Ron Rivera wasn’t even officially fired as the Carolina Panthers head coach before speculation began circulating about which coaches on the market could take his place at the helm for the 2020 season, but his confirmed exit Tuesday accelerated the process as Panthers owner David Tepper said he would immediately begin his coaching search.
There are a number of active NFL coaches who could be considered candidates for the job, including Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, but there is also another option who is both a Super Bowl champion and has experience inside a high-powered offense: former Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
McCarthy has been on the outside of the league looking in since the Packers fired him almost a year ago to the day, a move that marked the final chapter in what had become a contentious saga between the longtime head coach and star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. McCarthy, who claimed he was blindsided by his firing, did not land a new job for 2019 despite taking a few interviews.
A recent report from CBS Sports, though, said McCarthy is planning “in earnest” for a return to the NFL for the 2020 season, which could make him a top candidate to replace Rivera with the Panthers. According to Packers ESPN insider Rob Demovsky, McCarthy is a name to watch for the job with both he and Tepper having hometown ties to Pittsburgh.
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Would McCarthy Make a Good Fit for Carolina?
While his final two seasons were marred with mistakes and misfortune, McCarthy had an eight-year postseason run during his long tenure with the Packers that featured many good teams and a 61.8 win percentage across 204 career games. He is also among the elite group of those with a Super Bowl championship ring.
But if McCarthy wants to make a comeback with the Panthers, he will need to broaden his horizons and become far more accepting of running backs and tight ends in the passing game.
Unlike he did with Rodgers, McCarthy wouldn’t be able to rely on a single partnership to elevate the Panthers into consistent winners. He would need to take ownership in a much larger sense of the defense than during his time in Green Bay, but the leaders are currently present on defense to help with that process. A more imaginative offense than his previous systems would also be a necessity with top-shelf rusher Christian McCaffrey the team’s most dynamic player.
McCarthy would also face a challenge with either possible option at quarterback, whether it be injured veteran Cam Newton or emergent backup Kyle Allen. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Carolina’s next head coach will “loom large” in the future of the team’s quarterback position. McCarthy’s track record in that department is a two-sided coin: he developed a green Aaron Rodgers into a two-time MVP but also lost his job when his relationship with the same quarterback soured.
Tepper said Tuesday afternoon in an interview with the team website he was looking to “put my stamp on this organization on the football side” in regards to firing Rivera, which he described as an emotional-but-necessary move.
“Quite frankly, our season is … not over but as far as making the playoffs (it is),” Tepper said. “I could make the change now. I could make it later. there are competitive reasons why I wanted to make sure we are out there looking at all personnel possible for the future. I don’t want to in any way, shape or form … be having inquiries where Ron didn’t know what I was doing. I don’t want to be doing things not up front. It’s just not who I am.”
Depending on how far Tepper wants to put his own brand on his new football team, a Pittsburgh native such as McCarthy might just fit the bill.