McCarthy mulled working for Fisher instead of with Favre
Where his career would have gone from there, Mike McCarthy doesn’t know.
But the Green Bay Packers head coach knows this much: He was so impressed with Jeff Fisher during his 1999 interview with the then-Tennessee Titans head coach, he would have passed up the opportunity to coach one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history to work for him.
McCarthy, who’d spent the previous six seasons as an assistant in Kansas City under Marty Schottenheimer, was out of work that offseason following Schottenheimer’s resignation after a 7-9 season. That led to two interviews for McCarthy: One in Green Bay with new head coach Ray Rhodes, who was replacing Mike Holmgren; and one with Fisher, whose newly-named Titans – after playing the previous two years as the Tennessee Oilers following their move from Houston – were a team on the rise and building a new stadium in Nashville.
After the two interviews and before getting any job offers, McCarthy spoke with his father, Joe, back in Pittsburgh. He couldn’t stop talking about Fisher, the former Chicago Bears safety who’d become the team’s interim coach during the 1994 season and was seen as one of the NFL’s best young head coaches.
“[If] you’re talking about building a program, Jeff Fisher emulates that to the highest,” McCarthy recalled Thursday, as his Packers prepared to play Fisher’s St. Louis Rams Sunday at Lambeau Field. “I just marveled at the job he did there [with the Oilers/Titans].
“[I] really left there with a very strong impression. I’ll never forget, Jeff picked me up at the airport, we spent the whole day [together] – [I was] just really impressed with him and everything about his program.
“I can remember telling my father when I got back. He said, ‘How’d it go?’ I said, ‘Dad, you always talk about trusting your gut. If Jeff offers me the job, I think I should go to Tennessee.’
“He says, ‘You’re not going to go Coach Brett Favre in Green Bay?” I said, ‘I’m just telling you based on the way the interviews went.’
“He obviously told me I was nuts and I had to go to Green Bay to coach Brett Favre.”
That’s what McCarthy ended up doing. He didn’t say Thursday whether Fisher actually offered him the job or not.
“Ironically, ‘99 I do come to Green Bay and we all know what happened after that season,” McCarthy said, referring to Rhodes and his entire staff being fired after going 8-8 in their only season. “And Tennessee played in the Super Bowl. Go figure.”