GREEN BAY – In a meeting with the Packers’ coaching staff at Lambeau Field on Tuesday, Mike McCarthy expressed his desire to speak one last time to the football team.
With President/CEO Mark Murphy, General Manager Brian Gutekunst and interim head coach Joe Philbin all on board with the idea, the Packers’ former head coach gave an emotional speech to the team on Wednesday that went well beyond Xs and Os.
“He did a fantastic job talking to the team not just about football and winning football games,” said Philbin during his pre-practice news conference on Thursday. “His passion for the team and his love for the players was clearly evident. I’m sure it was emotional for him and everyone in the room. I thought he did a great job.”
Philbin said on Monday that he spoke with McCarthy twice in the 24 hours after the organization parted ways with its long time coach following last Sunday’s 20-17 loss to Arizona.
Given everything McCarthy did for the organization over the past 13 years, it was a no-brainer in Philbin’s mind to allow him that opportunity for closure with the football team.
“I think that’s the Green Bay Packer way,” Philbin said. “This is a first-class organization all the way around. It’s been like that for 100 seasons, I would guess. I’m not that old, but I’m guessing it’s been that for a long time. We do things the right way around here. Mark, Russ (Ball) and Brian were all totally supportive. They think that was the right thing to do as did I. Hopefully, it’ll help.”
The players gave McCarthy a standing ovation both before and after their former coach spoke to the media. He finished his tenure as the second-longest tenured coach in franchise history behind Curly Lambeau. McCarthy's 135 victories also are second to Lambeau, who had 212 over 31 seasons.
"I think that speaks to the success in which we’ve had for the past 13 years – 10 years since I’ve been here," linebacker Clay Matthews said. "A Super Bowl, multiple NFC Championships, playoffs, records up and down the board. Furthermore, you look at the relationships that were built over the past however many years people have been here. Obviously, that’s a position that is involved in day-to-day operations, so you have a lot of communication with your head coach. I think it was warranted and it was deserved, just because of everything he put in."
Meanwhile, Philbin conducted his first practice in his new role Wednesday, opening the 90-minute session with a fundamentals period. While he’s been instrumental in the direction of the offense during his six seasons as coordinator, Philbin said Sunday’s game against Atlanta will mark his first time calling plays since his time at Northeastern in 1996.
He’s been a fixture in the quarterbacks room this week, working through the game plan with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“I want to give him the play, I want to be quick, I want him to have time to process it, hear, and not hear a lot of clutter from me,” said Philbin, who will coach from the sideline after being stationed in the coaches’ box during the first 12 games of the season.
“He’s played a lot of football. He’s got a good handle, a very, very good handle on things. We’ll talk. We’ll be having more discussion as the week unfolds. We met extra (Wednesday) in the quarterback room, I was in there with all those guys. We’ll talk and work through whatever we have to.”
Lastly, Philbin confirmed a minor setback is what led to cornerback Kevin King (hamstring) being placed on injured reserve Wednesday. The former second-round pick played in only six games this past season.