Ahead of the Curve

He's 1 for 1 in the biggest show on the planet, besting a savvy Steelers' team last February, 31-25 (SB45).

He helped plan and implement the most talked about and successful sequel since Terminator II (Favre / Rodgers).

He had been working on a perfect season until Week 15 when his Packers stumbled against a re-shuffled Chiefs' squad, 19-14.  It didn't settle-the-score for SB1 (GB 35-10 / 1967) but somewhere Lamar Hunt and the other spirits of Arrowhead were taking a smidgen of satisfaction in the improbable outcome.

Cool as a cucumber on the sidelines, this guy garnered an NFL title in just his 5th season.

Surviving, let alone thriving in the pressure cooker that is Green Bay is no easy task.  New York, Philly, Chicago, Dallas: all just walks in the park compared to the fish bowl in the Fox Valley.  Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, so you better just win baby or you best bring the dog in at night (Devine '74).

And he's done all this without aid of what had been the Packers' trademark: a bruising run-game.  Names like Johnny "Blood" McNally ('29-33), Clark Hinkle ('32-41), Taylor ('58-66), Hornung ('56-62, 64-66), Brockington ('71-77 DT), Levens ('94-01, 06) and Green ('00-06 DT) were the beasts of burden in Green Bay's title drives.

But say the name Mike McCarthy outside America's Dairyland and most fans haven't a clue.  His focused, controlled demeanor just doesn't lend itself to ESPN celebrity chatter.

Dollars to donuts that's just fine with Mike and the no-nonsense brass at Lambeau.

While he won't spark much interest from college ADs working the BCS fast-track (favoring screamers and wily-recruiters) or generate big buzz like gridiron gurus Rex Ryan and the Harbaugh boys, McCarthy's composed, slightly-detached sideline presence is still the NFL norm.

Whatever the exterior, be it stoic Bud Grant or energized Sean Payton, chatty Hank Stram or contemplative Lovie Smith, two coaching constants remain: 1) no one style is best, and 2) their shelf-life is short.  If you don't win quick & often you'd better have friends in high places because the Suits are gonna' rotate your can right off the shelf.

Mike McCarthy has no expiration-date.  And why should he?  He brought Mr. Lombardi back to Titletown and sports a 62-32 record since becoming Packerland's big cheese in 2006.

Odd as it sounds, Green Bay's a lot like the Big Apple...in one respect anyway.  Neither town will abide a loser.  But win a title and you're royalty.  That means the red carpet treatment for life.  Anything for the asking and (most) anything for the taking.  The stories Brett Favre and Walt Frazier could tell.

One New York exception: the Giants' Tom Coughlin & Eli Manning.  Rodney Dangerfield had nothing on these two guys.  They pull-off a Super Bowl stunner (17-14 NE / SB42) in league with their cross-town rival's gigantic 1969 win over the Colts' (Jets 16-7 / SB3) and get the 'What have you done for me lately' routine with every loss.

Sporting fans: fickle is thy name.

Though Mike's not gonna get "gravy" on his post-season entree (perfect-season / NFL Network / 12-18), the Pack is still the odds-on favorite to hoist the hardware come next February.

If he does win the first Packer-backers since Vince (SB 1967-68), Wisconsin faithful won't just be naming streets & babies after the man, they'll invent a whole new cheese in Mike's honor.

It should be a hardy blend with a subtle, yet savory flavor.  You'll find it in the specialty aisle at your nearby Pick 'n Save or Kroger.  They can call it, McColby.

Steven Keys


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