There's 70-some thousand people, and I'm up in the (coaches') box with the windows open," McCarthy recalled. "When they introduced Marcus Allen and he went running out of that tunnel with the crowd screaming, it was like, 'My God, I've never heard anything like that.' Then they introduced Joe Montana, and you thought the house was going to come down. And it was preseason!

"I played small-college football, and I'd never been around anything like that. That's something I'll always remember."

It's something he hears every Sunday when his Packers play at Lambeau Field now, particularly when quarterback Brett Favre is introduced. And though he's almost a decade removed from working in Kansas City, McCarthy knows the Arrowhead Stadium atmosphere will be just as he remembered it when he returns there this Sunday for the first time as an opposing coach.

McCarthy spent six years in Kansas City (1993-98) as he launched his professional coaching career. He worked two years for the Chiefs as an offensive quality control assistant and four more as quarterbacks coach.

He subsequently came to Green Bay for one year as quarterbacks coach in 1999, spent five seasons as offensive coordinator in New Orleans (2000-04), and one with the same job in San Francisco (2005) before returning to Green Bay to become Head Coach last year.

None of those stops included a game at Arrowhead Stadium, so there will be some nostalgia involved for McCarthy this week, at least until the game kicks off. He shared several fond thoughts and memories of Kansas City in a one-on-one interview with as he prepared his team to keep its perfect 2007 road record (3-0) in tact.

"It's something I'm looking forward to," McCarthy said of being back on the Arrowhead Stadium sidelines. "I have great memories of Kansas City, both on a personal and professional level. It was a really good six years there. We won a lot of games and had some excellent teams.

"I can't tell you how great an organization it was to work for. It starts with the Hunt family. It's a family-type (franchise) similar to Green Bay. You felt the day you walked in the door you were part of something special."

Lamar Hunt was the Chiefs' founder who passed away last December, and McCarthy said beginning with Hunt and trickling down through CEO Carl Peterson and others, everything about the organization was top-notch.

McCarthy feels blessed to have received his NFL baptism there, and he's reminded of Kansas City's first-class approach to the business as he thrives in a similar situation in Green Bay.

"When you think about the Green Bay Packers, the environment to work in here and the resources we're given here on a daily basis, winning is the only objective," McCarthy said. "I was introduced to that type of environment in my time in Kansas City.

"There are a number of things I learned there as far as the environment, culture, and mindset that are a big part of how I believe our environment is run here today."

Gameday atmosphere certainly qualifies, and in both Kansas City and Green Bay it starts outside the stadium with longstanding tailgating traditions.

One of McCarthy's many memories of his first season in Kansas City was a Monday night game at Arrowhead against the Packers on Nov. 8, 1993. Before the game, he was on the field catching up with Green Bay receivers coach Jon Gruden, who had worked with McCarthy on the University of Pittsburgh staff two years earlier.

"All of a sudden this big cloud, a fog or whatever you want to call it, came and sat right over top of the stadium," McCarthy said. "It kind of just blew in. Gruden asks me if we're expecting rain, and I said no, it was supposed to be a great night."

It turned out to be nothing close to a rain cloud. Arrowhead Stadium and the adjacent Kaufman Stadium (for baseball's Kansas City Royals) share some expansive parking lots, and all the tailgating smoke had somehow gathered and hovered above the stadium, eventually lifting as fans put out their charcoal fires and came in to sit down.

"It was one of the wildest things I've ever seen," McCarthy said. "It looked like it was going to storm, but it was smoke from all the barbecue pits."

The Chiefs went on to beat the Packers that night, 23-16, on their way to an 11-win season and an AFC Championship appearance.

{sportsad300}Under Marty Schottenheimer, McCarthy also was on the staff of two 13-3 teams in Kansas City, and in those years the home-field advantage the Chiefs enjoyed at Arrowhead really took hold. The atmosphere became a prelude to what McCarthy later would experience in Green Bay.

"The pre-game introductions there, I used to get goose bumps it was so loud," McCarthy said. "Every week, it didn't matter who you were playing. It's just an incredible environment. That's all I ever knew. It was my first job in pro football, and I just assumed every place was like that, but as you move through the league you find out that doesn't hold true.

"I think Lambeau Field is definitely like that, like Kansas City. There are very few stadiums you can say create that environment for their football team week in and week out."

McCarthy's Packers now have the challenge of winning there on Sunday coming off a dramatic overtime victory in another difficult road venue, Denver's Invesco Field at Mile High. Dating back to last December, the Packers have won five straight on the road and are 8-3 away from home under McCarthy, but Sunday could present Green Bay's tallest road task yet.

Before the team left for Denver last week, McCarthy said he asked Charles Woodson, who played eight seasons for Oakland, which AFC West location was the tougher place to play - Denver or Kansas City.

"He just laughed and said Kansas City," McCarthy said. "It starts with the national anthem. It's something very unique."

During the final line of the Star Spangled Banner, as the Arrowhead crowd sings, "And the home of the ...," it fills in the last word with a raucous, in unison, "CHIEFS!"

"You know you're in for a long one from a crowd noise standpoint before the ball is even kicked off," McCarthy said. "It's all about football.

"You can't ever pull away from that stadium and not feel good about the competition you just encountered. I've only walked away from home team locker room before, but I'm sure it'll feel the same. They have great fans and they have a great gameday. It's going to be a great opportunity for us to go and win a tough road game. That's a tough place to play."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.