Can you speak to your time at Baker and Fort Hays and how that laid the foundation for you to become coach of a Super Bowl team.
My experience at Baker University, I was around a great coach, knew it then, in Charlie Richard. He was very successful, was an excellent recruiter. When you took the field, you felt like you were the best prepared team, so those two years there, we had two very good football teams, and still have personal relationships still today back there. Dan Harris just retired as the athletic director, was the offensive coordinator and was also an excellent coach. He's a line coach.
So just those relationships, the success we had as a football team. I had the opportunity to go on to Fort Hays State University, and I had the opportunity to work for John Vincent and Duane Dirk, two excellent coaches. They gave us a lot of responsibilities as graduate assistants. That was a very good experience for me personally, to coach defense. Duane Dirk was a defensive coordinator. To learn base defense and when I moved on to the University of Pittsburgh, I had a clear understanding of the defensive side of the ball, the basics. So two excellent experiences for me.
What was your thinking behind the scheduling of your team this week?
The week's schedule, we just presented it to the players yesterday. Yesterday was actually a Monday for us. So we had a team meeting. We did the review for Chicago, and we moved on to the Pittsburgh Steelers and basically went through personnel. That's a normal Monday operation for us. So then today is a Tuesday, so the players are off. It gives them an opportunity to tie up any loose ends for travel for their family and so forth, getting ready for the trip to Dallas and then tomorrow will be a Wednesday. So we are going on a normal schedule and Monday will be an adjusted Saturday for us, which is our travel day.
Why did you start today as Monday?
We have had five in a row. We have had five games in a row and I really wanted to make sure that, A, No. 1, the players had a chance to get their bodies back and have plenty of time to make care of their personal responsibilities that go it into the preparation for Super Bowl week. I basically moved it back as far as I could and with good reason. Frankly we are going to practice in pads both tomorrow and tomorrow is Wednesday, which is really Friday. So tomorrow and Friday and Saturday, which is our Wednesday, Thursday. Because I do want to make sure our team has an opportunity to get their bodies back and then we'll get back into pads down in Dallas.
Do you know anybody who won't practice right now?
I do not. I'm not really concerned about it because there will be a bunch of treatment going on today, and hopefully we'll be close to full-go tomorrow.
You're real consistent with that sort of thing. How do you think your players perceive you and respond to that same type of routine week in and week out, knowing where you're coming from on things?
My experience in coaching and life, people want discipline. People want structure. They want that in their life, especially in their professional life. It's very important. I do it every week that they get, OK, normal Wednesday, they know the schedule but we go through it every week and it's very important that everybody knows exactly where they need to be, what's going to be asked of them and what the expectations are.
So I think it's very important to group continuity, regularity. We talk about culture, we talk about environment, and scheduling is a big part of it. It will be good to go through a normal flow of game preparation because when we do go to Dallas, it's going to be different and there are some things that we are kind of finalizing the schedule for Dallas today as far as what exactly we are going to do every single day down there. So we had a chance to go through everything with the coordinators.
I had a meeting with the captains on a couple things and so forth. It's just important to paint the picture any time you go into a new environment, what the expectations and the responsibilities are, and with that, and when you go into a new environment, there are going to be adjustments. Somebody is going to get their feelings hurt. As we know, we have experienced that already and no apologizes will be given because everything we do is in the best interests of our 53 players.
When you put your playbook together, is the volume different or is it just a different set of plays?
I've always told the offense, we have enough plays to play doubleheaders, and that's really true because just the way our structure is built. It's not a big deal for us to take protection and put it with a different pass concept and put it into a different personnel group just because of the way it's all put together. We have plenty of offense whether we play indoors or outdoors. That will be no different. I think the biggest mistake is – just going through it this morning, you watch too much film and you have too much volume. But we are not going to do that. We have volume-control components in our game planning and we will stick to those like we do every week. So our volume will be exactly the same for this game as it has been.
Since you brought it up, what went into…?
Well, I thought that would be the first question. I'm impressed; you waited.
I'm very patient. What went into your thinking and did you change your plans for the photo based on the reaction by Nick?
Really the reaction was a total overreaction, and just to make it clear, I will tell you exactly what happened, as opposed to what I really think about it. Monday, actually Sunday night, Ted Thompson, Doug Collins and Matt Klein and Jeff is very much involved in that, too, all of the planning for the Super Bowl. I chose to stay out of it because I did not want to be occupied with any of the planning as I was the part that I was in '07. It was an experience that I felt that I learned from. So with that, they had a lot of questions for me. It started Sunday night on the plane back. So first, the most important part was travel, for the families and the players, so we addressed that Monday and how we are going to do that.
As far as the IR situation, it's different. We have 15. It's a large number, so there are different components that went into why they traveled when they traveled. So with that; so I spent Monday and Tuesday, really getting the schedule ready for this week. And then Tuesday the captains, Aaron and Charles, came up to the office. We had a couple of things we had to discuss and they brought the issue, I guess you would call it, to my attention. I had heard about the Twitter and didn't really frankly pay much mind to it because of the individuals involved. So we discussed it, we discussed a number of things, curfew and they did what good captains do. We had a conversation, I said I'll look into it, Ted was traveling to Mobile. I talked to him that night, and he said, hey, they usually do the picture on Tuesday. I said I'm going to move it to Friday. As you know how Ted is, he goes, 'You take that picture any time you want.' So we moved the picture to Friday. That's really the end of it.
So I haven't seen Nick. I haven't seen Jermichael, either one of them, since Chicago. I think they made a poor decision, what they did. But we feel great because if that's the biggest issue that we have in our preparation, we are going to have a hell of a week. So it's not that big of a deal.
*You talk about your decisions and winning the championship; is part of that not wanting 15 guys who don't have work to do down there for the full week and the potential distraction that could come from that? *There's a number of components and I really don't want to waste anybody else's time with it. It's unusual, because your initial plan is you take everybody. But you're off site -- there's a number of reasons why it was Thursday as opposed to Monday, and good reasons. Because at the end of the day, it's about getting ready for this game. It's not that they are not part of the team. They are in the photo. You want them in the photo and that's important. That part is in place. But we have to do -- we have to create the environment and the structure down there to get these players ready for this game and that's what every decision has been based on.
Going back to that volume control part a little bit, when you start pulling things out and fine tuning the game plan you're actually going to take to the game. Is that something done after a couple of days of practice?
I'll say this, we'll probably have 90 percent of what we want to do. We'll save something for the players to put in down there. I don't think you need to rush through. We have had more time than we have ever had to really prepare for a game. Personally I've been through 11 games already. I think you have to watch that you do too much as opposed to not enough.
We'll take this week and go through the normal week, but as far as trying new things, if something doesn't look right, you throw it out, and you still have the ability to add it Wednesday, Thursday, Friday down there, because it's going to be similar to how we operate up here. It's not going to be the same because we have responsibilities with the NFL as far as media and scheduling. We have to travel to practice, so there's other factors in how we operate in Dallas.
So I don't want a sprint to get everything ready before we get on that plane Monday. That's not what I'm looking for. We'd be prepared to play a game by Monday if we needed to but we don't need to. So I would say we have about 90 percent of our work done before we get on that plane Monday.
I'm sure you were aware of the special relationship between the town and the team in Green Bay, but what's it like to actually be here and immersed in it and involved in it on a daily basis?
It's surreal at first, it really is. I'll never forget my first experience coming to Green Bay in 1999. I came here to interview for the job and Sherman Lewis picked me up at the airport, he was the offensive coordinator at the time. You get off the plane, and back then, you got off the plane, you got right off on the ground. They didn't have the terminal. You didn't walk in the terminal. I didn't understand when I got off in Chicago why everyone had their coats on. I took my coat off and everything, and so when the plane opened and everybody is getting off the plane, I knew why they all had their coats on and I didn't have mine on. That was unique.
Coming out of the airport, you're driving down, and just the drive down Lombardi Avenue, it reminded me of South Hills by South Hills Mall back in Pittsburgh. You see like Red Lobster, K-Mart, banners, there is Lambeau Field. My goodness, there's different. And then having the opportunity to work here, it's just so unique. You have a stadium in your backyard in a sense and a relationship with the town and the team is very unique, very special and well documented and I very much enjoy it. It's very family-oriented. It's a special place.
Have you had a talk with your team about the potential distractions and all of the media and all of the hoopla down at Dallas to make sure they stay focused and this is a business trip?
I'll do that Monday. We have had an opportunity to go through an NFC Championship week with a lot of media here. I'm sure the volume will go up our next three days as we are in Green Bay. But we will take Monday and spend a lot of time and I'll go through the whole week, day by day, hour by hour, so they know exactly what is expected of them. It's important for them to manage it, because it's about winning this game.
I understand the parties and everything that goes on, but they can go to those parties the rest of their lives. This is about preparation and preparation will be the prize, as we go into the game, because obviously the Lombardi Trophy is the goal. We'll be as organized as we possibly can. Something is going to be screwed up. I've been told that by a number of coaches. So you have to be able to let it roll off your back and somebody else is going to get their feelings hurt. We're going to continue to make sure that we do everything that's in the best interests of getting our football team ready to win this game.
Back in '06, '07, I imagine you were sizing him up at that point what did you see in him at that point in his development?
Well, Aaron Rodgers, from day one, just having the opportunity to go to his workout, see him live in his workout coming out of college, you never questioned the ability. Big-time arm. He makes fun of me he gives me a hard time about it, but he's a much better athlete today than he was in college, or vice versa, I didn't recognize it. So you can officiate that one, because he continues to do so.
But the talent was definitely there. There was nothing physically that you didn't like. I like long levers, big hands, and we changed some things in his mechanics, things that's really helped him. But as far as his point of release, he had excellent fundamentals when he came into professional football. There was just some adjustments, but there was a lot there to work with. What you look for, is he bright? Yeah, he's bright, but I always talk about, do they have that, that spontaneity, the ability (snapping fingers rapidly) to respond and play fast, think fast, and as he grew in the offense, it was very evident that he had that.
As far as being a great quarterback, you don't really know until you put him out there. I always felt that he was going to be a very good quarterback. I never questioned that. That's the reason why he was picked in the first round and was considered for the No. 1 pick in the draft. I don't think that was ever questioned. I know it wasn't by myself. But he came up the right way. He had the opportunity to learn, and looking back, I think he's probably glad that this path was blazed for him, because it helped him build a foundation and helped him prepare for his opportunity. And he's a tremendous quarterback.
It takes a special person to replace a legend. When did you notice that he had what it took?
He needs to kiss his mom and dad for that. That's genetic. His character and his initiation into the starting role was probably as tough as it has ever been. He handled it tremendously from a personal standpoint. I think that speaks volumes to Aaron as a person, and that's exciting, because it's all about storms. When you weather storms, you learn from them. You grow from them and it just continues to galvanize him as an individual, and I think that's a big part of why he's a special person, alongside being a special quarterback.
What about his ability to extend plays with his feet to make plays with his arm, is that something he had? How did that evolve?
Well, there's a natural instinct to it, but Tom Clements deserves definitely some credit for it because of the drill work that's done and the emphasis on playing in the pocket and the transition to out of the pocket. I don't recall seeing that as part of his game in college. Now, he'll tell you that he did it in junior college or high school, because that's how players are, they have always done it.
I think Tom has done an excellent job with the quarterbacks and the quarterback school the whole training, and he's very natural at it. I think that's why you see year one, the sacks are a little higher, and then they go down. It's a part of learning an aspect of quarterback play, because you have to know when to stay in and when to come out and how to get out and when to throw it away. That all comes with experience. He does a great job with it.
Can you talk about the challenges of going up against linebackers like Woodley and Harrison?
I think they are examples of really how that whole defense plays. They are extremely physical players. They do a great job of anchoring the edge, setting the edge particularly in the run game. They are just very knowledgeable. The thing I've been most impressed with, just the defense, it's obvious they've all played together for so long. You see the way they flip their pressures and their linemen get the checks. The communication, that's a big part, because obviously we are on the same system. The growth of the communication is the key to playing faster as a defense and we have experienced from year one to two, now you watch a group of men that have done it now for how many years. It's impressive, and Harrison and Woodley are excellent pass rushers, so it's an excellent pair. You know, statistically, probably the best pair over the last five years I would think pressuring the quarterback.
Bush is a key player on special teams. Sometimes players get reputations and get picked on by the fans. He went through that. Did you ever see that affect his confidence, and have you been impressed by how he's rebounded from that to really show how valuable he is?
Jarrett has never blinked. That's what is so impressive about him. He's such a competitive individual. Every day at practice, you know, he competes for the ball in jog-thrus. He's just so competitive and it's been nice to watch him mature into the player that he has become. He played from day one. We acquired him here from Carolina and he was really put on special teams.
I think sometimes when some of those opportunities that were missed earlier in his career, you know, things get magnified because based on where they happened in the game and so forth but he was relatively a young player. I think you're just seeing a mature, dynamic football player on special teams. He's having an incredible season especially here down the stretch. He's playing at a very high level and I'm sure Pittsburgh will have a plan for him.
Going back to Aaron Rodgers, as much as you guys thought he could do it, was that game in Dallas in '07 important because he did do it in a game?
Really, that particular moment, it was a big déjà vu for me, because you coach quarterbacks, and actually it happened when I was near in 1999. Brett Favre, we were playing up in Madison, and we had a sprint right option and Denver brought a four weak blitz and we didn't pick it up, and Brett broke his thumb or injured his hand. It was an injury to his hand and Matt Hasselbeck had to go in the game and I remember telling Matt, I said hey, it's a preseason game, but they are going to play it just the same way and you just get in there and cut it loose. Sherman Lewis just keep calling the plays just like you would if Brett was in there.
And Matt went in and played extremely well and went on and had a really good preseason. That's one of those things you file away because I went through it with Brooks and with Jeff Blake down in New Orleans, and I remember telling Aaron the same thing. We were in a game with the Oakland Raiders and we had a play where Jeff Blake got bounced out of the pocket and got tackled from behind, had a nasty foot injury and Aaron had to go in. We were behind seven and it was right in the meat of the game and it's the same way, you're calling plays, and hey, you want to win the game, but if you don't get this quarterback started the right way, you have no chance.
So those first couple of calls were so important, and it was the same thing with Aaron. When Aaron went in that game, that was a big game because that potentially had home-field advantage on the line. But more importantly, if I didn't get Aaron started right, we didn't really have a chance, because that game, you could see just the way the offenses were playing. So I remember telling him, we are going to stay right with the plan and we went to the four wides and the same exact thing that we had in the plan for Brett, and I think that just gave him a lot of confidence, gave him a couple of completion throws and he played very well.
Now, in the big picture of things, I think that was good for everybody. But my interest was, this is this quarterback's first opportunity in a real game. I have to get him started, get him to take that first step appropriately and then obviously he'll be able to take it from there. Because you can make that mistake. I've made the mistake. I've played games where you're trying to ask the quarterback to do too much, and before he's ready, and that's not good for him, which also means it's not good for your offense, which also means it's not good for your team.
That answer your question?
Do you remember all games that clearly, or just games where something significant…?
I think most quarterbacks are like that, or most players are like that. We have to, to come in here and answer the questions.
You talked about talking to other coaches about next week. Do you just assume some storm is going to come up that you just don't know what it is right now, but you know it will happen, and you and the captains have to be prepared and it's going to be something that may seem silly and may seem significant, but just because of the magnitude it's going to be…?
I think you can predict; we are talking about staying on schedule. You're talking about individuals doing the right thing. So there's different varieties of that, I understand, but it's going to fall into a category of being on time or doing what you're supposed to do.
Being young helps you sometimes, so they don't know what to expect. So we'll have a few following-the-Pied-Piper-type situations and we just have to make sure the Pied Piper is the right guy, which he will be.
*Obviously Aaron is going to be on a really big stage this week; he said he's going to try to treat it like a regular game. Do you see him in any way embracing the attention or does he genuinely not need that kind of stuff? Some quarterbacks love it and some clearly don't need it. *Yeah, I don't think he's the type that -- just based off the way he handles his business off the field, I think it's clearly obvious that he's not one that seeks extra attention or puts himself out there. But he also knows the importance of this football game and the importance of winning a championship.
And frankly, we all understand the uniqueness of working in Green Bay. Our distractions are limited and we are going into an environment that the lights are going to be on 24/7, and we have to prepare for that, and I know he feels a tremendous responsibility as a leader to make sure that we get that done.
What's it like going to work every day where there's a fence painted that says, "In Coach McCarthy we trust?"
I drove by it a couple times, especially when we were 3 3, just to see if anybody else added any paint to it. (Laughter). It's awesome. It's a great ride in every morning. You live up here after Thanksgiving, it's dark when you come in and it's dark when you go home, but it starts off every day at Starbucks it's very unique, just to drive down Oneida Street and you come through a very normal, small town, main street environment, and then, bam, you know, there's Lambeau Field and Ruben is waiting for you at the gate. It's a special place with special people.
As a head coach heading into the Super Bowl, is one of the things you want to do is enjoy this moment?
It's very important to stay true to your process, but you have to enjoy the process. This is the last run game meeting of the year. We have a lot of fun in our run game meeting. Like our protection last night, there's a lot that goes into it. Edgar Bennett is in charge of the pressures and he goes so far back, he had pressures with Kevin Greene that were in them when he was playing for the Steelers.
There's a lot of enthusiasm that goes into the game-planning, because to spend that much time together as a staff, you have to have that, and they challenge each other based on reports and the identification and how we are going to handle each pressure and so forth. So it's a lot of fun. We have our run-game meeting today at eleven o'clock and that's one of my favorite meetings of the week. I really enjoy the strategic part of it, the game-planning, so that's the part that we, as coaches, when the season is over, there's just that where the player goes, where they all go, and there's nothing to plan for. That's all part of it.
But the Dallas experience will be unique, but trust me, we are there to win the game and we'll have a nice dinner every night or something like that. But we are not going to get too far away from what we are there for.