More Progress, New Challenges Ahead In '08

Head Coach Mike McCarthy admitted he’s not looking forward to watching the videotape of the NFC Championship loss. But no matter how agonizing that might be, he’s heading into his third year with the knowledge that the players have bought into his program and are genuinely excited about not only the future but some of the new challenges that will come with it. - More Packers-Giants Game Center


In his season-ending press conference on Wednesday, Head Coach Mike McCarthy admitted he's not looking forward to watching the videotape of the NFC Championship loss to the New York Giants.

But no matter how agonizing that process might be for McCarthy, as he heads into his third year at the helm he's moving forward with the knowledge that the players have bought into his program and are genuinely excited about not only the future but some of the new challenges that will come with it.

"For as tough as the loss has been, 99 percent of the conversations I've had with the players and coaches has been extremely positive," said McCarthy, who has spent the past three days doing exit interviews with the players. "This group of players was a fun group to coach, it was a fun run we were on. We won a lot of football games, won a lot of them in big fashion, won some tight ones, too.

"But just (with) the culture that's been created, I feel very good about the program, the direction of our program that is in place. So do the players."

McCarthy pointed to the stability of the coaching staff, the consistency of the practice work and scheduling, and the ability for so many young players to continue to improve with another year in the offseason program - which begins March 17 for first- and second-year players and two weeks later for veterans - as the primary reasons the Packers have an opportunity to sustain and build upon their success in 2007.

It's not a given, though, and the coaches and players are well aware of that. Last year's participants in the NFC Championship - Chicago and New Orleans - both failed to make the playoffs this past year. Handling all the new challenges that come with a foundation of success will be the key to avoiding the same fate.

The Packers will enter 2008 with much higher external expectations than a year ago, when they were coming off an 8-8 season and there was skepticism as to whether they were truly a team on the rise.

As defending NFC North champions and conference runners-up, they'll be one of the teams everyone on their schedule will get geared up to face.

And they could be pegged for more than the three prime-time contests they had in 2007, particularly if quarterback Brett Favre returns. Playing night games, whether they be on Sundays, Mondays or Thursdays, always disrupts the regular practice routine, and the Packers may have to deal with more of that.

"Those are all new challenges that our football team has not seen yet, the majority of our football team," McCarthy said. "So those are things we'll try to prepare for, and talk about and continue to educate."

McCarthy also feels the team benefited from three major learning experiences it didn't have coming into 2007. The regular-season game at Dallas, when both teams were 10-1 and fighting for the top seed in the NFC, along with the two home playoff games against Seattle and New York presented the big stages successful teams must learn to perform on.

All three games also forced the team to respond to difficult circumstances when the stakes were high.

{sportsad300}In Dallas, Favre was knocked out of the game with an injury and the team trailing 27-10, but backup Aaron Rodgers stepped in and led a rally to within three points in the second half before the Cowboys regained control.

Against Seattle, the Packers fell behind 14-0 due to two early fumbles but stormed back to dominate a division champion by the count of 42-6 the remainder of the game.

And against the Giants, the team wasn't playing its best but rallied from deficits of 6-0, 13-10 and 20-17 to be tied with a chance to win in the fourth quarter and overtime. What didn't happen was seizing the opportunity to win the game when it came about.

"I think those will be three particular contests coming out of last year that I think our football team can learn from as far as the environment we played in, the path that each game created and how you respond to the adversity and the opportunities within those games," McCarthy said. "Those are lessons we need to learn from and apply to our future."

McCarthy has every expectation that future is bright, no matter how dark the rear-view mirror appears this week.

"Everybody to a man is disappointed the way it ended," McCarthy said. "But we have a lot of positive energy, a lot of positive experiences to tap into as we move forward and I would anticipate come March that we'll pick up and have a better offseason than last year."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content