McCarthy tries to downplay return to Lambeau
- Covered NFL since 1997, Cowboys since 2003
- Previously covered Bengals and Dolphins
- Lives in Dallas area with his wife and two children
FRISCO, Texas — Mike McCarthy did his best to downplay his return to Lambeau Field as the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach.
“I really want to win the game. Is that enough?” McCarthy laughed. “It would be great.”
McCarthy was the Green Bay Packers’ head coach from 2006 until his dismissal with four games left in the 2018 season. He won six NFC North titles, made the playoffs nine times, went to the NFC Championship Game four times and won Super Bowl XLV. His 125 wins are the second most in franchise history.
But he had to pause briefly and tap the podium when asked what he missed the most about Green Bay.
“The people. That’s why I think it’s been such a great transition for our family. Our kids, obviously born there and raised there, but to come here, and this experience, the lifestyle in Dallas, Texas, is incredible. This has been an incredible opportunity for us as a family,” he said. “But, you know, (his wife) Jessica was born there, our kids were born there (emotions) … The people. Just the people.”
McCarthy remained in Wisconsin during the year off he took from coaching.
“The exit, it left a dent, just to be honest, with our family. But it’s been four years. We’re so much better because of it,” he said. “We’ve had time to process it all and it’s a little unique. I mean I don’t recommend anybody that goes through it to stay in the town there while you go through it.”
The Packers went 13-3 in 2019 under new coach Matt LaFleur after going 4-7-1 under McCarthy in his final season.
“I don’t know why anybody would take it personally. That’s what this great game’s about: It’s about opportunities. I think Matt’s done an excellent job with his opportunities,” McCarthy said. “I was there 13 years. That’s a long time. That’s a loooong time. So you don’t ever stay the same in this game, especially as a head coach, as a successful team. You’re either getting better or going the other way. I really don’t have any issue with the change.”
McCarthy mentioned this week’s return to Green Bay to the Cowboys at Monday’s team meeting.
“I don’t think I’d have been doing my job if I didn’t address it,” McCarthy said. “Trust me, I’m the last person that wants to create any type of distraction or questions for somebody else because we’re at the point in the year now, starting the third quarter of the season, we know what it takes to win a football game.”
But his current players do have a mission.
“We want to get this one for our head coach being that he was there for some years and won a championship there and just going out here taking care of business for him, that’s enough motivation for us to go out there and do something,” safety Jayron Kearse said.
Ten players remain on the Packers roster from McCarthy’s tenure, including Aaron Rodgers. Much was made of McCarthy’s relationship with Rodgers, especially at the end.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing Aaron. We’ve had great communication. I have nothing but love and gratitude for him,” McCarthy said. “I think like anything in life I think personal relationships are private and you have to remember I was born in the 60s. I’m being better at expressing myself publicly. Just a whole lot of appreciation, not only him but players, the team that we had there, we had some great times, great moments, when I think of him, I think of the one-on-one conversations we used to have especially in the younger days, and it always ended with a hug and I love ya. So that’s what I think about our relationship. I think he made me a much better coach. You’re talking about a man that’s one of the premier professional athletes of his generation.”
McCarthy, on a conference call with reporters who cover the Packers, said he has no preconceived notions about how he will be received by Packers fans at Lambeau Field but recalled another famous coaching return to Lambeau Field.
“It’s a fanbase that loves their team,” McCarthy said. “I’m hopeful that we have a lot of Cowboys fans there. I was in a conversation last week about it. I actually worked in Green Bay in 1999 when coach [Mike] Holmgren came back to Lambeau Field for the first time. I thought the crowd treated him with respect. It’s a really special place that way, and I would be all for a very positive reception.”
ESPN’s Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.
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