In this week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," the head coach discusses the interaction among assistants, the team's Christmas schedule, and Kansas City's defensive scheme, 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 to pose your question or Tweet it to @Packers #McCarthyseries on Monday mornings.
Randy from Jackson, MS
Do offensive coaches help with the defensive game plan at all, and vice versa, or ultimately does each part of the staff work alone and then report to you?
The typical flow of the workweek during the season has the staffs working separately. Traditionally, the plans are finalized separately and conveyed to the head coach. One thing that is excellent with our staff, and it’s built by hiring the right people and creating the necessary culture, is the interaction with one another. Very often position coaches will meet with their counterparts on offense or defense, especially if we’re playing against a coordinator that another assistant has worked with in the past. There’s a lot of back and forth on our current staff, a lot more than I’ve seen in my other experiences. You’ll see Kevin Greene in James Campen’s offense, or you’ll see Dom Capers and Joe Philbin interact a lot. It’s not uncommon to see Darren Perry or Joe Whitt talking to Edgar Bennett. Ultimately, we are true to our schemes and game plan accordingly. Overall, it’s a very healthy environment with a lot of conversation going back and forth. The length of our tenure together probably has a lot to do with that. I would consider our assistants a very close group. They do things away from football together, and that’s always a good sign.
Michael from Winnipeg, MB
How are you handling the Christmas night game as a team? Will the team stay at the team hotel the night before, or will the players stay at home?
This will be the first time in my tenure that we don’t stay at the hotel the night before the game. We have a family-first philosophy with our football team, but it’s not without structure. It’s important for everyone to understand that there’s a difference between a family emergency and a family situation. However, Christmas and the holiday season are important. Our men need to be with their families on Christmas Eve and I feel very strongly about that. It’s important for them to wake up Christmas morning with their families, particularly the players who have children. The schedule really works in our favor because it is a night game. Typically, night games are tough on the players because there’s so much dead time before the game. There’s so much waiting around, guys are always antsy to get to the stadium for a Sunday night or Monday night game. Once we finish our meetings on Saturday morning, everyone will be off until they have to report to the stadium on Sunday. Our regular Saturday night team meeting at the hotel will be Sunday afternoon prior to the game, so we will just have everyone arrive at the stadium a little earlier than normal. I really like the way the schedule lays out and I think our players and staff are appreciative. It gives our players a chance to step away, and they won’t have that same waiting-around feeling because they’ll be with their families on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Scotty from Nashville, TN
Do weather conditions influence your coin-toss decision?
Absolutely. We look at all the variables – the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, the field we’re playing on, the wind, the stadium environment. There are a number of variables that we talk about every Friday afternoon, and all of that goes into our decision to defer or not defer.
Q. What effect do you think a loss will have on the team going forward?
The message to the football team has been you’re only as good as your next game. Our current position is such that our next game means a great deal to us. It’s important for us to stay focused on the next game. We had an opportunity on Monday to re-emphasize the lessons learned from the Kansas City game. I felt good about the way the players responded to the message. It’s all been addressed, and the page has been turned. I felt at 3 o’clock on Monday when we walked out of the team meeting that we were on to Chicago, and we have to be. The Bears game is always important. Everybody understands the historical relevance of this game, but more importantly, home-field advantage is within our grasp and we need to grab ahold of it.
Q. Is it likely your future opponents will try to do schematically what the Chiefs did defensively?
I would hope so. We’ve seen a lot of man-to-man coverage from teams that feel they can match up and challenge our receivers. I think our receivers are excited about the opportunity to play against man-to-man. When we meet on Wednesday mornings with the players and talk about the passing game, and we’re playing a team that emphasizes man-to-man, the first objective that goes up on the board is green grass. The emphasis is on the release at the line of scrimmage, beating the defender and utilizing all the green grass that’s available. We look forward to playing man-to-man defenses, because we’re an offense that looks for big-play opportunities, and we have people who can make those plays.
Q. Is it as simple as win the individual battles?
At the end of the day, it is, but it goes deeper than that. The individual battle is the priority, but you also have to have the discipline of knowing when to help a teammate. For instance, on the offensive line, everything we do as a run-blocking and pass-protection unit is designed to create as many two-on-one, three-on-two or four-on-three situations as we can. We try to eliminate as many one-on-one scenarios as possible. However, if the defense dictates one-on-one matchups, you have to win your individual battles. That’s the priority, but you have to take it a step further and look for schematic opportunities to create advantageous situations when you can. A lot of times that’s what creates big-play opportunities. If Joe Philbin has said it once he’s said it a thousand times, offensive tackles block defensive ends, that’s what they are paid to do.
Q. You don’t have to deal with undefeated questions anymore. Is that a relief?
Frankly, I didn’t mind the questions, because those are good challenges. Annoyance often accompanies repetition in life. Anytime you have to deal with something on a daily basis that doesn’t pertain to what you’re truly focused on, that can be annoying, in any line of work. We were all-in on the 19-0 mindset. The opportunity is no longer available, but the ultimate goal is winning the Super Bowl. We need to have a great week of practice and we need to get some players healthy. I’m a big believer that games are won between Tuesday and Saturday, and then you perform on Sunday. That’s our weekly focus and that remains the same going into the Chicago game.
Q. Are you a stats guy? What stats are important to you?
The most important statistics are wins and losses, but aside from that, the first two things I always look at are turnover ratio and quarterback rating differential. They tell you a lot about your team. I also look at points scored and points allowed. Those are statistics that give you a general idea of what kind of football team you are, and what kind you’re playing against.
Q. What is your most fond Christmas memory growing up?
I just remember the excitement and anticipation of Christmas. My parents always did a great job with the decorations and making it fun for us. They still put the same old train around the Christmas tree back home. There are traditions my wife Jessica and I are instilling in our family. We’re really looking forward to having Christmas together. This is the first time we’re going to have all the kids together on Christmas morning, so that’s going to be exciting for us. As a kid, it was about the thrill of coming downstairs and seeing Santa Claus’s cookies half-eaten and the milk glass half-empty, and all the toys. I can remember the Matchbox cars. I was really into those as a kid. There were always footballs, baseballs and a new Steelers jersey. Both my parents come from big families, so Christmas week was about going to one of our aunt’s or uncle’s houses each night. Our families were very close and we had a lot of fun with all the cousins. I can remember as a teenager, going to midnight mass, and we had a tradition of going to my Aunt Pat’s house after midnight mass, right by St. Rosalia’s church. We could open up one gift before going to bed. Christmas was, and still is, special to my family.
For last week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," click here.