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Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Nov. 29

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


OK, I'll start with the injury report. Nick Collins, hamstring, his status is still doubtful. He did not practice today. Mark Tauscher, groin, his status is still doubtful. He did not practice today. Ben Taylor, hamstring, also doubtful. He did not practice today. Nick Barnett with the hand, he wore the club, he's questionable. He did practice today. David Martin still with his ribs, questionable. He did not practice today. P.J. Pope practiced today. He's questionable with a hamstring. Chad Clifton is probable. He did not practice today with his hamstring. Brett Favre, right elbow, probable. He did practice today. Ahman Green did not practice. He's on his usual Wednesday plan. He is probable for the game. Cullen Jenkins has an illness -- we had a couple guys who were sick today -- but he's probable. He did not practice today. Charles Woodson was also sick and has a shoulder, he's probable, did not practice. And Jon Ryan did not practice today for personal reasons. Questions, please.

(How effective can Barnett be with the club?)

He looked pretty good, actually made a big play out in the flat today, deflected the ball. He flew around like he normally does. I think he's starting to get comfortable with it. I have not spoken to him since practice ended, but he still flew around like his normal self out there. I think he's getting more comfortable with it.

(After looking over the defensive film, do you have a better sense of what went wrong?)

The biggest thing, really, and like I spoke to the team today, the common thread really in all three phases is just the fit, the footwork and the finish. Whether it was kickoff coverage, run defense, playing with leverage, the gap integrity, some of the things I spoke of yesterday, we need to do a better job. Anytime a team runs for that many yards on you, it's never just one thing.

(With the alignment issues, did having a rookie middle linebacker in there make a difference?)

No, I'm not going to sit here and pin it on one guy. There's plenty to go around. It was his first start, and he got in there and was competitive. He also had the big play with the touchdown. They're all things we need to get cleaned up. We were just not as detailed, particularly in the second half as a football team, particularly in run defense when you talk about the defense, that we needed to be, and that was the result of some of it, the tackling and so forth.

(Alexander ran the ball 40 times and Hodge had just one solo tackle on him. How is that possible?)

Well, once again, he had a number of things he can improve on. There's different keys, sets, alignments. Like I said, it's just never one thing. Getting off blocks. Most of our problems, including with the middle linebacker play, all come down to fundamental things, and that's our stress this week, and we need to do a better job of it. I thought we started fast. I thought we played with much better technique, great emotion in the first half. But fundamentally we were not consistent like we should be. That's the one common thread, particularly these last couple weeks.

(Was this an indication of Barnett's value?)

Anytime you take an experienced player out of your offense, defense or special teams, there is going to be some change. It was Abdul's first game. To sit here and think he's going to go in there and make 20 tackles, heck, that would have been great, but it didn't happen. So I'm not going to swing to the extreme on the matter. Nick has played very well for us all year, and based on the conversations with our personnel people, this is his best year. He's clearly having a better year this year than he did last year. He's a productive player and makes a lot of plays for us.

(Do you feel Barnett has a good chance to play?)

I'm hopeful. Part of it is, he's going to have to answer that question. And we practiced in shells today, too, so tomorrow will probably be a better indication. He flew around, he made a big play in the passing game, jumped up and blocked the ball with the club. If he can fly around like that on Sunday, I think he'll be fine.

(A couple weeks ago, the Vikings were without Fred Smoot for the whole week when his half-brother passed away. Are you concerned about that with Jon Ryan?)

He's not here for a personal matter, and I think we'll be OK come Sunday.

(How would you assess how Brett has played this year, and do you see the same fire and energy as when you first coached him here?)

He clearly plays with the same emotion and fire and toughness as I recall in '99. I think he's done a good job of managing our offense. I still think he's an accurate ball thrower, has plenty of arm strength. He's still very productive outside the pocket. I'd probably like to get him out there more often, but just based on the way these games have gone, it hasn't worked out that way. I still think he's a very productive, winning quarterback in the National Football League.

(Did he have problems with the elbow, gripping the ball? Why is he still on the injury report?)

Just because that's the way we do it. I just asked him if he was OK, he said yes, and we went through the meetings today, just to give the guys more rest in the a.m. and give the coaches more preparation time. Really, that's been the length of our conversation about his elbow and his hand.

(Is Brett's backup Bouman?)

Correct, yes.

(How much has experience affected the special teams coverage?)

We had a couple guys that haven't had a lot of experience, I'm talking particularly on kickoff coverage, that got themselves in poor position. It would be convenient for me to sit here and say we had some new guys playing, but I'm not going there. This is who we are, this is our football team. I'm excited about the guys we have. We've been very positive with our approach. We're not asking them to do anything they haven't done since the first day of training camp, so frankly right now our consistency and fundamentals is our problem right now, and we need to do a better job of it. We need to do it for four quarters, and we just haven't done that, particularly the last two weeks.

(Is Driver the only guy on this team that can score from the outside the 5-yard line?)

I don't feel that way. I think Greg Jennings has that ability. I think Ahman Green is somebody who has that ability. David Martin and really any of our tight ends, particularly schematically, ... no, I don't feel that way.

(What is the reason of late he's the only one?)

It's always a combination of things. We don't line up and throw a bunch of two-by-two and three-by-one vertical, we don't actually play that way a whole lot. Most of our shots down the field come off play-action and fakes and boots and things like that. We had a couple opportunities Monday night, but it's execution, opportunities. Our big-play opportunities as far as how many we're getting in the game is probably not as high as you'd like, but they're there. It isn't like we're just three yards and a cloud of dust trying to drive the ball 18 plays every time. That's not what we're about. So I don't have an exact reason why, but I do think we have players that can score outside the 5-yard line.

(Do you see shifts in coverage with Driver?)

We're getting more roll to Donald. If you're a quarters team, you get more cloud over there, in a two-shell. This week, this team is what we refer to as a three-deep cloud type team. That's what we expect to get with Donald. That's something that, particularly in this offense when you have a prominent flanker who's very productive, those are things you anticipate seeing, and we're seeing more of that.

(Can you still get him the ball enough in those situations or is it up to other guys to make some plays?)

You still design things to get him the ball. It's one thing to say I'm going to give him the ball and then it actually happens. There's protection things involved, ball accuracy, route combinations. Donald still has to win the route, still has to defeat the technique. But he's a primary target in our offense, and we still have things designed to get him the football.

(Do you pay attention to how the other first-year head coaches are doing, and what do you think of Mangini?)

I do not pay attention to how the other first-year head coaches are doing. But based on looking at Eric's football team, I think he's doing a very good job. I think they're a team, they complement each other, as far as how the offense and defense play to each other, and they're playing solid special teams. I think they do a good job offensively getting people involved, trying to get the ball to Coles. They're using their three running backs now, and I think their quarterback, when he has played and he's healthy, he's as good a game manager of a game as far as keeping the offense in good plays. I think defensively, particularly the breakdown we've seen, they're a lot better than their ranking. I think you can see they're in sync, a lot more comfortable, particularly in their pressure schemes, so I'm impressed with them. I think they're a very confident team right now and they're playing good football.

(They had a big win a couple weeks ago in New England. What would a win like that do for your team?)

Well, winning is very important, period. It definitely would help everybody involved. The urgency to win is always at the forefront, and even moreso now, particularly the way we've performed the last two weeks. It's important to win, winning breeds confidence, confidence carries over to the following week. So yes, winning is very important.

(Minnesota, was that a big win?)

Yeah, it felt good that Monday. Days like today, the days after, don't feel good when you don't win. Minnesota was an excellent win for us, and we need to start stacking some more of those.

(What do you think can be done to clear up the roughing the passer rules so there isn't so much gray area?)

Shoot, as far as specifics of how they can clear it up, ... I think the intent is appropriate, and sometimes when you do that, it clouds the judgment of the call. So I just think it's something that in the off-season, I think the league office does an excellent job of trying to get it right, and there will be studies or indicators to clear it up. I don't know exactly what those indicators will be as far as what the referees are looking for. But I'm sure they'll have a better solution the next time around.

(Have you heard back from the league on the one with Jenkins?)

I have not heard back from the league.

(Would you like to see that reviewable by replay?)

I don't really have an opinion on it right now. I'm not one, especially publicly, to complain about anything that we can't control. I think that kind of falls in the area of excuses. So whether I agree with it or not agree with it, to me it's irrelevant, because I can't change it.

(How much of the problems with the offensive line is physical strength with the rookie guys, and how much of it is technical?)

I'd say it's clearly more technical as far as our whole run-blocking unit, tight ends, running backs, and even the second-level blocking unit factors in that. But the interior, particularly, we just weren't fundamentally as good as we should have been, whether it's taking five steps before you cut block as opposed to taking two. There's just common errors that we've had before that are correctible and we just have to continue to do it, and confidence does play into that. Reps is a big part of it. We just have to continue to work it, because as far as what I talked about already, we had a lot of good looks, and as far as the angles and things, the way we were trying to go about it, the matchups that we had, we still feel very comfortable. We just have to continue to rep it. That's the thing about fundamentals and techniques, it just doesn't happen overnight. You just have to stay the course.

{sportsad300}(Wouldn't you expect the fundamentals to get better rather than take a step back?)

Yeah, I think we have gotten better at a number of things, but that's part of playing football. There's a number of factors. When you get later in the season, you're not in pads as much, and you have health issues. There's all different types of factors. But the fundamentals is always the key. If you're looking for a common thread, it's the little things that matter. Everybody wants to talk about one play, or this play or that play. What about the other 70 plays? Those are the ones, even as you plan, yes, on offense we may get behind a couple times, we may have our 10 or 12 big opportunities in a game, but the other 60 things are things that we've done over and over and over again, and we need to do that at a high level. No different on defense. We may have a blitzer or two come clean and we may steal a couple of plays, but the other 50-60 plays we have to play fundamentally sound. It's the same thing with special teams. Lane integrity in your coverage schemes, it all factors. Schematically, you're going to put yourself in a favorable position where you do have a guy clean whatever side of the ball you're on, but 95 percent of the game is about being fundamentally sound and playing with good technique, and that's the never-ending challenge. I don't care how old your football team or how young your football team is.

(Are you worried about getting ready on a short week after these last two games?)

I wasn't worried about it, but that's my job as the head football coach. You have to set the tempo and the pace and the vision for the upcoming week. Everything we do is calculated, whether it's from scheduling, the objectives for the offense, defense and special teams, the team objectives and all that. I go about it the same way I do every Wednesday. Sometimes it's louder than others, but that's my job, to set the course and set the pace, and frankly I thought we had a very good Wednesday practice, especially for the type of structure we were in. We were just in shells, but the tempo was excellent, the execution for a Wednesday was probably on the high end, which sometimes when you play a 3-4 defense - frankly, I thought our opponent teams as far as the shifts and motions and everything gave our defense a great look - so I feel very good about our work today.

(Could you give an assessment of Chad Pennington, coming off his injury?)

He's a winning playoff quarterback. He's been very successful. I think he makes very good decisions. I think his ball accuracy is underrated. Everybody wants to talk about the strength of his arm, but I think he puts the ball in spots all the time, over and over again, and I have a lot of respect for him. I haven't played against him in quite some time, haven't played against the Jets in quite some time. But just from afar, and having worked with people that have worked with him, I have a lot of respect for Chad Pennington.

(Has Tauscher made progress? Do you think you'll have him by the end of this week?)

I think we'd be stretching to think we'll have him this week. I know every time I talk to Mark he feels very good about the progress he's making. The medical staff is a little more cautious, and that's normal. I would definitely say he's going to play earlier than later, based on the way he's attacking his rehab, and they feel very good about the progress he's making. But it would be a stretch if he makes it this week.

(How do you feel about the development and what you've seen from Culver?)

Very, very knowledgeable player. He does an excellent job keeping his head in the game, when he's been up. He clearly does a great job in his preparation part of it. Special teams, he's been a little up and down. You'd like to see more productivity there. But he's definitely prepared himself if he does get the opportunity.

(Is safety a challenge for a rookie?)

Safety is a position I'd classify as a primary decision-maker. I think your quarterback is a primary decision-maker on offense, so is your center, and to some extent your backs, based on the amount of responsibility and decisions. Same thing on defense. Your middle linebacker is primary decision-maker and your safeties are primary decision-makers. So clearly anytime you play a young player in a decision-making position, that carries a lot of decision-making responsibility and it's definitely a challenge. And that's his strength.

(When you see a long touchdown like the one Devery Henderson caught for New Orleans, against a pretty good cornerback, is that just flat-out speed, beating someone like that?)

Having coached Devery Henderson, that is the best thing he does. I haven't been around him in a couple years, but catching the deep ball, that's something when he came out of college he was as good as any young guy I've ever seen. I don't remember how fast he is, but he's fast. He's extremely fast, and he does a great job tracking the ball, the deep ball. As far as the play design, like anybody else, I don't know what the play design was, if it was a fake or a dropback. I don't recall that. I just remember seeing him running in the end zone with the DB chasing him.

(With your receivers not getting much separation when they run deep, is that just good defense?)

Well, you can take the play that Greg had. Greg Jennings. He has leverage on, I think it's Trufant on the corner, but he loses the ball. And Brett from the hash has almost two-thirds of the field to throw it to. Based on the time of when the ball is thrown and where Greg is at, that could have been a similar type situation. But if you recall, he kind of hesitates on the ball because he said he lost the football. Now, I don't know if Greg can beat Devery Henderson in a 40-yard dash, but Greg gets behind people, and no one has caught Donald Driver yet either.

(With the Seahawks' success at home, have you given any thought to redefine your approach to establishing home-field advantage?)

We need to establish home-field advantage because we have all the characteristics from the fans and everything involved. We just need to do a better job of our part as a football team, and that's to win games. But as far as the home-field advantage, Lambeau Field is a great place to play as far as the fans and everything. Frankly, we need to do a better job of performing at home.

(What does a 3-4 defense do against a zone-blocking scheme that makes it more challenging?)

Well the first thing is you don't see it every day. As far as popularity or usage in the league, it's in the minority. We'll see it three times this year, four if you count San Diego. So just from a preparation standpoint, you don't get as many reps at it. By design, they try to force you to get into a man situation. They walk their linebackers up, and the starting point for the premise of zone (blocking) is to have two-on-one at the first level in everything you do, particularly on their downs when you get into four-man line looks. So they have the ability to eliminate that, just from the alignment, so you have to make adjustments for that. There are two-gap players where they're playing you head-up, particularly in zone schemes, when they're shaded, your fit is different. A big part of it is training. If you play three games against a 3-4 and 13 against a four-man line looks, you're going to train more against a four-man line. So that's the biggest challenge. Also they play off the ball some, so your footwork is different. So it just changes up the technique and the fundamentals that you have so many reps in from a four-man line look as opposed to a three-man.

(At 4-7, is it pretty much do or die now?)

Clearly as you look at the big picture, when you get to seven losses - I don't think you should wait until you get to seven losses to have a sense of urgency - but we have a clear sense of urgency. I'm talking about coaches and everybody involved. We need to win this game this week. That's clearly our focus, and we're taking it one step at a time. Winning in meetings, winning in practice. We have post-practice meetings we need to do a detailed job in. We're on a short week, all those factors. So we're just clearly concentrating on the Jets.

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