The Packers fired Mike McCarthy on Sunday afternoon, immediately following the conclusion of their ugly 20-17 loss to the Cardinals. The opening immediately becomes one of the most attractive — if not the most attractive — jobs on the open market. It presents the opportunity to work with Aaron Rodgers, the most physically gifted in the history of football.
Rodgers is already 35 years old and there are enormous expectations in Green Bay, so this isn’t a layup gig. But it’s one of the most coveted jobs in all of sports; Joe Philbin will be the interim head coach for the rest of the year, beginning with a game against Atlanta on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox, stream on fuboTV, try for free) and he is just the 15th coach in Packers history.
Let’s look at some possible candidates to fill the void created by McCarthy’s departure, focusing mostly on young offensive minds. The Packers obviously want to rejuvenate Rodgers as quickly as possible and try to turn the offense around. The primary complaint with McCarthy was his offensive scheme, and you can expect whoever takes over next to bring some kind of modern approach to offense or to employ someone who brings a modern approach to offense.
Josh McDaniels, Patriots OC
I can see the outrage and side eyes over this. “McDaniels? With the way he’s acted? In GREEN BAY? Please. Stop it. This is the PACKERS, good sir.” Well, McDaniels is a stud when it comes to operating on offense, he’s helped lead Tom Brady to multiple Super Bowl victories, he’s learned at the knee of Bill Belichick and after the disaster that he oversaw in Denver, he won’t be looking for personnel control. He wouldn’t find it in Green Bay either. And maybe there’s some concern about how he left Indianapolis at the alter last offseason, but the Packers won’t care if McDaniels can manage to get Aaron Rodgers to the promised land. McDaniels pedigree is unquestioned, it just boils down to whether he wants to jump ship knowing he’ll have to find a new QB at some point in the next few years while the Patriots are still succeeding. To me, this would be a really good fit, provided McDaniels can get someone to beef up the defense.
John DeFilippo, Vikings OC
Another young offensive mind who has seen his star rise in recent years, DeFilippo jumped from Eagles quarterbacks coach over to Vikings offensive coordinator and has seen mixed, but mostly positive, results in Minnesota. Kirk Cousins is working behind a questionable offensive line, but he’s put up some nice numbers despite Dalvin Cook being missing for much of the season. DeFilippo’s got a very nice resume built up over the last few years and with the Eagles struggling on offense, people are pointing to Flip and Frank Reich as the braindrain issue in Philadelphia. If Minnesota can make the playoffs and perform well on offense down the stretch, you can expect DeFilippo will get plenty of consideration.
Zac Taylor, Rams QB Coach
One of the branches on the Sean McVay tree, Taylor is drawing a lot of interest from people around the league, as reported by CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora on Sunday morning. Taylor was previously the wide receivers coach for the Rams and also served as interim offensive coordinator for the Dolphins during the second half of the 2015 season, so he has experience as a playcaller. Interestingly, he was the quarterbacks coach for Joe Philbin before he was there — Philbin came from Green Bay and is now going to be the interim head coach for the Packers. So while there’s no direct experience with the Packers franchise, there is certainly a connection there, however tenuous. As La Canfora noted, Taylor is “viewed very highly” by McVay, who has established himself as the hottest young name in the coaching business. Teams want young, offensive minds and Taylor would fit the bill.
Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs OC
Everyone is grabbing guys from the Andy Reid tree as well and as such, Bieniemy will get plenty of consideration. Doug Pederson won a Super Bowl in Philadelphia, Matt Nagy has the Bears in great position and Bieniemy is the latest guy to serve in the OC position. Like with Pederson and Nagy, we’re talking about guys who aren’t calling plays in that position (Nagy would take over late in 2017 through the playoffs) but if someone is good enough to be the OC under Reid, they’re essentially getting his seal of approval. The common belief is putting Rodgers in a system like the one Reid or McVay runs would result in massive numbers. That should be appealing to the Packers. Bieniemy has only been the OC for a single year, but he’s been with Reid over the last six seasons, serving as running backs coach after making the jump
John Harbaugh, Ravens HC
Not an offensive name, but a name that makes sense. Harbaugh and someone like Kliff Kingsbury as offensive coordinator could certainly make a lot of sense, with the Packers able to land a big name head coach, a CEO type who can bring stability but not oversee the offense. Harbaugh would probably scare people because of how bland things have been under Joe Flacco, but if he was willing to bring an innovative offensive mind, it would be a very sensible hire who gives the Packers an extremely high floor.
Lincoln Riley, HC, Oklahoma
The hottest name in college football has to be mentioned here, even if we don’t really think the Packers would pursue him, given how much it would cost to pry Riley out of Norman, Oklahoma. But the idea of bringing in Riley to work with Rodgers has to be at least intriguing to consider for the Packers — he certainly fits the bill as a bright, young, offensive mind. And you can bet he would inject the Packers offense with the creativity that Rodgers craves and, frankly, needs right now. Worth noting: Riley will almost certainly require a massive contract to leave Oklahoma and would need a lot of job security. Right now he is in the driver’s seat to make the College Football Playoff on a pretty regular basis — a one-loss Oklahoma team just snuck in ahead of Ohio State and Georgia. If Riley manages to upend Nick Saban and the Alabama defense, he could see his stock rise even higher.