As these thing go, Tuesday's SportsNation chat generated an extended discussion on a postseason award we haven't yet touched but carries special significance this week. If you had a vote, who would be your NFC North coach of the Year? The Chicago Bears' Lovie Smith or the Green Bay Packers' Mike McCarthy?
First, the relevant exchanges. (Keep in mind that "Mike McCarthy" and "Lovie Smith" were proxies for whomever actually submitted the questions.)
Michael Mann (Rib Lake, WI)
Everyone talks about the play calling and play designs of Mike Martz but what about his counterpart in Green Bay. Why doesn't McCarthy get this same type of recognition on arguably one of the best offenses in the league?
Kevin Seifert (2:27 PM)
I think he has. I know I've tried to point out some of the creative things he's done. It's pretty impressive when a team can run the wishbone just as easily as a five WR set.
Mike McCarthy (Green Bay, WI)
Do I have a legitimate case for coach of the year award? I mean look what I did with guys off of the street!
Kevin Seifert (2:33 PM)
You do. Although, again, those awards are based on the regular season only. So getting to the NFC Championship Game isn't counted.
Lovie Smith (Chicago)
You aren't even the COY in your own division there, Mike.
Kevin Seifert (2:49 PM)
Interesting. This much is true. Everyone thought the Packers would be good. No one thought the Bears would be.
Mike McCarthy (Green Bay)
Take [Brian] Urlacher, [Greg] Olsen, [Matt] Forte, and 12 other people away from Lovie Smith and see if he can make the playoffs.
Kevin Seifert (2:52 PM)
And we're off...
This topic is perfect: A simple question with an entirely gray answer. You could make legitimate cases for both men. Assuming you want in on the debate, let me get you started with a few further thoughts of my own.
Smith: Facing a win-or-else mandate after missing three consecutive postseasons, Smith began the offseason with a major shuffle of his coaching staff. He hired Mike Martz as offensive coordinator, Mike Tice as offensive line coach and promoted Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator. All three were risks in one way or the other, but each has elevated his respective group. Smith directed the Bears back to their core values: Winning with defense, special teams and a balanced offense, in that order. The Bears finished 5-1 in the NFC North and were the first team to win a division title this season.
McCarthy: The Packers were a trendy preseason pick to advance to this exact spot -- before losing more than 200 player starts due to injuries. McCarthy navigated the Packers through the loss of two offensive stars -- tailback Ryan Grant and tight end Jermichael Finley -- along with half of their starting linebackers. A total of 15 players ended up on injured reserve. The Packers nearly upset the New England Patriots in Week 15 behind backup quarterback Matt Flynn and have since won four consecutive games. For more details on this issue, check out Bill Barnwell's Insider piece on the health differences between the Packers and Bears this season.
Remember, the official NFL Coach of the Year award, as determined by the Associated Press, is based purely on regular-season performance. Here on the NFC North blog, we're not bound by those constraints. So let your thoughts be known in the comment section below. This isn't really an official "Have at It," but I might post a few of your responses later this week. Now get to it.