Their relationship is built on trust. Mike McCarthy trusts Ted Thompson to provide players and Thompson trusts McCarthy to coach them. What else should it be?
“We do the responsibility of our jobs without the ego,” McCarthy, the Packers’ young and rising coach, said of the dynamic that is the critical Coach/GM relationship. It is the most important two-man team in any building in the NFL. Winning begins there.
“I go back to the day I interviewed for this job. The man told me he was looking for a partnership. He said I’ll never force a player down your throat,” McCarthy said.
The man, Thompson, is the heartbeat of the Packers’ personnel department. He’s the team’s general manager and the only voice heard at pick time. He hired McCarthy – gave him his chance – and for that the young coach will be eternally grateful.
“He does a great job of picking the players,” McCarthy said of Thompson. “He makes it very easy to work with him. He’s very respectful of what I do as a coach. Ted is probably the finest human being I’ve ever had a chance to work with. He has so much integrity.”
How could you not like the players you’ve been given, from Aaron Rodgers to Clay Matthews, Bryan Bulaga to Derek Sherrod and everybody in between? In the first two days of this year’s draft, McCarthy has been given a blue-chip, pass-blocking tackle (Derek Sherrod), a do-everything playmaker (Randall Cobb), and a pounding, big back (Alex Green). They are the kinds of players that make an offensive-minded coach, and McCarthy is definitely an offensive-minded coach, dream of all the things he can do with that talent.
How do you like your guys, McCarthy was asked?
“Love ’em,” he said. “They all fit the same mold. It’s the theme and philosophy we stay true to. Draft good, tough football players,” the coach said.
Cobb is a pick that has Packers fans’ hearts beating a little faster. They see Cobb catching passes, running out of the “Wildcat,” returning punts. They see him in a kind of “Slash” role and, of course, everybody loves a little “Slash” on a clear, crisp Sunday afternoon in the fall.
“You have to make sure you have the packages in place for them,” McCarthy said of Cobb-type players, “which we do. The infectious personality; we walked out of the interview room at the combine and I said to myself I’d like the chance to coach that young man.”
Obviously, the Packers had targeted Cobb as a prime prospect.
Green didn’t play in the high-profile SEC as Cobb did. Green played in Hawaii, a program whose exposure is limited to insomniacs on the U.S. mainland that get 500 channels on their satellite TV.
“You don’t see the Hawaii kids play live. It’s not a trip you can make during the season. At the East-West game, the first play, bang, he just jumped out,” McCarthy said of his new running back. “Big back; you just don’t have enough of them.”
All of this, mind you, is the result of picking last. Yeah, the Lions are grabbing some scary-looking names, but they also had the 12th pick of the draft a year after having had the second pick of the draft and two years after having had the first overall pick. That’s where the scary names live.
“I never get caught up in this guy over that guy. It’s that whole paper champion thing. We’ve been given the responsibility of developing the Green Bay Packers. Ted does a great job and we have total faith in him and the personnel guys, and I trust he has the same faith in us,” McCarthy said.
“Ted is a tremendous filter of information. He’s so thorough and patient and trusts the board. There’s no blink in the guy.”
The final four rounds were about to begin as McCarthy prepared himself to welcome a few more players to his roster, with the hope that labor peace would soon return and, with it, the sounds of football on the Packers’ practice fields, again. That’s when McCarthy takes over. That’s his half of the partnership.