McCarthy: Disappointing Season Is Under Full Review


In his season-ending press conference on Wednesday, Head Coach Mike McCarthy did not shy away from taking responsibility for the Packers' disappointing 6-10 season, and he emphasized that several key elements - the coaching staff, schemes, and player leadership - are under detailed evaluation as he sets the team's course for 2009.

"It's not what we were looking for," McCarthy said of the playoff-less season that included a five-game losing streak over the final month and a half. "It's not what we prepared for. I'm not satisfied, and I'll start from the top down. It's evaluation time right now. We'll look at every aspect of our program."

Amidst media speculation surrounding the future of two of his top assistants, defensive coordinator Bob Sanders and special teams coordinator Mike Stock, McCarthy said no decisions on the coaching staff have been made during his 35-minute question-and-answer session with reporters.

McCarthy conducted exit interviews with all of the players on Monday and Tuesday and was scheduled to begin similar interviews with his three coordinators on Wednesday before moving on to the rest of the assistants next week.

McCarthy used the exit interviews with the players to gauge their opinions on what kinds of changes may or may not be necessary. He referred to being in an "information-gathering mode" and he wasn't about to make any rash decisions, one way or the other, about the future of the team until his detailed evaluations are complete.

"It's about doing the things in the best interests of the Green Bay Packers," McCarthy said. "It's appropriate, it's right, and it's the way that I'm going to do it. I'm going to go through the evaluation process, and I am going to set the course and the path for success, and that's my plan.

"Once I make up my mind, then I'll act accordingly."

Regarding Sanders and Stock, McCarthy has a lot to consider. While the defense slipped to the bottom third of the league rankings in yards and points allowed and surrendered several late-game scores, Sanders' same unit and scheme ranked solidly in the upper half of the league last year and did sustain season-ending injuries in 2008 to three key starters - defensive end Cullen Jenkins, linebacker Nick Barnett and safety Atari Bigby.

Meanwhile on special teams, punting was problematic for three-fourths of the season, the field goal team missed two potential game-winning kicks, and the kickoff coverage unit suffered some costly breakdowns at critical times. But Stock is the same coach who oversaw a rise from last in the league in 2006 to seventh in 2007 in the annual special teams rankings compiled by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.

McCarthy ultimately took responsibility for what went wrong in 2008 and by the same token is taking it upon himself to make educated, informed decisions about the future direction of his program in the coming weeks.

"I need to coach better," he said. "We need to do a better job all the way through. That's why it is important to break it down all the way to zero and start over again.

"If you ever get into the mode of, 'Hey, we did this right last year. We're OK there.' That's not going to work, not in this league, because you're either improving or you're going backwards. And we took a step backwards in some areas."

McCarthy noted that everything is under review, from the 4-3 defensive scheme that emphasizes pressure from the front four and man-to-man coverage on the outside, to the zone-blocking scheme that has been part of the offense's foundation since taking over as head coach in 2006.

The defense's biggest shortcoming was a lack of consistent pressure on the quarterback, which became evident after Jenkins' tore a pectoral muscle in Week 4 and was lost for the remainder of the year. The offense, while putting up yardage and point totals not far off those in 2007, had short-yardage and red-zone failures at some of the worst possible times.

{sportsad300}McCarthy also addressed some questions about a perceived lack of player leadership following the departure of quarterback Brett Favre and the retirement of long snapper Rob Davis. But he declined to point to the team's youth for the many crunch-time errors, and he believes the roster has the types of leaders it needs in place. He didn't name names, but he said those players need to make themselves a stronger presence on the field and in the locker room.

"We talked a lot about leadership, both with the veterans and the young guys, and it was interesting," McCarthy said. "I think we have exceptional leadership by example, and that was confirmed. Now, do we have the guy that's out there screaming and yelling and so forth? Maybe we don't. Is that why you're winning games, or why you're not winning games? I think those are the things you've got to watch.

"I think we have excellent leadership that we have to do a better job of developing in our locker room, and I think that was the consensus."

As for elements that would remain the same, the offseason program and practice schedule and structure are in place, McCarthy said.

As with any year, he expects there to be roughly 20 percent roster turnover via the draft and free agency, but the team's track record of developing young players is strong and no one will lose sight of that when the offseason program begins in mid-March.

"I think we have a very good foundation, and it's a priority, has been a priority," McCarthy said. "I think we do a very good job of developing our players in the offseason program, the way we're structured, the individual time that they spend with the coaches and so forth, the extra time we spend in the strength and conditioning."

From there it will be on to OTAs, most likely followed by the mandatory mini-camp, which was the last full-squad work prior to training camp last year. And then training camp will be used to find the best 53 players whose job it will be to get the team climbing back into the playoffs as quickly as it fell following the close call in the NFC Championship Game a year ago.

"I don't think anybody in the Green Bay Packers organization is flippant about what just happened here," McCarthy said. "I'm the head coach. I was given an opportunity to coach a group of men and we won six games. I clearly understand the responsibilities in the great organization I am working at.

"It is not acceptable. I'm not satisfied. There are reasons why we are here. We need to correct them as we move forward, and that's the facts. I'm not going to comment on past seasons and so forth, but that's the reality of where we are. We need to do a better job."

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