NFC East: Mike McCarthy
At Lambeau Field, the photos from the great moments in Packers history line the wall from the tunnel to the locker room. When the stadium was renovated years ago, they took a row of old bricks and moved it to the new tunnel so players can say they walk over the same ground as the greats who played at Lambeau Field.
With a loss Sunday, though, either team will need even more help to just make the postseason.
The Packers and Cowboys have combined for 18 NFL championships (Green Bay 13, Dallas five) and nine Super Bowls (Green Bay four, Dallas five). They produced one of the NFL’s iconic games -- the Ice Bowl -- in the 1967 NFC Championship. They were coached by legends in Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi. They rekindled the rivalry in the 1990s, meeting in the playoffs from 1993 to 1995.
The current teams carry something of a burden with them because of the successful pasts.
“We always look at it as a sense of pride and energy to tap into,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “We think it’s very important to have that and recognize it and honor it, so I always refer to it as there’s pride in the bricks of Lambeau Field and it’s something we need to tap into. We talk to our current team about it and how important it is to win and represent the Green Bay Packers the right way.”
Jason Garrett does not talk about the expectations laid out from the likes of Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Tony Dorsett, Randy White, Mel Renfro, Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. He talks about the standard those players and teams set.
“You want to be in a place where there’s a high standard for achievement,” Garrett said. “I think that’s a good thing. That brings the best out in people. What we try to do each and every day is be our best. Come to work as players and coaches and put our best foot forward and get ready for our challenges each week and again, embrace the past. That’s a good thing. ... That drives us. That’s part of what drives us to achieve, really, each and every day, and certainly each season.”
Tony Romo is constantly measured against Staubach and Aikman. Aaron Rodgers is measured against Bart Starr and Brett Favre, but he has the Super Bowl ring that Romo is still looking for, having beaten the Steelers at AT&T Stadium in Super Bowl XLV.
Rodgers has 23 teammates on the roster with a Super Bowl ring.
Romo hopes one day to have his own, so he and his teammates can have their pictures on the wall holding the Lombardi Trophy.
“You want to be a part of a storied franchise,” Romo said. “It just makes it important. You want a challenge. You want it to matter, and you want it to be important. That’s what’s great about this organization and great about our fans.”
IRVING, Texas -- The Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys are two of the most storied franchises in NFL history, but with three games to play in the 2013 season both are on the outside of the playoff chase and in need of a win.
The Packers have fallen on hard times without Aaron Rodgers but won last week against the Atlanta Falcons. The Cowboys are coming off a humiliating loss to the Chicago Bears and have a short week to get ready.
ESPN.com Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and Cowboys reporter Todd Archer debate the matchup in this week's Double Coverage.
Archer: I'll skip the "What's Aaron Rodgers status?" and ask about Ted Thompson's approach to the backup quarterback. The Cowboys pay Kyle Orton a lot of money to hopefully never throw a pass. Is there any regret form the Packers that they did not have a better backup quarterback situation behind Rodgers, considering their struggles without him?
[Editor's note: Rodgers was officially ruled out for Sunday's game on Friday.]
Demovsky: Thompson admitted at the end of training camp that he probably should have signed Vince Young much earlier than he did, although after watching Young for about a month, I'm not sure he would have been any better had the Packers signed back in the spring. Where they probably erred was in not drafting a quarterback. They overestimated what they had in Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman, and neither one developed enough. When Ron Wolf was the GM, he made it a regular practice to draft a quarterback in the middle-to -late rounds. Not all of them worked out, but guys like Ty Detmer, Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck and Aaron Brooks all came up through the Packers' system.
Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Tony Romo is "playing probably as good as he has in his career." Do you agree with that assessment?
Archer: I'd agree with that, sure. It's hard to argue against his numbers. He has 3,244 yards passing with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He's taking care of the ball. He had one really careless throw and it cost the Cowboys big-time in their loss to the Denver Broncos. Romo gets most of the blame for the December/January woes this team has had, but in his last 16 games he has 34 touchdowns and seven picks. It's hard to play better than that. But you know what? He has to. This defense is so bad that Romo has to be nearly perfect. There can be no poor drives. If they don't get points they at least need to chew up time because there's not an offense the Cowboys can slow down right now.
When the Packers won Super Bowl XLV at AT&T Stadium they were able to overcome so many injuries, especially on defense as we talked about. The difference this year is Rodgers missing time, but is there anything more to it than that?
Demovsky: They did end up with 15 players in injured reserve in their Super Bowl season, and then during that game itself they lost Charles Woodson to a broken collarbone. But you know what? This defense played fine early this season and even during the stretch Clay Matthews missed because of his broken thumb. Capers said last week that losing Rodgers had nothing to do with the Packers' defensive slide, but I'm not buying it. The Packers' defense got four turnovers in the Thanksgiving game at Detroit and still got walloped 40-10 because the offense couldn't do a darn thing with them. To be sure, there are issues on defense. Their failure to address needs at safety has hurt them up the middle, where their inside linebackers also haven't played well enough.
It sounds like Monte Kiffin is already taking heat, but how much of it is personnel? When I saw Packers castoff Jarius Wynn playing Monday night against the Bears, to me that was a red flag that there are talent issues, perhaps some of them caused by injuries.
Archer: There are talent issues and there are depth issues. Blame the owner and GM who constructed this team. Blame the coaches -- Kiffin and Rod Marinelli -- for saying the line was a position of strength. The Cowboys thought they had pieces to fit Kiffin's scheme at the start of the year. DeMarcus Ware has not been DeMarcus Ware in part because of injuries, but he acknowledged he has to play better. Bruce Carter was supposed to be the ideal weak-side linebacker and he just has not made any plays. The corners are more man corners and Kiffin has tried to play more man but all of them -- Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick -- have had issues. Sean Lee has been hurt and could miss Sunday's game with a neck injury. He's been good but the defense has been lit up with him on the field, too. It's just a mess. Until Jerry Jones realizes he needs better players, not necessarily better schemes, it will be a mess.
Let's stick with the defensive coordinators. From the outside looking in, it appears Capers is catching a lot of grief too. Are the Packers committed to the 3-4 regardless or could they pull a Dallas and move to a 4-3 in the future?
Demovsky: When the cornerstone of the defense is Matthews, an outside linebacker, I would think they'd have to stick with the 3-4 even if they part ways with Capers, which I'm not sure will happen anyway. Mike McCarthy has continually praised Capers and the defensive staff. It's probably more about personnel. They need a few more playmakers to help out Matthews. They haven't gotten enough production from their defensive front. I'd look for an overhaul in personnel more than a coaching change.
Knowing the temperature in the Cowboys locker room like you do, how do you think they will react to getting steamrolled Monday night? Is this a group that will fight? Or will they pack it in?
Archer: This is where I have to give Jason Garrett credit. This team has fought. Maybe they didn't fight all that much in the losses to New Orleans and Chicago, but they have not packed it in. You saw the last time the Cowboys packed it in in 2010 at Lambeau Field when Wade Phillips was the coach. The Cowboys lost 45-7 and were completely disinterested. Phillips was fired the next day and Garrett took over. There is some gumption to this team. They do work hard. They do the right things. I'll say it again: Most of it is a talent issue. I'd expect the Cowboys to come out with the effort Sunday because they're still very much in the playoff chase. But do they believe they can really make a run? I don't know about that.
What issues should the Cowboys consider before offering to extend Tony Romo's contract? ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins explores.
The NFL has never had a cheerleader older than 42. But a grandmother of two that will be 56 years old in May is trying to become a Cowboys cheerleader.
New York Giants
Running back Brandon Jacobs says the team is asking him to take pay cut. "It’s a great organization and I want to be a part of it, but if they’re not feeling the same way, then so be it," Jacobs said in an interview with NBC-4.
ESPN.com's Michele Steele sat down with Giants offensive lineman David Diehl to talk about his two Super Bowl championships and his NFL career.
ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk grades the Giants' special-teams play from this past season.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy says he's still trying to figure out how his team lost to the Giants in the playoffs.
Is the Eagles' front office making the same mistakes with DeSean Jackson that it did with Terrell Owens? Former governor Ed Rendell weighs in.
Sheil Kapadia of Philly.com looks at whether Plaxico Burress can be a good fit with the Eagles.
Mike Wise of the Washington Post tries to temper the Robert Griffin-mania that has gripped Redskins fans lately. "Many of the same people eviscerating this team for being so irresponsible over the years have decided responsibility is suddenly boring and want to go for it. We’re all-in again for one player who we are absolutely certain can be the answer to all the franchise’s problems," Wise writes.
The Redskins may pursue free agents Vincent Jackson, Pierre Garcon or Marques Colston in their search for an impact wide receiver.
Andrew Smith of the National Football Authority breaks down the Redskins' options for upgrading at quarterback.
Linebacker London Fletcher fired agent Drew Rosenhaus.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In wrapping up coverage of Sunday's NFC Championship Game, I wanted to point out that Philadelphia defensive backs coach Sean McDermott is now eligible to interview for defensive coordinator positions around the NFL following the Eagles' 32-25 loss to Arizona.
Several NFL teams are said to be interested in speaking with McDermott, including Green Bay. He would not fit the profile of candidates that Packers coach Mike McCarthy has previously interviewed, but McCarthy might need to lower his standards after losing out on long-time coordinators Mike Nolan and Gregg Williams.
It's not entirely clear whether the Eagles will permit McDermott to interview if teams request him.
Jim Haslett remains a possibility for the job, as does Dom Capers. But Capers also is receiving interest from the New York Giants. We'll keep you updated.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Interested in reading a love letter to Packers third-year head coach Mike McCarthy? Have at it. Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette better have a nice seat in the press box tomorrow night.
The basic premise of the column is that McCarthy is vastly underrated because the dreaded national media is focused on coaches such as Bill Belichick, Tony Dungy and John Fox?
Some of us thought Fox was squarely on the hot seat this season, but according to Vandermause, he's a media darling. But anyway, the most interesting/baffling thing in the column was that legendary P.R. man Lee Remmel (now retired) told Vandermause that McCarthy might one day be remembered as the best head coach in franchise history. No one knows more about the Packers' past than Remmel, but this statement caught me off guard.
Seems like Mike has a little ground to make up on the greatest coach in the history of the league. And don't sleep on Curly Lambeau, either. I missed seeing him in action by a couple of years, but he had to do something right to have a stadium named after him.
Mike Holmgren? Thought the guy had a decent run.
Give the column a read and see if you think I'm overreacting. It happens occasionally. Maybe McCarthy is the next Lombardi.
Remind me to tell you guys about pulling up in front of the great Vince's house last January. His grandson was at the wheel. (hat tip: DMN Cowboys Blog)