In this week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," the head coach discusses whether the team is peaking, padded practices and up-tempo football, among other topics.
Three fan questions will be selected each week and presented to Coach McCarthy. Go to the Green Bay Packers' official Facebook page on Monday mornings to post your question.
Danielle from Green Bay, WI
Q. How do you feel about coaching such a historical franchise?
A. It's truly a privilege to coach the Green Bay Packers. I can remember being asked a question early in my tenure if I felt pressure coaching in Green Bay because of the legendary coaches before me, and I've always felt that it was not only a privilege, but a huge asset. Curly Lambeau, Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren have laid a foundation that this organization is built on. Expectations are already ingrained, as they say, in the bricks of Lambeau Field. That's a tremendous asset. It's an energy source. If you've ever had an opportunity to work somewhere that doesn't have history and tradition and you're trying to build it, it's a challenge. I've always felt that it gives you a boost when you do have it, and we have the best history and tradition in all of sports. I'm very thankful for Coach Lambeau, Lomardi and Holmgren and all these great coaches that I've been able to follow.
Diane from Marinette, WI
Q. I've heard some sports commentators say that maybe the Packers are peaking too early. How do you keep the team hungry and intense?
A. That's a great question, because you can't quantify it. We haven't peaked, so that answers the first part of the question. We have a lot of good football ahead of us, and we have to continue to work to get to that level. We still feel as a team that we haven't played a complete football game in all three phases, so that's something we're working toward this week when we travel to Atlanta. We need to really stay focused winning and "improving" each week.
Shaun from Chicago, IL
Q. I would like to know from your standpoint what pros and cons you see from less practice time in full pads?
A. I haven't seen the effects of less practice time in full pads. Normally, we would practice both Wednesday and Thursday in pads early in the season, but right now we're a little banged up medically, so even without the new limitations, we would only be practicing once a week in pads. I think the effect of limited padded practices is going to show up at the end of the season. That's just my opinion. I'm hopeful that it's not true. We've already talked about the individual drills we need to reincorporate late in the season when we're not able to work in pads. Drills like sled work that focus on the fundamentals, leverage points, hand placement and so forth; those are drills we will be emphasizing.
Q. At what level is the offense playing currently?
A. This past week against Denver, the offense received one of its highest grades during my time in Green Bay. Of the 21 offensive players that played in the game, 19 had winning performances. That's significant. The offense probably played its most complete game against the Denver Broncos. We have set a standard and we need to keep playing to that level.
Q. The Falcons are a team you faced in last season's playoffs. What are your thoughts for this Sunday's game?
A. I'm looking forward to it. The Falcons had very high expectations entering the playoffs last season because of the success they had in the regular season. It was a very decisive victory for us in the playoff game, our most decisive victory throughout the playoffs. We know we're going into the Georgia Dome and there's going to be a ton of energy. I'm sure they've had this game circled and we've also had it circled. We're looking forward to going back to Atlanta.
Q. You talk a lot about tempo. Do you set a tempo limit?
A. In practice, you try to go as fast as you can, but you also have other elements. If the play doesn't go right in practice, you're going to repeat it. Otherwise, it's really the urgency of getting in and out of the huddle. There's a time frame we operate in at practice and if we don't repeat any plays, we should be in the plus category. If the practice is scheduled for two hours and nine minutes and we don't have any plays repeated, we should clearly finish practice in less than two hours. If we exceed our time frame, then our management is not intact as far as getting the play called, getting in and out of the huddle, having the scout team set, transitioning to special-teams drills, etc. I keep track of our operation based on how long we're on the field. The operation is not just from the time you call the play until the time you get to the line of scrimmage, it's also how you transition from drill to drill. Urgency is not only a physical action, it's a mental action and it's very important to monitor. When your team is not operating with urgency in practice, it's not going to play with urgency on Sundays.
During games, we have everything charted, offense, defense and special teams. We play close attention to the management of the clock, from play entry, huddle break, arrival at the line of scrimmage and snap of the ball. Some referees wind the clock a little quicker than others and some umpires don't spot the ball as quickly as others. It's human nature, so that's all part of our game-planning. We look at the officials we have each week because it's important to have an understanding of their tendencies. If we aren't operating as fast as we should, pre-snap penalties can become a factor.
Q. What's the benefit of running a fast-tempo offense?
A. It's like anything in competition; do you want to be a puncher or a counter-puncher? That's the way I've always looked at offense. I don't want to limit the number of attempts at the plate, to use a baseball analogy. I want to get up there and take as many swings at the pitcher as we can. With an up-tempo offense, you're maximizing your opportunities within the time frame you're given to play a game, but also, you're pressing the defense the whole time. You're getting to the line of scrimmage and you're making them communicate a little faster than they want to. It's trying to create that edge, so when the play does start, you're ready to go and operate in your time frame. Ideally, the defense isn't quite ready or as comfortable as they want to be.
Q. When an opponent loads up to stop one guy, as the Broncos did to stop Jermichael Finley, what does that do to the coverage on the other receivers?
A. When Jermichael was lined up wide as a receiver, particularly on the backside by himself, their safety played over the top of the corner. That leaves potential openings for the two or three receivers lined up on the other side. He doesn't always line up wide. He also lines up in a traditional tight end position and in the slot, so that still gives him other looks. Anytime a team tilts their coverage or matches their coverage with help to cover one player, it definitely gives the other receivers more opportunities because they'll have one-on-one looks or they're going to have a softer hole in the zone coverage.
Q. Aaron Rodgers always seems to find the open receiver. Is that a natural or learned skill?
A. It's both. The learned part of it, that's the offense. It's a progression offense. Once the play is sent in to Aaron, and we align our formation and the defense sets the coverage, there's a declared starting point for his progression. He's one of the most disciplined and decisive players I've been around since Joe Montana. I always thought that was a tremendous strength of Joe's, and Aaron has that trait. He's very diligent going through his progressions, so clearly that is his innate ability. That quality speaks more to his personality and his characteristics. The football structure is the way he's trained, but I've always believed most of the credit should go to the player.
For last week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," click here.