GREEN BAY – Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy and General Manager Brian Gutekunst will be working together to find the team’s next head coach.
On Monday, one day after relieving Mike McCarthy of his coaching duties, Murphy explained the search for the next head coach will be a collaborative process including active involvement from Gutekunst, whom Murphy hired as GM just under a year ago.
“The goal is to get the very best coach to get the Packers back to playing championship football,” Murphy said. “Our focus now is on finishing the season strong and then hiring the very best coach we can for the team.”
As interim head coach, former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin will be considered a candidate for the full-time role, but the search will be extensive. Murphy didn’t put any parameters around the type of background he prefers (offensive or defensive, college or pro experience), only saying the hire would not be made until after the season is over.
“Brian and I working together, I think we can find an excellent coach,” Murphy said. “It’s crucial for the organization.”
Downplaying any potential concerns about the organizational structure not giving him direct responsibility over the head coach, as was the purview of GMs Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson before him, Gutekunst said he feels no different now than when he was hired.
The structure Murphy put in place has all three individuals at the top of the football operation (the head coach, GM Gutekunst, and Executive VP Russ Ball) reporting to him, and that is remaining in place. Murphy added the decision to dismiss McCarthy was made in consultation with Gutekunst after Sunday’s 20-17 loss to Arizona.
“This is about the people, and I wouldn’t have felt comfortable if it wasn’t for the people moving forward with that structure,” Gutekunst said. “I feel very confident we’re going to get the right guy in this.
“This decision is about changing our course more than anything. We felt it was time to change our course.”
The loss to the Cardinals, who came into Lambeau Field just 2-9, dropped the Packers to 4-7-1 and practically speaking out of the NFC playoff picture for the second straight season.
Murphy stressed the team had not met expectations in 2018, and while turnarounds had happened under McCarthy before and hope still existed another was in the offing, the performance against Arizona was “unacceptable” and showed that hope was gone.
“I really think if we’d gotten a key win here or there, things would have changed, but the way the season unfolded we were never able to get that win,” Murphy said. “The performance on Sunday night to me made it very clear a coaching change was needed.”
In delivering the news to McCarthy in a brief meeting after Sunday’s game, Murphy said McCarthy was “professional” and the “first-class person” he’s always been in representing the Packers, whom he led to nine playoff berths, four NFC title game appearances and a Super Bowl championship in 13 seasons.
This year and last will mark the only time in the McCarthy era the Packers failed to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons.
“This is the worst part of our business,” Murphy said. “Mike’s been a tremendous coach for us. He’s also a great man. That makes it even more difficult to make a decision like this.
“We all had high expectations we’d be back competing for a championship and Super Bowl. It’s disappointing. Mike’s had a great run here, but to me it felt like it had run its course.”
The decision to move ahead with Philbin for now is based on his previous head-coaching experience in Miami (2012-15) and his efforts as offensive coordinator on some of McCarthy’s best teams at the turn of the decade.
In getting to audition over the next four games to become a head coach again, Philbin showed some mixed emotions, as his return to his old post of offensive coordinator in Green Bay after six years away did not go as planned.
“When you come back here, you want to be part of the solution,” he said. “You want to help the guy who’s been a great coach, great friend, and you feel like you let him down.”
He emphasized his focus is not on the future but on Sunday’s home game against Atlanta and the three contests that follow. Gutekunst stressed the same thing, wanting to see a locker room he believes in “play well and win.”
In the meantime, the GM’s eye also will be turning toward what’s next, both regarding the roster and the coaching hire, saying there’s “room for improvement throughout our team.” Gutekunst will have two first-round draft picks next April due to a trade he made in the 2018 draft.
“This is going to be an attractive job,” Gutekunst said. “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 hesitate any coach from considering this job.”
He added Aaron Rodgers would not be part of the search process, but finding a coach who fits the team Rodgers leads and the culture he’s been a big part in establishing will be important.
So will the upcoming offseason after a new coach is selected, as Gutekunst continues to build a team both he and Murphy believe is not that far away in a league full of constant ebbs and flows.
“Things can change quickly,” Murphy said. “We’ve had one of Brian’s drafts, and with one offseason of changes he’s made with the roster, I’m very optimistic. With the way we’ve positioned ourselves for the draft this next year, I think we can make a big change quickly.
“The expectations are high here. We want to win.”