Favre: McCarthy deserved coach of the year

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The New England Patriots might have been perfect, but Brett Favre said Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy should have been The Associated Press 2007 NFL Coach of the Year.

New England's Bill Belichick received 29 votes from a 50-member nationwide panel of media members who cover the NFL. McCarthy finished second with 15 votes.

"I saw where he didn't win the coach of the year, but he was as deserving as anyone," Favre said of McCarthy. "With good reason -- he's taken a team with a lot of young faces, inexperienced faces, a few older guys, and has found a way to win 13 games. That's very difficult to do. So I give him a lot of credit. But you know, the guys here before were pretty good, too."

Asked what McCarthy has contributed to the Packers' dramatic turnaround over the past two seasons, Favre said he was "a little more low-key" than the Packers' previous two coaches, Mike Sherman and Mike Holmgren.

Favre called Sherman, who was fired after the Packers went 4-12 in 2005, a "great coach." But Favre made it clear that he doesn't entirely disagree with what apparently was a common criticism of both Sherman and Holmgren: That they both were "too engrossed in what they were doing" and tended to take some of the fun out of football.

"I've heard that a lot," Favre said. "I've never accused Mike Sherman of that, never would accuse Mike Holmgren of it. Did I see them get kind of caught up in everything, wanting to control everything? Yeah. I found myself doing the same thing. And I think what Mike has done, Mike McCarthy that is, is kind of just gotten back to the basics, allowed his coaches to coach, kept it fun.

"And I'm reluctant to say any of that, because I don't want to come across as knocking what's happened here before. I think ultimately it comes down to each guy taking responsibility for his actions. And to blame it on this coach or that coach is a bunch of bull."

McCarthy said it was an honor just to be considered for the award.

"Any time you are a part of those conversations, to me, that's enough," McCarthy said. "It's flattering to be mentioned in the same breath with a football coach that's won 16 football games. I think the season New England's had is incredible and it's a tribute to what Coach Belichick has established up there with his program.

"I'm not trying to take away anything from what we've accomplished. Just being a part of those conversations says enough about your football team and your coaching staff, that you're doing things the right way. Your program is definitely pointing things in the right direction. It's all about winning championships. To me, that's the bottom line. All the awards and that are gravy. The true goal, and always will be the goal, is to win the championship."

PITFALL: The Packers returned to practice on Friday after a four-day break. Well, most of them did. Safety Atari Bigby apparently had travel troubles and couldn't get back in time for Friday morning's team meetings and practice session.

Bigby's absence probably didn't sit well with McCarthy, who gave the players an extra day off this week specifically so they would have extra time to travel to and from Green Bay.

McCarthy wouldn't say whether Bigby would be disciplined for his lateness, saying only that "it will be dealt with."

Bigby was present in the Packers' locker room after practice and didn't want to comment on what kept him from getting back to Green Bay in time, except to say that he planned to speak to McCarthy about it right away.

"I'm going to talk to him about that right now," Bigby said.

Bigby, who has four interceptions in the Packers' past four games, was named the NFC's defensive player of the month for December.

NOTES: McCarthy said injured guard Jason Spitz was improving but won't practice until next week. "I don't have the exact day that he will go," McCarthy said. "But they're very optimistic that he'll be ready." Spitz injured his quadriceps in the Packers' regular season finale against Detroit. ... McCarthy said cornerback Will Blackmon, who injured his foot against Detroit, also will not practice until next week. "We'll actually probably test him on Monday to see where he is," McCarthy said. ... Fullback Korey Hall, who had been out with a hip injury, returned to practice Friday - and that's a good thing, because backup fullback John Kuhn sat out with an injury McCarthy described as only "a bruise."

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