A Pittsburgh Guy … Tuesday Cup O’Super Bowl

Growing up in Pittsburgh is a big part of who I am. But I am a Green Bay Packer and we’ve come here to claim the Lombardi Trophy.” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy.

From Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas

He would never drop his guard long enough this week, but you can bet that what’s gone down for the last 10 days in the life of Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has been a surreal dream.

McCarthy is leading Green Bay into the Super Bowl against the Steelers. McCarthy is a son of Pittsburgh. He was born and raised there. He has black and gold in his blood. When he speaks there are those curious inflections that are so obviously from the river valleys of western Pennsylvania with odd pronouns like “yunz” and talk of the “Stillers.”

“The Stillers are part of me,” McCarthy said years ago, when he was working for Marty Schottenheimer’s coaching staff with the Chiefs. “But even if they had not been a successful Super Bowl team, football would be an important part of my life. Football, basketball, baseball – they were all parts of my life and contributed to what I am today. That’s just the way you grew up there. It was all about competition.”


Today, McCarthy is one of the best coaches in the NFL over the last five seasons as head coach of the Packers. He’s 52-34 including a 4-2 record in the playoffs, where he’s led Green Bay in three of the last four years.

Without a doubt, his best coaching performance has been this season. This has not been one of those seasons where the Packers dominated the NFC North. Green Bay had to win the final game of the regular season just to make the tournament field. Overall, they finished 10-6 and at one point in the season they were 3-3. Later in the year, they were 8-4 but dropped consecutive games to Detroit and New England.

It was a scramble in the final two games with victories over the Giants and Bears that pushed them into the No. 6 position in the NFC post-season bracket. With three victories in the playoffs and those last two that were essentially post-season games, they’ve now played five games in six weeks with their season on the line.

They are 5-0, hoping to go 6-0 on Sunday against the Steelers.

All that played out in a season where the team was ravaged by injuries. There are 15 players on the injured-reserve list, with players going off the active roster for the rest of the season in every month between August and November. Among those 15 players were eight that were starters or major contributors, players like RB Ryan Grant, OT Mark Tauscher, TE Jermichael Finley and a host of linebackers: Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar, Brad Jones and Brady Poppinga.

“There are challenges out there in front of you that you don’t know that you’re going to hit and when they hit you have to be prepared and you have to fight through the adversity of every season because it’s always different,” McCarthy said. “Every team is different, every season is different.”


McCarthy’s first coaching job in pro football came in 1993 when he came with newly hired offensive coordinator Paul Hackett to join Schottenheimer’s staff as offensive assistant. He held that spot for two seasons, before he was named quarterbacks coach in 1995 and spent four seasons handling guys like Steve Bono, Rich Gannon and Elvis Grbac.

He also came under a great deal of criticism from a certain columnist at the Kansas City Star who used to make fun of him calling him the only small college tight end who was a quarterbacks coach in the NFL. McCarthy played tight end at Baker.

On Monday, McCarthy was standing in front of the media on the first day of Super Bowl week, and that easy to spot now former columnist was nowhere to be seen. Back in his days with the Chiefs, those media shots bothered McCarthy. Dealing with them was all part of the education he received during those six seasons in Kansas City.

“I learned so much there, from Marty and Paul, and Al (Saunders), Jimmy (Raye), Mike Solari, Jim Erkenbeck and even from guys on the defensive side, like Gunther (Cunningham),” McCarthy said.

“There were so many talented coaches on those staffs. It wasn’t just the x’s and o’s either. It was how to handle players, how to handle other coaches, how to handle the media. I’m telling you there are not many coaches that can give you that education like a Marty Schottenheimer. It was an education that I rely on today.”

And today, he’s taking a young team – there are 27 of 53 players on the active roster that are 25 years old or young, with nine rookies and four first-year players – into the NFL championship game against a veteran and Super Bowl experienced team like the Steelers.

“The advantage Pittsburgh has over us in my opinion is today (Monday) through Saturday,” McCarthy said. “We understand they’ve been through it. That’s an advantage to them, but we feel we do a very good job preparing our team to get ready to play games. We’re going to stay true to that. As far as the game, it’s another football game, every game is. I understand the big stage; we clearly understand the different schedules that go on leading up to the game. We’ve already talked about as a football team we have things in place that we’ll deal with the long pre-game, we’ll deal with the long half-time. I don’t think it’s going to be a factor. We’re really focusing it on keeping it between the lines. They are a dedicated and focused bunch so I’m not really concerned about it.”


His rise from small college tight end to the coach of the 2010 NFC Champions is one of those football related tales that has come frequently out of the river valleys of western Pennsylvania. He grew up in the Greenfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh, hard by the Monongahela River and butting up against the Oakland section of town where the University of Pittsburgh is located to the north, the Hazelwood neighborhood to the south and the Squirrel Hill area to the east.

Greenfield was settled over 150 years ago by families where the father worked in the steel mills lining the Mon River. They were Irish, Polish, Slovak, Italian, Hungarian, and Carpatho-Rusyn descent.

Joe and Ellen McCarthy raised five children in the house they’ve called home for 41 years on Greenfield Avenue. Joe McCarthy was a policeman and owned Joe McCarthy’s Bar. At various times the entire family worked there. Many times it was in that closed bar on Sunday that Mike McCarthy watched the Steelers games.

“We’d watch for awhile and then we had to go out and play ourselves,” McCarthy said. “I was like 11 years old when they won their first Super Bowl (1974). I just remember how excited everybody was and then they just kept winning.”

Some 10 days ago, McCarthy was handed the George Halas Trophy for winning the NFC after beating the Bears in Chicago. The guy who handed the trophy to him and then asked him questions on national television was Terry Bradshaw, the Hall of Fame quarterback of those Pittsburgh championship teams.

“It’s unique for my family to have it come down like this,” McCarthy said on Monday. “I’m sure this is something that we will reflect on as a family. It’s very personal from that standpoint. I have great respect for the Rooney family and their generosity to my family and just the way they’ve always operated their business.

“I can’t deny that growing up in Pittsburgh with the Steelers is a big part of who I am.”


  • ASSOCIATED PRESS – named Steelers S Troy Polamalu NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He received 17 of 50 votes. Packers LB Clay Matthews received 15 votes, Steelers LB James Harrison had eight votes, Bears Julius Peppers with six, Bears MLB Brian Urlacher with two votes and Ravens FS Ed Reed and DT Haloti Ngata each received one vote.
  • BENGALS – fired offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski.
  • BROWNS – named Mark Whipple as quarterbacks coach, Mike Wilson as wide receivers coach, Bill Davis as linebackers coach and Dwaine Board as defensive line coach.
  • JETS – fired assistant strength & conditioning coach Sal Alosi.
  • PANTHERS – named Fred Graves as wide receivers coach, Eric Washington as defensive line coach and Pete Hoener as tight ends coach.

2 Responses to “A Pittsburgh Guy … Tuesday Cup O’Super Bowl”

  • February 1, 2011  - BigJimInWisconsin says:

    So, Troy beat Clay by a hair?
    I can’t believe 2 cheap shot artists got 8 and 6 votes.

    Nice story on Mike McCarthy, Bob. Where are your loyalties? Steelers or fellow West PA brother? Either way, it’s good for that part of the state. I can’t wait for the game.

    Go CHIEFS!
    Go PACK GO!

  • February 1, 2011  - Rick says:

    I’ll be rooting for the Packers, I can’t stand Pittsburgh.

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