By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Oct 31, 2009 at 11:09 AM Photography: Allen Fredrickson

Now that the production of "Brett Comes Home" is officially underway, we can hold our breath and cross our fingers for whatever outcome we hope for.

Some of us, of course, want the Packers to pummel Minnesota and pound quarterback Brett Favre into the "Frozen Tundra." Others want Brett to shove it down Ted Thompson's throat.

While this is a big game for Favre and for Aaron Rodgers, the guy who really has his you-know-what on the line is the head coach of the Packers, Mike McCarthy.

This game, more than any other single game during his tenure, will go a long way toward answering the questions we still have about McCarthy.

He's a coach who turned a 13-3 team into a 6-10 team last year. His team still can't get a handle on how to avoid penalties and the play-calling and offensive schemes are suspect. He talks a tough game, but plays a soft one. He obviously wants to manhandle opponents, but doesn't seem to be able to get his team to do it.

It's games like the one Sunday that will either fuel the debate about McCarthy's competence or silence his critics.

No matter what people tell you, the entire Packers organization understands that this is a big, big game. Sure, it only counts as one game in the standings, but it's so much more than that. And McCarthy really has just one job leading up to this game.

He has to get his team ready to play the kind of football it's going to take to win this game.

You'll be able to see whether he's done his job by the way the Packers play against the Vikings. If they are soft and make a series of mental mistakes, you'll know that McCarthy has failed at his primary job. If they play tough and don't beat themselves, he'll be a success.

Getting a team in the right frame of mind is the biggest job that a professional football coach has. All of those X's and O's, the substitution patterns, the blocking schemes and the defensive blitzes are handled by assistant coaches.

The team's frame of mind is the responsibility of the head coach. He has to make sure that his team is confident, that players know what's at stake and that they are ready to be warriors. He has to give the speech and create an atmosphere where each player can not only be the best he can be, but that each player can reach for the stars on a special occasion.

It's a delicate task for a head coach. But it's the most important thing he does.

It's easy to say that professional athletes get paid a lot of money, so they don't need to be motivated. But all of them make a lot of money. In many cases, the winner is determined not by skill but by the team that wants it more, by the team that is better mentally prepared to win.

Great coaches and managers have always been able to make a team better than the individual players. Bill Belichick does it. Jerry Sloan does it. Tony La Russa does it. That's what you want in a coach. Someone who makes the players perform as a unit, above their individual abilities.

While all the focus Sunday is going to be on Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, there will also be a lot of eyes watching McCarthy hoping that a chilly afternoon brings us answers to our questions.


Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.