Long before Mike McCarthy became one of the NFL’s top head coaches, he spent time in Kansas City becoming one of the game’s best position coaches.
McCarthy cut his teeth as an offensive quality control coach for Marty Schottenheimer from 1993-94. The 20-hour work days didn’t offer very good pay, but provided great experience. It was also under Schottenheimer that McCarthy first realized he wanted to become an NFL head coach.
If it weren’t for then-Chiefs offensive coordinator Paul Hackett’s recommendation, McCarthy might still be coaching the college game. He had worked for Hackett at the University of Pittsburgh as a wide receivers and quarterbacks coach from 1989-92 after beginning his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Fort Hays State.
Two years after joining Schottenheimer’s staff, McCarthy was promoted from quality control coach to quarterbacks coach. It was then that he worked hands-on with Chiefs quarterbacks Rich Gannon, Elvis Grbac and Steve Bono.
Gannon has often credited McCarthy as a critical figure in helping his career take flight.
“I have a lot of friends in Kansas City and I have the utmost respect for the Hunt Family in the opportunity I was given there with Marty Schottenheimer and Carl Peterson,” McCarthy said. “My daughter, Alex, is a Jayhawk so I’m definitely a fan of the Kansas City area.”
A former tight end at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas and a member of the school’s Hall of Fame, McCarthy’s roots to the Kansas City area go beyond a six-year coaching stop.
“I have great memories of the Sea of Red,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy spent the '99 season in Green Bay as quarterbacks coach after Schottenheimer's staff exited Kansas City. He then served stints as offensive coordinator in New Orleans (2000-04) and San Francisco (2005) before returning to the Packers.
Now in his sixth season as Green Bay’s head coach, McCarthy returns to Kansas City with the same propensity for developing quarterbacks and an opportunity to continue an undefeated march toward history.
Under McCarthy’s guidance, Aaron Rodgers is developing into one of the game’s greatest players. Rodgers’ numbers were unbelievable last season, but have only gotten better in Green Bay’s 13-0 start to 2011.
Rodgers has thrown for 4,125 yards with 39 TDs and just six INTs. His passer rating for the year stands at 123.3.
With the Packers still needing a win to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, McCarthy won’t be resting Rodgers or any of Green Bay’s regular starters this weekend.
“The fact of the matter is that we have to get to 14-0,” McCarthy said.
Sunday marks McCarthy’s second visit to Arrowhead as a head coach. Green Bay won the first meeting with a 33-22 comeback victory in 2007.
Rodgers was part of that team as well, serving as a backup to Brett Favre.
Though he admits there is still pain when he throws a football,
“It puts a lot of pressure on your index finger when you throw the football,” Orton said. “When you get to Week 14 everybody is playing hurt, so you’ve got to play through it.
“I’m excited to get out there and give it a go. I feel like it’s been a pretty good week of practice and it’s been good to get out there and get the timing down with the wide receivers.”
Coach Romeo Crennel saw enough out of Orton in Thursday’s practice to declare the quarterback probable for Sunday. Crennel noted that Orton appeared ahead of schedule in his recovery.
Orton plans to wear a glove on his throwing hand for Sunday’s game. Wearing a glove isn’t his preference, but it’s something he’s done before when playing with the Denver Broncos.
“I did it for six weeks in Denver when it was kind of the same type of deal, so it’s not like I’m completely unaccustomed to it,” Orton said. “It’s really just about getting used to throwing a ball with a glove on. I’ve thrown my whole life and most of it has been throwing without a glove, so you obviously don’t like to switch it up if you don’t have to.”
McGraw, who just recently overcame a shoulder injury that forced him to miss two games in November, will likely be replaced in the starting lineup by second-year safety
“Langford has been the guy who’s been going back and playing and so Donald (Washington) will get some reps and probably be up for the game,” Crennel said. “Donald played a couple of weeks ago for us and all of these guys on this team, and I told them all that at this point in the year, everybody has to be ready to play.”
Injured reserve could possibly be in the mix for McGraw with the recovery time for high ankle sprains sometimes taking weeks.
“I have not spoken with Scott [Pioli] about that,” Crennel said. “We are just trying to see if he will get well or how quickly he will go. They haven’t given me a timetable about what they expect but I’ll tell you that high ankles generally take a little bit more time. So (IR) hasn’t been discussed, but that’s a possibility.”
The Chiefs added two players to the injury report Thursday afternoon when WR Jon Baldwin and CB
“(Arenas) came in early but we had to send him home, same way with Baldwin,” Crennel said. “He was here early and we had to send him home. Kind of flu-like symptoms and we didn’t want him to spread it and know that rest is the best thing for it so we’re trying to get those guys ready to go.”
Chiefs Injury Report
Did Not Practice – S Jon McGraw (Ankle), WR Jon Baldwin (Illness), CB Javier Arenas (Illness)
Limited Practice - QB Kyle Orton (Right Finger)
Packers Injury Report
OUT – T Chad Clifton (Hamstring/Back), WR Greg Jennings (Knee)
Did Not Practice – LB Desmond Bishop (Calf), DE Ryan Pickett (Concussion), RB Brandon Saine (Concussion), RB James Starks (Knee/Ankle)
Limited Practice – G Josh Sitton (Knee)
Full Practice – LB A.J. Hawk (Calf), LB Vic So’oto (Back)