In this week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," the head coach discusses some of the big moments from last week's game in Carolina, and he looks ahead to the Week 3 showdown in Chicago, 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.
Bob from Pewaukee, WI
Q. What is your greatest memory as a coach? Who most impacted you growing up and who is your greatest mentor?
A. My greatest memory as a coach has to be Super Bowl XLV. The opportunity to stand up on that stage after the game with Terry Bradshaw, who was a childhood idol of mine growing up in Pittsburgh; that was special, on a personal note. Hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in the air; there’s nothing like it. I can recall that my family was standing down to the left of the stage, and I couldn’t even look at them because I was afraid of getting too emotional. That’s clearly my best moment as a coach to this point. As far as a mentor, I had excellent youth coaches growing up in Greenfield (Pittsburgh) that impacted my life in a number of ways. I’ve also been blessed to be surrounded by excellent coaches throughout my career. Specifically, I had the opportunity to coach on Mike Gottfried’s staff in 1989 at Pitt, where I met Paul Hackett. I was with Paul for nine years and he clearly has had the biggest impact on my coaching career. The coach who had the biggest impact on me as a head coach is definitely Marty Schottenheimer. Much of the structure that’s been incorporated with the Packers is a direct result of things I learned from Marty. I’ve also had an opportunity to learn from three excellent coaches in Jim Haslett, Ray Rhodes and Mike Nolan. I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of great coaches. As a young coach at Pitt, I was also exposed to excellent assistant coaches, such as Jon Gruden, Marvin Lewis, Scotty O’Brien and Chris Petersen.
Antonio from Baltimore, MD
Q. As I was watching the game, it looked like Jermichael Finley held on for a TD grab but you didn't challenge the catch. Why didn't you throw the red flag?
A. Our coaches in the booth knew immediately the call was an application of the Calvin Johnson rule and they communicated that to me. It was clear to us how that play was officiated and we would have lost the challenge. The receiver must maintain control of the ball, all the way through the catch.
Pat from Aurora, WI
Q. Seeing an injured player taken off the field on a cart is heart-wrenching. Do you feel the concern by his teammates has an effect on the rest of the game?
A. That’s a great question. I think all of us were relieved when we saw that Nick was able to move his extremities. It’s a horrible feeling when a player gets injured, no different than when something happens to your own kids. I was immediately nervous when I walked out onto the field and Dr. McKenzie was stabilizing Nick’s neck with his hands. Slowly I started to feel a little better when he was responding well to the testing; showing strength and movement, and I think the players felt some relief, as well. After the game, Nick was being put through a series of tests to determine if he could travel back to Green Bay with us. Prior to my postgame press conference, I was told the first two tests yielded positive results. Unfortunately, when I came out of the press conference and I found out the news on the third test; it just knocked the wind out of me. Injuries and releasing players are undoubtedly the toughest aspects of this job.
Q. Is Bears week special?
A. Bears week is definitely special. Every year we have a historical highlight video that we show the team on Friday, just to make sure everybody, especially the first-year players, understand the history and tradition of the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears rivalry. We want to make sure everyone is in the proper mindset for this football game. We have posted signs throughout our work area, reminding everyone what this week is about. Everybody knows they have to take their game up a notch. This game is always about attitude, will, and finish, and that will be a big part of earning a victory in Chicago. It’ll be an electric environment, no different from the NFC Championship game last season. The players look forward to this game and it’s a game that everyone circles on their calendar when the schedule comes out. There is a great respect and familiarity between the two teams. It will be a great game to watch and it’s definitely a great game to coach in.
Q. Your defense has given up a lot of yards passing, but it’s made a lot of big plays, interceptions, sacks; how important is the yardage part of it?
A. After two games, our efficiency performance is not where it needs to be, but our football production while facing adversity has been outstanding. We’ve needed big plays in the first two games and we’ve made them. That’s something that’s hard to teach and I think that really speaks to the character of this team and the culture that’s developed. Our efficiency starts with me and the coaching staff and we need to do a better job of getting it out of the players. I believe preparation carries over into performance, and while I haven’t seen anything wrong with the preparation in the first two weeks, it has to get better and it has to carry over into Sundays. I feel strongly that it will.
Q. James Starks averaged 9.4 yards per carry. Is he taking his game to a higher level?
A. There’s no question that James has improved from last year; he arrived at training camp bigger and stronger. He’s now in his second season and that’s typically when you can expect a player to make a significant jump. Most impressively, his improvement came without the benefit of an offseason program and that tells you what kind of young man he is. He’s also a lot more comfortable in the offense. James is a unique runner; he’s elusive for a big guy. As our offense gets more opportunities, which it needs, James will get more opportunities.
Q. Is Soldier Field a difficult place to play? If so, what makes it difficult?
A. It’s a good venue and it’s loud. They have excellent fans. It’s always a challenge when you go on the road, particularly in rivalry games. We’re comfortable playing there because we’ve had some success. It’s a place we enjoy traveling to and it’s a great game-day experience, especially driving down Lake Shore Drive on the way to the stadium. I enjoy everything about it.
Q. Would you talk about your fourth-down decision late in the first half on Sunday?
A. When I make decisions in those spots, it’s about risk assessment. You have to have full confidence in the play call and I thought we had a good play call. I was expecting man-coverage and they played us man. I was comfortable with where Aaron decided to go with the ball, we just didn’t execute. People may think if you convert for the first down, it’s a great call, and if you don’t convert, it’s a bad call. In my world, it’s risk assessment, and looking back, that was too high of a risk to take at that particular time. Our defense had some ups and downs in that first half and they were on the field a lot. We probably should’ve just punted the ball and finished out the half.
Q. What do you have to do to win in Chicago?
A. Take care of the football and take it away. The Bears thrive on takeaways; that’s part of their makeup and we are the same way. The first thing we talk about every single day is the turnover ratio; we feel it is directly related to our wins and losses. That’ll be a huge component to the game. They do a great job of tackling and swarming, just as we feel we do. This game will come down to attitude, will, finish and the little things that play in and play out.
For last week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," click here.