Tom Clements Departure Doomed Mike McCarthy

I must admit, I was a little shocked when I learned the Green Bay Packers fired Mike McCarthy just a couple hours after losing to the Arizona Cardinals yesterday (and announced the move just a few minutes after I published my post defending him). The move itself wasn't too much of a surprise. I just thought they would wait until the end of the season before moving on from him.

As I absorb that and reflect back on McCarthy's 13-year career in Green Bay, I also am realizing his sudden decline and ultimate downfall might have started at the beginning of 2017, when his assistant coach, Tom Clements, left the team.

When you look at McCarthy's early success, Clements was the one constant. He was the quarterbacks coach for a soon-to-be-departing Brett Favre and an up-and-coming Aaron Rodgers and later served as offensive coordinator and assistant head coach. During his time with the team, Rodgers won league MVP twice and one Super Bowl MVP title.

Just as important was the play of the backup quarterbacks under Tom Clements. Matt Flynn looked like a bona fide star when playing in relief of Rodgers even though his overall talent level showed serious limitations when he moved on to play for other teams.

In 2016, McCarthy opted to give the play calling duties to Clements then wound up taking them back about mid-way through the season, something that likely played a large role in Clements deciding to leave the team the following year. However, if the results since he left are any indication, the decision to let him walk away proved to be a mistake.

When Rodgers got hurt last season and backup Brett Hundley was asked to fill in for him, he ultimately proved he wasn't Matt Flynn. He simply looked unprepared for the role.
And, this year, even though Rodgers has denied it, there has been some regression in the starting quarterback's fundamentals. Again, I'm not convinced that would have been the case had Clements remained with the team.

In fact, as I reflect on the impact Clements had in his time with Green Bay, it makes me wonder if maybe McCarthy wasn't the quarterback guru he was given credit for and, instead, just received credit for what Clements was doing behind the scenes. With him currently unsigned by another NFL team, maybe the Packers' new coach should take that into consideration when choosing his staff.


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