Packers.com is introducing a new feature: “Tuesdays with McCarthy,” a weekly question-and-answer interview with Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy, in which McCarthy shares with fans his views on a variety of topics. Three fan questions will be selected each week and presented to Coach McCarthy. Go to the Green Bay Packers’ official Facebook page on Monday mornings to post your question.
Q. What’s most gratifying about the way your team played in the opener against New Orleans?
A. The most gratifying thing was we played with an edge. We played with confidence and a sense of urgency, important intangibles a team must have week in and week out. This sometimes takes time to get that established early in the regular season. I felt our team hit the target on intensity and urgency in the last two weeks of training camp. It was good to see it on opening night. Obviously, we have plenty of corrections to make off our performance against the Saints, but we definitely played with an edge, an attitude and a confidence that is very important for good teams to have week in and week out.
Q. What are your thoughts on staying on the attack vs. going into kill-the-clock mode?
A. If you’re talking about the one series we had at the end of the game, the Saints called a time out at 2:08. There was too much time before the two-minute warning to throw the ball. You have to get the clock to the two-minute warning after second down. I’m always looking to make the first down. We had a very favorable down and distance on third down and the matchup we were looking for, Jermichael Finley on a linebacker, and we didn’t convert the play. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get the first down, whether it’s a running play or a run-pass option at the line of scrimmage. Their tendencies in a four-minute defense have as much to do with it as anything.
Q. Cam Newton’s performance in the Panthers’ opener is getting rave reviews. What did he especially do well for a rookie quarterback?
A. I thought he played fast. That’s one thing I always look for when a rookie quarterback takes the field. How fast is he playing within the offensive system? I thought he got the ball out of his hand quickly. I thought he was decisive. I was impressed by how he played. Sometimes the statistics don’t support the performance. In this case, they do. The sack numbers showed he was under a lot of pressure, but for a rookie quarterback making his first start, I was impressed with the speed that he played the game.
Q. Is it important to spread the ball around to a lot of receivers, or do you just make sure you throw it to the open guy?
A. The open guy is the answer, but within our system the ball should be spread around. It’s been said Aaron Rodgers has a tough job because of all of his weapons. Aaron has the easy job. The tough job is on the perimeter group. They have to compete for the opportunity to get the ball. They can’t double everybody; that’s a misperception. Our players get one-on-one opportunities based on our utilization of personnel and formation variations. I’m confident that throughout the season every guy will have his opportunities.
Q. You have one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. What does it mean to have that kind of player in today’s game?
A. An elite quarterback gives you a chance to win every game, however, I’ve always felt the defense is the thermostat for your football team. Great defense keeps you in every single football game. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing or how the other team is structured. I’ve always referred to my defense as the thermostat and we have a great defense here. With an elite quarterback, like Aaron, it makes teams play you differently. It lets your defense factor more into the game. Aaron gives you the chance to win every game, and great defense keeps you in every game.
Q. Did you like what you saw in your team’s running game?
A. Yes, I did; I’d probably like to give them some more opportunities. We had some run/pass options throughout the game. The way the Saints played us probably dictated a little more pass than run, which is fine. We’re going to take what the defense gives us and be smart. We want to be in clean plays in which all 11 of our players are operating with good angles. We’re going to run it or throw it.
Q. What’s your greatest concern heading to Carolina?
A. Just improvement. Every game has a different path. It’s a road game; road games are harder to win in this league. It’s a home opener for the Panthers. It’ll be an electric atmosphere for the Panthers. They’re going to be excited about their rookie quarterback’s performance last week. Any time you go into another stadium, that in itself is a tough challenge. We really have to improve the quality of our play. That’s our mindset. That’ll probably show up in this article every week. Win games and quality of play: That’s all we’re focused on as a football team.
Q. How does your team’s approach differ for a road game?
A. I’m very systematic in how we prepare for games. I think it’s very important for your team to have a routine, as close as you can keep it from a home game to a road game. Our work week will be exactly the same, but there will be a travel period. I try to make sure the players have more time on the road for themselves than less. As a coach, the tendency is to get to the hotel later and control the players more by limiting their down time, but what I found was it worked as the complete opposite of what players did for home games. I’m looking to keep our players on the same schedule, home or away. The only thing different for the players home or away is they have to travel. We leave the same time every Saturday. Coming from the Midwest, that gets us into cities at a consistent time, around 3:30, and the guys have plenty of time to get dinner. It’s created an opportunity for our team dynamics to grow. Our running backs go to dinner together, our wide receivers go to dinner together. It’s become a time for our players to bond and it’s very healthy for our chemistry.
Q. The Panthers have an all-new coaching staff. What difficulty does that present?
A. It’s difficult always at the beginning of the year. You have to sort through the components of who the offensive coordinator is, who the defensive coordinator is, what their histories are. We went against Sean McDermott twice last year in Philadelphia, so we’ll look at those two games again. You look at all of their preseason film. You look at Ron Rivera’s history, which we did for when he was at San Diego. You can see the combination of Ron and Sean in their defense. You just look at all of those components and then factor how we feel they’ll use their personnel. You’re going to try to play your concepts against their personnel. That’s what we’re going to prepare for. Will we be surprised by an offensive play or two or a potential different kind of kick-return or defense? Yes, and that’s where we trust our base concepts and fundamentals. That’s what football ultimately comes down to. The prep work is done. We’re more into the game plan. We’re more concerned with how we’re going after them than how they’re coming after us. I think it’s important never to lose sight of that, because when you get in a reactive mode, I think it resonates down to your players and you start playing on your heels instead of playing on the balls of your feet.