GREEN BAY—It might be the best Packers preseason in Mike McCarthy’s nine summers as the team’s coach. Now comes the hard part.
“That’s exactly how you want to finish your preseason,” McCarthy said following a 34-14 win over the visiting Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night. “I don’t know that I’ve felt that good coming out of the preseason as I do tonight. It’s a group that’s gotten better. We hit the targets. The next 48 hours are the worst part of our job.”
By late Saturday afternoon, McCarthy and General Manager Ted Thompson must reduce the Packers roster to 53 players. Chief among the decisions to be made is who will be chosen to be Aaron Rodgers’ backup at quarterback. Will it be Matt Flynn, the dependable veteran who rallied the Packers to victory in Dallas and saved the Packers’ season last year? Or will it be Scott Tolzien, the fast-rising prospect who the Packers signed last year after he was released by the 49ers?
Will the Packers keep three quarterbacks? That’s another burning question. In the past, they’ve kept two on the 53-man roster and tucked another one away on the practice squad.
“Matt and Scott each made a case to be on our football team,” McCarthy said in his postgame press conference on Thursday. It’s a comment that gave pause to the three-quarterback believers. “I think they both played very well.”
The Packers went through three different starting quarterbacks following Rodgers’ injury last November, but McCarthy had said going into this summer’s training camp that he didn’t want to overreact to last year’s troubles.
“You’re not only competing against the men at your position,” McCarthy said he told his players heading into training camp, “you’re competing with the men at every other position.”
Translation: It’s not about numbers, it’s about talent.
“You try to go about normal everyday life and hope you don’t get a call,” Flynn said following the game.
“It’s never easy. I think these are the two worst days of the year coming up,” Tolzien said.
When the decisions at quarterback and the remainder of the roster-reduction drama are complete, the Packers will turn their attention to next Thursday’s season opener in Seattle. McCarthy said the advance work has already been done, which allows the team to focus completely on the roster decisions that must now be made.
“The most important thing we have in front of us is picking the roster. The work on Seattle has been extensive. As far as game plan, we’re all right,” McCarthy said.
“It’s not the winning, it’s the growth. These are games of evaluation. We need to evaluate our players. I think you see depth that hasn’t been there in the past.”
Does he believe his is a Super Bowl team, McCarthy was asked?
“Our goal is the same every year. We’re here to win championships. That won’t change. That’s part of being a Green Bay Packer,” McCarthy said. “I’m not into bravado. I don’t want to make headlines.”
The first of 16 headlines will be written next Thursday.
COMPLETE GAME COVERAGE