In this first edition of “Tuesdays with McCarthy” for the 2012 season, the head coach discusses the back-shoulder throw, season openers and “unscouted looks,” among other topics.
Kris from Milwaukee, WI
Who came up with using the highly effective back-shoulder throw in our passing game?
It’s a throw that’s definitely been more utilized in the NFL in recent years. Traditionally, it was a throw that was more often used as a tight throw in the red zone. There are some players during my time in the league that have done it very well. The development and productivity of the throw as it’s currently used is a credit to Aaron Rodgers. An obvious key to the throw is the timing with the receivers, but arm strength and accuracy are major factors as well. Aaron has taken it to another level with his utilization of the throw anywhere on the field. I’ve never seen anybody throw it as effectively.
Meg from Belle Vernon, PA
Who’s the funniest player on the squad?
We have a lot of funny guys, and definitely a lot of guys that think they’re funny. B.J. Raji, Josh Sitton, Jamari Lattimore and Aaron Rodgers are the four that initially come to mind. They all have a lot of personality. They have a lot of fun in the locker room around the football team. Aaron is probably the biggest practical joker of the group and I would describe B.J.’s humor as eclectic. I’d probably have to say Josh Sitton is the funniest. I wouldn’t want him to read this, but I think he’s a pretty funny guy.
The Festival Foods customer question of the week comes from a Twitter fan, Chas Stevens.
Do you feel comfortable with the depth of your offensive line?
Definitely. Finalizing the initial roster is different every year and you have to take that approach to maximize the opportunity to pick the best team. During the evaluation and selection of the 53 best players, there are going to be times when the roster doesn’t reflect what is considered to be the traditional number of players kept at each particular position. Nevertheless, I’m comfortable with the offensive line, and more importantly, I’m comfortable with the team we’ve selected. It’s not just about the 53-man roster, I also believe in our process of developing young players on the practice squad. We have a proven history of success in practice-squad development, and we’re going to stay true to that process.
Q. Is there an importance for an opening game that goes beyond one game?
In reality, no. However, there is a big-picture perception that says the opening game is more important. We’re like every NFL team in that our fans are very hopeful and excited at the start of the season. There is a lot of momentum from the offseason and training camp that has built up prior to the first game. Hope and confidence are two important elements in our communication with fans, but I don’t talk about hope in our locker room. I talk about confidence. We don’t hope to do anything. We’re confident that we’re going to get it done. For many outside the building, the opener is more important than one game. The team’s approach remains the same, it’s the most important game because it’s the next game, it just also happens to be the first game. Starting fast is an important component of everyone’s season, but it’s not the most important. It’s really how you finish the journey to New Orleans.
Q. What makes the 49ers good defensively?
It’s a combination of things. The 49ers defense is very talented and their personnel fit well within their scheme. Their front seven features a number of Pro Bowl players and they play very well together. Not to be outdone, the secondary is extremely productive and plays with a lot of energy. They are a very fundamentally sound, tackle well and take the football away with regularity. They present an excellent challenge for our offense.
Q. Do you have a personal favorite among opening games during your career as Packers coach?
They’re all special. It’s unfortunate, but I probably remember the first one the most, because it was the hardest one. I think every head coach remembers his first game, and more importantly, his first home game. It was a long day. I remember exactly how I felt as I walked off the field. Thinking positively, I would say the most memorable game was the Saints game last year. I’ve never seen Lambeau Field, Green Bay and probably the state of Wisconsin so excited. It was such a unique environment because of the pre-game energy and entertainment surrounding the stadium. I thought the NFL and our organization did a phenomenal job that whole week of making it a special venue. We played an excellent Saints team and it came down to the final play. I’m confident that it was a great game to watch.
Q. What do you mean by “unscouted looks”?
An unscouted look is when your opponent does something that you haven’t seen in film study or something they haven’t done in the past. It’s very common early in the season. Every team evaluates their scheme in the offseason and adapts or creates new schemes to build off of what they accomplished the previous year. Teams will develop new plays and different techniques while utilizing new players they’ve acquired. I would estimate that 20 to 30 percent of the first game will contain unscouted looks.
Q. Do you get more “unscouted looks” in a season opener than you would for another game?
Absolutely. Unscouted looks have their biggest impact during the first three weeks of the season.
Q. Do you think your offense is ready to go?
Yes, I do. I’m eager for our team to begin the season. I’m excited about the team playing to each individual’s strengths. That’s been a focus of ours throughout the offseason and we challenged our team to do that throughout training camp. After last year’s performance, the offense is a big part of our team identity.
Q. You talked about practice being a different format and environment when you get “behind the tarps” on Hinkle Field. What makes it different?
We’re very blessed. We have the best fan base in all of sports, and our training camp environment is unbelievable. It’s very unique practice in front of stands that are full every day. Moreover, it’s not a traditional training-camp crowd where fans sit on their hands and only watch the new players or other people. Many times our crowds are providing crowd noise during the two-minute drill or doing the wave during practice. Our crowds are really into the practice and very interactive. Transitioning from that highly energized environment to a private, behind-the-tarps environment on a different field can be a challenge. Additionally, the transition from 90 to 61 players forces you to practice differently. A regular-season practice is a totally different environment. It’s more businesslike. The team’s enthusiasm is now generated from within, not from the outside. It’s good, because it tightens up the focus, and it really makes us concentrate on what we’re down on the practice field to accomplish.
Q What are Sunday’s keys to victory?
Playing to our identity. We have some players that haven’t played in the regular season and it will be important for our veteran leadership to establish the tempo and the pace of this game. We must focus on one play at a time while staying true to our fundamentals. Ultimately, it’s about playing disciplined, tough and fundamentally sound.