"It's here," current Dallas Cowboys head coach and former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said with resignation on Monday when asked about facing his former team on Sunday in Green Bay. "Just like anything, you have to get ready to go win. Obviously I have great memories about Green Bay and I spent a lot of time there, but I'm four years removed from working there."
However, no amount of time away will be able to erase his 125 wins, second-most in Green Bay's storied history behind only Hall of Famer Curly Lambeau's 209 from 1921-1949, the Super Bowl XLV title he won alongside that game's MVP and current Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, or the relationships he made along the way during his 13 seasons as head coach from 2006-2018. McCarthy's eyes began to water when asked what he misses most from his time in Green Bay given his wife, Jessica, and their children were born and raised in northern Wisconsin.
"Like anything, it's the people," McCarthy said. "Our kids were born there, raised there. ... The lifestyle in Dallas, Texas is incredible. This has been an incredible opportunity for us as a family. Jessica was born there, our kids were born there ... I miss the people."
One person McCarthy is looking forward to seeing is Rodgers, his former quarterback that won a Super Bowl MVP and two NFL MVPs (2011 and 2014) under his tutelage.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing Aaron," McCarthy said. "We've had great communication. I have nothing but love and gratitude for him. ... Whole lot of appreciation, not only for him, but the teams there. We had some great times, great moments. When I think of him, I think of all of our one-on-one conversations we had, especially in the younger days. It always ended with a hug and 'I love you'. That's what I think about our relationship. He made me a much better coach. We're talking about a man that is one of the premiere athletes of his generation. I spent the weekend watching him play quarterback, he's still playing at an extremely high level. ... I'm looking forward to seeing him."
The four-time NFL MVP echoed his former head coach's sentiments Tuesday on "The Pat McAfee Show".
"I'm going to give him a ol' hug I can tell you that much I'm excited to see Mike," Rodgers said. "We've shared some messages the last couple weeks. I know it means a lot to him to come back. I really hope the reception for him is as warm as it needs to be. He's got a street named after him, obviously we won a Super Bowl together. He meant a lot to the town for 13 years, a big part of our success. Obviously, he'll be in the Packers Hall of Fame at some point. I think it's important we honor him the right way. Not just him, obviously he deserves a lot of love and respect coming back, but also others on that staff coming back to the area. ... Mike in general deserves a lot of credit, a lot of respect and hopefully a great ovation at some point. I don't know what we're doing. I would expect some sort of message on the jumbotron at some point in the game. Mike has a big heart, hopefully he let's the emotions flow a little bit."
"The fans clapping?" McCarthy said when asked if he expected a positive reception as the visiting opponent. "I would take that. The Green Bay fans are very nice, and I expect them to be very nice Sunday afternoon. I haven't thought much about that. I'm going there to win."
With the passing of time, most people can look at many of their life experiences with a positive frame of mind. However, McCarthy likely very much recalls how his time with the Packers ended abruptly with his firing coming after a 20-17 Week 13 home loss against rookie quarterback Josh Rosen and the Arizona Cardinals. The present-day Cowboys head coach was relieved of his job with the Packers shortly after the game that Sunday, something that has stuck with him to this day.
"The exit left a dent, to be honest, with our family, but it's been four years," McCarthy said. He then detailed how he stayed in town in his year off between coaching the Packers and Cowboys. "I don't recommend anyone who goes through that to stay in the town there while you go through it. I think back to my year off, I had a number of knee surgeries. My rehab was at Titletown Orthopedics, right next to Lambeau Field. Don't recommend that either four days a week. It's all part of it. Our family will always have strong ties there."
After answering question after question about his ties to Green Bay and the Packers, McCarthy's tone intensified as he refocused on the task at hand, running the Cowboys' record from 6-2 to 7-2 and extending the 3-6 Packers' misery. Green Bay is on a five-game losing streak, tied for the longest in Rodgers' 18 years as a Packer. The only other time in the last 18 seasons the Green and Gold have lost five games in a row was Weeks 12-16 in the 2008 season, Rodgers' first as the starting quarterback.
"I really want to win the game. Is that enough? McCarthy said with an intense, big smile.
Either way, one method to catch McCarthy while he's back at his old stomping grounds might be to camp out on Mike McCarthy Way, the street named after him thanks to leading the Packers to a Super Bowl win to conclude the 2010 season. He and the other two Green Bay head coaches to lead the team to Super Bowl glory, Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren, have been commemorated with this honor.
"I may have to drive by it to see if the sign is still up."