Mike McCarthy knew change could be coming if the losing mounted in Green Bay. The former Packers coach, however, never expected to be jettisoned in the middle of the season.
"If we missed the playoffs, I expected change might happen," McCarthy told ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky in a Q&A with the former coach. "But the timing surprised me. Actually it stunned me. It couldn't have been handled any worse."
The Packers fired McCarthy after a Dec. 13 loss to the lowly Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field. Packers president Mark Murphy made it clear in the aftermath of the firing that the loss clearly played a role in the team's decision to move on in the middle of the season, something it hadn't done in more than six decades.
McCarthy took issue with being let go in the middle of a campaign directly after a loss.
"Obviously. It couldn't have been handled any worse," McCarthy told Demovsky. "Anytime you lose a close game, it's a difficult time emotionally afterwards, but when you lose a home game at Lambeau Field in December, it's really hard. And that hasn't happened very often. I walked out of my press conference, and I'm thinking about the game, thinking about how our playoff shot was now minimal. That's where my head was at. And when I was told Mark Murphy wanted to see me -- and the messenger was cold and the energy was bad. Mark said it was an ugly loss, and it was time to make change. He said something about the offense and the special teams, and he didn't think it was going to get any better. There was no emotion to it. That was hard."
McCarthy said in his 13 years with the Packers, when he had to let players go, he tried to do it with as much personal touch as possible. The ex-coach didn't feel he got the same treatment from the front office.
"That exit, frankly, Rob, the exit really stuck with me for a while," he told Demovsky. "It was hard to swallow. The emotional challenge of shifting from humiliation to reflection was a very important step in seeking clarity so I could personally grow from the experience of my entire Green Bay Packer career; that's what I wanted to get to, not just the ending of it."
McCarthy admitted in the Q&A that over the course of 13 years, it's unrealistic not to have frustrations with an organization, or even with a future Hall of Fame quarterback like Aaron Rodgers. The ex-coach also noted that he's most irritated by the narratives that his team got complacent, comfortable and stale -- particularly on offense -- under his guidance.