GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy confessed it’s not easy to give up calling plays on gameday.
If it weren’t for Tom Clements having spent as many years with the Packers MVP quarterback as McCarthy has, the head coach probably wouldn’t have made the change.
“The relationship between the play-caller and Aaron Rodgers is of critical importance. That’s a big part of the decision,” McCarthy said Thursday in announcing several changes to his coaching staff, a notable one being Clements taking over play-calling with the new title of associate head coach/offense.
“Aaron has an excellent working relationship with Tom. The fit with Aaron is the highest priority.”
Clements has been with McCarthy – and by extension, Rodgers – for all nine years of McCarthy’s tenure, first as quarterbacks coach in 2006 and then as his offensive coordinator since 2012.
Clements’ relationship with Rodgers goes back to countless offseason hours in McCarthy’s “QB school” before Rodgers became the starting quarterback. It has simply grown from there, with Clements continuing to attend quarterback meetings after being promoted to offensive coordinator.
“I think we always got along from the beginning, had similar demeanors,” Clements said. “I’ve always said with the quarterbacks, to a large degree it’s a collaboration, especially as a quarterback gets more experience.”
The collective effort in game-planning will extend to the rest of the re-tooled offensive staff, which now features Edgar Bennett as offensive coordinator, Alex Van Pelt coaching both quarterbacks and wide receivers, and veteran addition Mike Solari assisting James Campen with the offensive line.
Separately, Bennett had coached running backs and receivers prior to his latest promotion. Van Pelt joined McCarthy’s staff three years ago to coach running backs and now will have experience with three offensive positions. Solari has been a coordinator before in his 27 years in the NFL.
The in-season and practice responsibilities are still being sorted out, but there’s plenty of knowledge for everyone to draw upon in offensive meetings.
“Some very intelligent minds in that room,” Van Pelt said. “A lot of football has been played, coached out of that room.”
Calling plays won’t be foreign to Clements, who did so for a dozen years as a CFL quarterback and for two as offensive coordinator in Buffalo prior to coming to Green Bay.
Working side by side with McCarthy for nine years has him in tune with the way the head coach’s mind works, another reason he has McCarthy’s confidence to take on the new role.
“I think we see the game the same way, approach the game the same way,” Clements said. “A lot of times, I’m thinking, ‘I wish he’d call this,’ and he calls it. Hopefully it works in reverse this time.”
McCarthy had been considering this type of change for a while, knowing it would allow him to spread his time more evenly between offense, defense and special teams. He’s already been more involved in the defensive film review from last season, and he’ll be sitting in on special teams meetings from now on.
McCarthy downplayed the impact the NFC title game loss in Seattle had on his thought process, and he added that both General Manager Ted Thompson and President/CEO Mark Murphy were taken aback when he mentioned to them he’d be giving up play-calling. The team’s offensive track record speaks for itself, and McCarthy both enjoyed and took pride in that part of his job.
He feels the Packers offense has evolved to where the transition can be seamless, though, and he can devote more energy to other areas.
“I know I have a lot more to offer our football team, and they’re going to get that,” McCarthy said. “This is a decision that’s made over the long haul. One game doesn’t make decisions on how you run your program.
“This is not the first time I’ve thought about this. I think this is the time to do it. I think our staff is ready. It’s an opportunity for a number of guys to grow and for them to make an impact, and we feel we’ll be better offensively from that.”
ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - FEB. 12