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Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 22

Read the transcript of Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s Friday press conference. will post these full transcripts after each of Coach McCarthy’s press conferences during the 2006 season.


OK, injuries, nothing's really changed from last night. Charles Woodson with the shoulder. Donald Driver also has a thigh along with his shoulder injury, and we'll re-evaluate him Tuesday. With that I'll take your questions.

(The guys are entirely off until Tuesday? What do you hope to gain by giving the time off?)

Yes. Well, really to get their bodies back, from a professional standpoint. But personally, I think it's very unique the schedule we've had this year. To have the ability to be off for Thanksgiving and Christmas, that's something that will probably never happen again in our careers. It doesn't hurt our preparation for Chicago. We're still going to have an extra day to get ready for the Bears. I thought it was a good opportunity to let the players get out of here, and especially with the traveling on the holidays, I thought it was important to give them that extra day.

(Will guys do any workouts?)

Our guys will run. We've talked about doing 20-30 minutes of cardiovascular over the next four days, and actually our workout is conducive Tuesday to make sure we get our bodies back along with the preparation Tuesday. We'll have an extra day of practice, but the health of our team is going to be important.

(What will Tuesday's practice be like? A normal Wednesday?)

It's going to be abbreviated. It will be a shells workout. We'll have an extended jog-through period just for the installation part of it, and the team periods will be cut down.

(Are the players on their own over the weekend? Can they go home?)

Yes. I know a couple of them tried to fly out last night. I don't know if they got out, but they are off for four days.

(They're supposed to do the cardio on their own?)


(What about you? Are you headed down to Texas?)

I'm going to head out to Texas here in the next day or so. I'm going to try to get out tomorrow night.

(In terms of defensive improvement, what have you seen these past couple weeks?)

You're seeing the continuity and consistency. That's the thing that really jumps off the film about our players. I think with that brings more energy, and it was very evident last night. I thought they played with great energy. It started up front. The defensive line really set the course. The linebackers were extremely physical, and I thought we did a very good job for the most part, I think maybe two plays, of staying deeper than the deepest and breaking on the football, so I think they've really hit their stride.

(So it's more than just playing struggling offenses? The improvement is legitimate?)

Anytime you line up it's legitimate. You can swing it any way you want with the rookie quarterback or Detroit's situation too. But it starts up front. The attitude and the energy they're playing with is exciting to watch.

(Are you more confident now in facing a playoff-caliber opponent now?)

Absolutely. I think defense wins championships. I believe in that statement. The defense we had coming out of the preseason and training camp, I definitely thought that was going to be the strength of our football team, and now we're at crunch time, and they have stepped to the forefront.

(Have you made any adjustments scheme-wise in the last couple weeks to take better advantage of your safeties and not put them in positions they might struggle?)

Not really. I think anytime you struggle, you go back to your core, go back to your base, and we are doing a lot more of our base. It's really probably over the last six weeks. As far as whether we cheat them up or cheat them back, based on the scheme or our opponent, those are things that are more situation-specific. But Bob has done a great job just staying the course with the system, and once again, I think the biggest thing you're seeing from our defense is the continuity, the consistency and the energy.

(Why are they playing better?)

They just keep doing the same things over and over and over again. I think sometimes scheme is made too much of in our game, because when we go in there every Monday morning after a game, we're not talking about the other team's scheme. We're talking about fundamentals, pad level, footwork, tackling, blocking. Those are the things that you're always correcting, and that's why you play the game. It's not video game, it's not a game played on a board. It's a game played by human beings in different environments with different adversity and all the other factors that you can't put on a piece of paper. We're improving definitely in the fundamental area defensively.

(What have you tried to adjust scheme-wise inside the 20 on offense?)

When we attack a situation offense, or situation in a game, from an offensive standpoint, we do it conceptually. Who's in whatever slot that is as far as the concept depends on your health, the match-up, all those types of things. As far as having new plays, new ideas, there's not a whole lot of that going on. But really our red zone production has been an issue all year. The biggest thing you're seeing is the turnovers. I don't think I've ever been around an offense that has turned the ball over that much in the red zone, and that's really our Achilles' heel on offense as a whole. That's the first thing we need to get fixed. And the other one is clearly the playmaking ability, the production. It's easy to over-react to it because we all go through it. You go down there and kick another field goal, and it's that air-going-out-of-the-balloon feeling you have to stay away from. Because when you watch the film the next day and you see the screen you have for a touchdown and the defensive end knocks it down, well why did that happen? Was it the technique of the quarterback, was it the technique of the left tackle? Once again, that leads you right back to, it's fundamentals again. So you can put too much into the scheme. I can't be naïve that if it's scheme, we're going to change it. But as far as what we're doing in the red zone, we have conceptual things that we do versus our opponent based on the match-ups and everything, so we've stayed the course with that. I don't see a problem with that. If I did, we would change. We have plenty of ammunition down there, we're just not executing at a high level. To go from the 20 to the 20 the way we do week in and week out, and then to go down there and have the production down there, it's really been holding us back.

(What are the common denominators for teams that do well in the red zone?)

The biggest one I've seen over the years is playmakers. That's really what it comes down to. Making the tough catch, making that tight throw, breaking that tackle. The West Coast offense historically has always been a touchdown, check-down philosophy. That's an approach that you have to take, because if you want to score points, you have to attack the end zone. Now with that, the defense also is aware of that too, so you see the challenges they present to you as you go through time, and as you do call plays for certain years in the league offensively because people figure out what you believe in too, so you have to guard against that. But the biggest common denominator is guys making plays down there, and that will never change in this league.

(How is Aaron Rodgers doing?)

He's done great. He actually does a very good job for us on game day. He's on the headset, he speaks up when it's appropriate, if he sees something. He's very much involved still in the game-planning and continuing to grow as a quarterback, because he has to take the mental reps now in his situation.

(What are some examples of things Aaron might say in the headset?)

Just the technique of a DB if something is said and he sees something on a particular pass from the chair of the quarterback.

(He's in on all the meetings?)

Yes pretty much, if it's outside of his rehab.

(Can you trust Bubba Franks anymore this season, the way things are going?)

I think that would be the easy thing to do. I think anytime something negative happens, it's easy to go the other way. But I think in the long-term, I don't think that's the right thing to do. We need Bubba Franks. Bubba Franks is an important member of our football team. He's the leader of the tight end group, he's viewed as one of the leaders on offense. If he didn't have history, you may think differently, but you're looking at a player that has done it before. He's had a couple tough stretches as far as games throughout the season, but we need him to bounce back, because we're going to need him to beat Chicago.

(Is it a mental thing?)

Fundamentals. It's just like anything else. He makes a nice catch on his first fumble, you have to get your pads down. Bubba is a big man. Those guys are not going to come in and tackle him high, the guy came right in and put his head right on the ball. You catch the football, you have to get your pads down over the football and run accordingly. It just keeps going back to the same things over and over. Same thing down on the goal line. Put the ball away, get your pads down. He should be celebrating a touchdown right now as opposed to what happened. They're just all fundamental things that we need to continue to focus on.

(He was a big red zone target earlier in his career. Is there a reason his touchdowns are so far down?)

Well his opportunities haven't been there probably nearly as much as he had in the past. He was always a big target, particularly in the goal-line offense. We haven't been in goal-line offense a whole lot this year. I've gone through years where there's been less. He's had a lot of production there, too. Also the emergence of Dave Martin. Dave Martin when he's been healthy has done a good job in the red zone. So it's really a combination of those things. He had some opportunities last night.

{sportsad300}(Why were Favre and Jennings not on the same page so much last night?)

Well the interception was clearly the one they were not on the same page. It was a coverage that Greg did not identify, and the route should have stayed on, and that's what resulted with the interception. But the timing, Greg has never really come back fully from the injury, and that's something we just need to continue to work through. But I agree, there are probably three or four times, or two or three times, where they're just not in sync. Once again it's fundamentals. Route running, rhythm, timing. All those things are very important.

(On the Sharper pick, it looked like Jennings stalled or stopped running?)

He's on the backside route, and I haven't talked to Greg yet so I don't what his view, what happened on the play, but obviously, when Brett came backside, he felt that Greg was running and he had him one-on-one down the sideline, and that's when he threw it. Obviously it looks like from watching the film, it looked like Greg thought he was going to pull up into the hole and get the ball thrown to him. It's a scramble drill, something you spend a lot of time in. But those are relationships, it does take reps, just guys being on the same page, because that's not a designed play. When we talk about the passing game, we always talk about in-pocket and out-of-pocket route responsibilities, and on the backside of the scramble drill, you look for the home run and then you pull up on the boundary when you're outside the numbers. Obviously, the quarterback and receiver were not on the same page.

(When Walker was here, a lot of deep throws he had a good chance of coming down with the ball with maybe two guys around him. Are you OK with those jump balls he's throwing?)

I think the term that's been used here in the past, you can correct me if I'm wrong, is a 50-50 ball. Now I don't coach quarterbacks to throw the ball into double coverage. We don't have reads that tell him to do that. I'm not going to sit here and say he's never done it either. But that's not the way we're playing. I've never coached with Walker. When you see the one-on-one runners down the sideline, that's a little different story, one-on-one. But as far as throwing the ball with two guys (in coverage), that's not something we're interested in doing.

(Are there plays you have missed on jump balls this year?)

The thing about jump balls, I really don't like the term jump ball unless you're down there about the 5-yard line. Because I think there's a proper way to throw the go route. There's technique in how you teach the route, where the ball location is supposed to be. That's different than rolling out and just throwing it up and hoping the guy comes down with the ball. So that's what we focus on. But hey, it goes back into players making plays. If you've got a one-on-one down the sideline with a guy, based on the design of the play and the opportunity, you have to take that shot. You cannot score points throwing three-step all day. Now we moved the ball very well, but you have to take your shots in the course of the game, and the go route, post routes, those are the common ways of doing that.

(So last night was Sharper too deep to make that a viable throw, or if Jennings had been running would you be OK with that?)

If you think about it, if Greg is still running, we're getting into what if's here, but if Greg is still running, I would think that Greg would be competing for that football. The ball is thrown 5 yards from the boundary and with the angle he's running, it's at least two guys going for the ball at the same time, because there is separation between Greg and Sharper, when Brett does throw the ball. You'd like to see us make that play, or pulling him up in the hole, too. So whatever the option. They've got to be on the same page.

(What have you seen from Poppinga in recent weeks after struggling some early on?)

Well Brady, he plays with excellent energy. I thought he was very physical. I thought the whole group was, the linebacker group as a whole. I think you're seeing a young player get more comfortable. He's more comfortable with the matches. He's a playmaker for us in the pressure schemes. He's doing a good job with that, particularly in the pass rush. Once again, another young player getting better.

(Are those recurring shoulder things Woodson and Driver have had all year, will those require surgery?)

I'm not sure. I have not had a discussion with Pat McKenzie about surgery with either Donald or Charles, but they are recurring injuries that frankly just need time to heal.

(Do you know what the chances are David Martin might play next week? Did he suffer a setback last week?)

He had a setback with his rib, and I'm hopeful with the four days off that he will be able to go. We'll see Tuesday.

(Tauscher come through OK?)

Yes, everything was positive about Mark. I thought he played very well too.

(How vital is that tight end spot to your offense, and is it difficult to see it go from the strength you expected it to be to not being so strong?)

Well, the production in the passing game is something we need to improve on. And I think some of that reflects our completion percentage too, because of attacking the underneath middle of the field with something that you're able to take advantage of that body type. But as far as what we've asked them to do and the other parts of it, I'm very pleased with. Their run blocking is definitely much better this year. They've given us a lot of flexibility in the pass protection, particularly early in the year when we were extremely conservative in the pass protection part of it. So there are a number of positives. I know the glaring statistic is catches. I'm not really concerned with how many catches they have, but the dropped balls and the missed opportunities are the things we need to improve on.

(By some estimates you lead the league in dropped balls. Do you know what's going on there?)

Well dropping the football, a lot of it is confidence, because we don't have a lot of body catchers on our football team. Our guys for the most part do a good job of catching it with their hands. But when you see a guy that has good hands start catching it with his body, that's an illustration of lack of confidence, and we have some of that going on right now. We just need to continue, I keep saying you know, but it goes back to fundamentals. Those are fundamentals we work on every day and we just need to continue to improve it. I want to say, the Philadelphia game was kind of the game that jumps out. I felt going into that Philadelphia game, particularly that first half, I thought we were really starting to hit our stride offensively, throwing the football particularly, and the run game was just starting to come on. We've been up and down since then, and that's been a problem, particularly of late. The points and the opportunities to score points have been there in the passing game, especially last night, I thought the pass protection was outstanding. Brett had all day to throw. We had a lot of time. When you have opportunities like that as a receiver, we should have had a much bigger day.

(What route should Jennings have run on that interception for a touchdown?)

It was a hitch. Three-step, quick hitch, seven-yard route.

(What do you think of your playoff chances?)

Jeff and I were just talking about it before I came in, and I'm not real clear on it to be honest with you. I'm going to worry about Chicago. I'm going to enjoy the weekend, and obviously we'll have more information Sunday night. But it's important for our football team to prepare like we have been, Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday, take it one day at a time, and going down to Chicago and winning that football game. That's clearly our focus, because nothing else that we want to achieve can happen unless we do that. So that's clearly our focus.

(How much do you think they're going to be playing their starters?)

You know, there's always two schools of thought there, because you do have the bye week coming up. I have no idea what their approach is going to be. Frankly, I don't really care. We need to get ready to play their football team. Schematically I don't think they're going to change a whole lot. But as far as who lines up, we're probably not going to know, really, truly know potentially until the game time. We just have to get ready for their best.

(Do you have to prepare for both of their quarterbacks?)

I think so. I think that's accurate. They may try to play (the starter) first quarter and put him down, like some people have done. You look at Seattle, what they did here the last game of the season (last year). That's an approach. Or play him a half, or don't him at all. Those are different scenarios that we're probably looking at.

(Will you pay attention to any of these games this weekend or will you just enjoy the time with your family?)

I have a 15-year-old daughter, I don't think I'll be watching football Sunday afternoon.

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