In this week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," the head coach discusses icing the kicker, the no-huddle offense, and Aaron Rodgers' vision, among other 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.
Anthony from Manteno, WI
What do you think was the hardest call you ever had to make while coaching a game?
I have made a lot of decisions during my career, but I can’t really rank which one was the toughest. The ones you remember the most are when you feel that you didn’t give your team every chance to win a game. That’s ultimately the mindset you have while managing a game from the sidelines, maximize the chances your team has to win. I go back to the 2007 NFC Championship Game, with Lawrence Tynes. He had missed two field goals during the game, and he was lining up for the 47-yard, game-winner in overtime. I can still remember the official, Jeff Bergman, asking me if I was going to call a timeout to freeze the kicker. I told him to stay with me and I’d let him know. As they lined up and Tynes got set to kick, I recall saying over the headset to Joe Philbin, “Get the offense ready. He’s not going to make this.” So I didn’t freeze him. I’m aware of the low percentages regarding the success of freezing the kicker, but I still second-guess myself. I had every intention to freeze him, and I decided against it. I don’t know if you can say it’s the wrong decision, but I feel as a coach you have to give your team every chance to win the game. Making him re-kick that field goal following a timeout could have extended the game. That’s one that will always stick with me, because when he lined up I was going to freeze him. I thought he was going to miss it, but he nailed it and the rest is New York Giants history.
Steve from Menomonee Falls, WI
Do you ever take a step back to appreciate this historic run, or does the focus remain on the next opponent?
I remember someone telling me when I was younger that you need to smell the roses along the way, but I don’t really know how to do that. I never adopted that mindset. I think it’s important to be in touch with what you’ve accomplished, and I am. I have a tremendous appreciation for not only where I work, but who I work with every day. When I get up in the morning and come to Lambeau Field, I have a great appreciation for the opportunity to coach the Green Bay Packers and be part of the history. That’s an incredibly humbling opportunity in itself. I don’t count the games, and I’m not on top of the specifics of what we’ve accomplished. I really believe those are conversations for after the season. I find it irritating to have to answer big-picture questions or forecast the future. Such discussions and questions are the antithesis of what we are trying to accomplish in the short term. There’s always so much interest in the future, can we do this or that. Everybody that understands football realizes that if you don’t keep your eye on the target and what’s in front of you, you’re going to get beat.
Chris from Sheboygan, WI
Do you anticipate changes to the game plan for colder/snowy games at Lambeau Field in the playoffs, or do you trust that Aaron Rodgers can maintain his level of play even in harsh conditions?
We line up every week and formulate a game plan that puts our players in the best position to be successful. The weather conditions are something we consistently monitor. Our practices are structured according to the environment we feel we’re going to encounter on game day. If the forecast calls for 45 degrees with a 50 percent chance of rain in Kansas City, we’ll make sure our practice environment is 45 degrees by opening the doors to the Hutson Center, while also incorporating wet-ball drills. We will always try to mimic what we feel the game-day environment will be. As it relates to the game plan, you have to be smart and allow it to be versatile enough to adjust to the environment. Everybody thinks you have to have a game plan for good weather and bad weather. I’ve never done it that way. Pre-game is the time to determine what adjustments need to be made based on the weather. The wind and rain have the greatest impact. Rain requires more of an emphasis on the fundamentals of handling the football. In windy conditions, it’s essential to utilize pre-game to determine how the ball is moving and the direction of the wind. In my opinion, the offense has the advantage in inclement weather, because the offensive players know where they’re going. Essentially, our offense is built to beat the defense we’re playing that week and we manage the weather conditions within that game plan.
Q. What is the purpose of using the no-huddle early in the game, when time is not a factor?
The benefit of the no-huddle is playing the game with an increased tempo. We’re an up-tempo operation on both sides of the ball. People think blitzing teams always blitz because they’re trying to get someone running free at the quarterback, but they’re also trying to pick up the tempo of the game. It’s the same thing on offense. We want to max out the 60 minutes. The two schools of thought are to play fast or to slow the game down and play it close to the vest. We’re in the up-tempo school of thought. From an offensive standpoint, we want to get as many cracks at our opponent as we possibly can. The other part of the equation is that we have an excellent quarterback who can handle a lot of information and a lot of responsibility at the line of scrimmage. Aaron is exceptional in his ability to run an offense at the line of scrimmage. He’s very good at that and our offense as a whole is very good at communication on the field. Additionally, I’ve always liked the no-huddle because it’s excellent training for our two-minute drill. There isn’t an opportunity to train your quarterback in live situations during the offseason and preseason in the two-minute offense. The no-huddle offense is as close a training environment as you can get to the two-minute drill. You have to be successful in the two-minute offense to win championships, and that’s all part of the vision.
Q. Aaron Rodgers talks about throwing to the open receiver. Does he have a special knack for finding or seeing open receivers?
I wouldn’t call it a knack, I would call it a discipline and a skill. To go through your progressions, that comes with training and discipline. He has a very good understanding of defense and does a great job of gathering pre-snap information, and that gives him a starting point for building a progression. If you design a balanced offensive formation and you extend four receivers out on the perimeter, based on the way the defense plays you, there’s a starting point in the progression. He’s very disciplined in his progressions and he plays with excellent vision. When I look at the quarterback position, there’s a difference between playing with vision and eye discipline. Vision is seeing what you’re supposed to see, and eye discipline is having your eyes where they’re supposed to be. They are two different components of training a quarterback, and he’s exceptional in both of those areas.
Q. Do you consider football to be an edge sport?
The word “edge” can mean different things. The old-school football fan would probably say the game has gone from the middle of the field to the edge, because football has become such an athletic, spread-out, in-space game on the perimeter. That’s one way to look at the word edge. Another way is in relation to a person’s attitude or approach. If you don’t play this game with an edge, you don’t even get in the room. You don’t get invited to the conversation. The professional football player is a special human being. Their ability to survive and the innate ability to overcome is something you have to possess just to make it to this level. Certainly, there’s athletic ability players need to be blessed with, but there’s also an attitude that’s needed to overcome situations because this game doesn’t come easily and naturally to everybody. There are a lot of things that need to be overcome to play this game, and if you don’t have that edge, you don’t make it to this level.
Q. Why was the running game so successful against Oakland?
Execution. Ryan Grant did an excellent job with his reads. He put his foot down and got north and south, and that’s his running style. He’s a physical runner, especially at the second level of the defense. He’s a high-knee, leg-driving type of running back. Frankly, I would have liked to run the ball a lot more in the second half. Our preference would have been to pound the football the whole third and fourth quarters. However, with the injury to Brandon Saine, we were down to two running backs and it just didn’t make a lot of sense to get into a smash-mouth football game. At 31-0, that turns into a smash-mouth game from an offensive standpoint on a normal weekend, but we were short a running back.
Q. Did you see a greater sense of urgency in your defense this past Sunday?
I’ve never seen them lack urgency, but I thought there was a sense of urgency in their execution. It’s something that’s been talked about. The team as a whole is very accountable, and the defensive guys have a lot of pride. They’ve played championship-level football. They know what it looks like and feels like. That’s how they wanted to go out and perform, especially at home. To a man, everybody understands it’s all about the next game. The old saying is you’re only as good as your last game, but my message on Wednesday to the team will be you’re only as good as your next game. That’s the focus we need to have. That’s the reality of the National Football League. Your last game doesn’t mean anything; it’s the next game that counts.
Q. What were the circumstances involved in the “Tuck Rule” play?
I thought Pete Morelli and his officiating crew did a great job of getting the call right. I think it was clear to everybody that it wasn’t a fumble under the definition of the “Tuck Rule”. They showed it numerous times on the scoreboard while we were talking to the officials. What happened was when Oakland scored on the potential fumble return, it was a reviewable play in the booth because it was a scoring play, but the penalty on the return raised the question of whether it was a scoring play or not. That was the discussion between the officiating crew and myself. They had already marked off the penalty and were giving Oakland the ball, so when they determined it was classified as a non-scoring play, I had to throw the red flag to challenge it. That’s why the play took so long, because we had to work through those mechanics. It was a very interesting situation. I don’t know if that’s ever happened where there was a penalty on a scoring play that also needed to be challenged and then ultimately, reversed. It was a good job of game management, and I thought Pete Morelli did the right thing by taking the time to get it all sorted out.
For last week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," click here.