Fixing the discord and disconnect that have marred the Green Bay Packers’ season wasn’t instantly accomplished with the dismissal of head coach Mike McCarthy, judging by a tweet that resulted in the firing of an associate coach Tuesday.
The Packers parted with Winston Moss, who had been with the team for 12 years and coached linebackers, after he tweeted a message that seemed to question the leadership qualities of Aaron Rodgers, a quarterback who is about as Teflon-coated as a human can be.
“Ponder this... what Championship teams have are great leadership! Period!” he tweeted. “It’s not the offensive guru trend, it’s not the safe trend. Find somebody that is going to hold #12 and everybody in this building to a #LombardiStandard! Period! #losingsucks!”
That sounds pretty much like boilerplate coachspeak, designed to motivate the troops, who are 4-7-1 and in danger of missing the playoffs for the second straight year. But the message about “#12” and “everybody” caused Moss to tweet a little over nine hours later: “The Packers have informed me that there letting me go. #thankstwitter!”
Joe Philbin, the team’s interim coach and offensive coordinator, said in his first news conference Wednesday that the firing was about “fit” and added, “It’s never about one thing.”
The Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Ryan Wood pointed out that Moss has “cast the organization in a poor light” before, one reason that he was the only assistant coach who was not available to reporters this season.
“As I said to the team, we’ve got to be professional, accountable, respectful and punctual,” Philbin said (via ESPN). “Those are the four things that we’ve got to do the next four weeks. And if we do all those things, we’ll be in good shape. It wasn’t about — again, you’re talking to a guy who’s never tweeted in his life, doesn’t even know what Twitter is — so again, it’s not about a tweet or anything like that. I just think the fit right now isn’t where it needs to be.”
“Winston’s an excellent football coach,” Philbin said later. “I’ve known him a long time, respect him; outstanding family man. So it wasn’t an easy decision, but I just didn’t feel like the fit right now was where it needs to be.”
Philbin, who takes over after the team lost to a two-win, warm-weather team in the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field on Sunday, is tasked with coaching up Rodgers and his teammates and coaxing victories in the final four games out of them — probably the only way the Packers would have any chance of making the playoffs.
That would make Philbin an even stronger candidate to replace McCarthy permanently. Team President Mark Murphy and General Manager Brian Gutekunst called Philbin, who was the head coach of the Dolphins from 2012 to 2015, a “legitimate candidate” to stay on for next season.
“This gives us an opportunity to see Joe as our head coach for four games, see how the team responds and see how the coaches and others respond,” Murphy said. “And hopefully we can finish the season on a strong note.”
But the 2018 season seemed to be on the wrong foot even before it started when, back in February, Rodgers questioned the team’s decision to part with his quarterbacks coach and friend, Alex Van Pelt.
“My quarterback coach didn’t get retained. I thought that was an interesting change — really without consulting me,” he said. “There’s a close connection between quarterback and quarterback coach. And that was an interesting decision.”
The situation worsened when the season began. Rodgers played through a knee injury he suffered in the opener, but he and McCarthy were increasingly at odds. Rodgers went from passive-aggressively questioning the play-calling to stating it, as well as questioning the execution of plays and his own performance. Others questioned Rodgers’s performance, right down to his mechanics and fundamentals. It all came to a head Sunday with the loss to Arizona and the firing of McCarthy.
Former teammate Mark Chmura called into question Rodgers’s role with the kind of criticism that Rodgers is not accustomed to. “Aaron’s not going to come out of this looking good. Aaron might be happy, but Aaron, to me, looks like the prima donna basketball player in the NBA that wants his coach fired,” Chmura told ESPN Milwaukee. "There were rumblings last week — 'cause I listen to a lot of the national media — that were saying Aaron Rodgers is difficult to coach, whether that’s because he’s smart or whatever the case may be. He might be happy, but I don’t think he comes out of this looking good. He got his coach fired.”
Perhaps, but McCarthy and others are expendable. Rodgers is not.
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