In this week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," the head coach discusses the bye week, the running game and some midseason league trends, 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.
Emily from Newbury Park, CA
Q. What do you think the bye week will do for the team? Is it a good or bad thing to have time off?
The bye week is very good for your football team. It gives your football operation an opportunity to reset itself, evaluate and get ready for the third quarter of the season. In our third quarter, we're at San Diego, then home Monday night with Minnesota, Tampa at home and then at Detroit. The stretch after the bye has three games in 11 days, ending on Thanksgiving. It's important to have a break before you make a run like that. It gives us an opportunity as a staff to go back through all the situations to make sure we're dotting our I's and crossing our T's. We'll evaluate the concepts we use and make sure we're pro-active with the concepts we'll use in the future. It gives the players a chance to step away from everything, get healthy and re-energize to make a run during the second half of the season. I think the bye week is essential because it gives you that chance to take a break from a very demanding business that impacts you emotionally, mentally and physically. Most importantly, it gives everyone a chance to catch up on some quality family time.
Jasmine from Watsonville, CA
Q. How do you keep your players grounded?
You keep your players grounded by being consistent and focused on the task at hand. We're very detailed and organized in what our daily expectations are from everybody in football operations. The expectations of everyone in relation to our daily schedule are concisely spelled out. I've talked in the past about how the three environments; the classroom, practice and game day, are detailed. As a leader, you have to be consistent with those details and hold everybody accountable.
Elgin from Buena Vista, VA
Q. What is your main focus to improve on this week?
The main focus for this week is for the players to spend some quality time with their families and get healthy. I encourage the players to step away from football. Maintaining their conditioning is the only physical requirement they have during the bye week. As for coaches, it gives us a chance just to self-scout. In today's game you self-scout every week, so there really isn't anything new, but it's a projection of what we're going to do in the future. We'll also spend some extra time on the San Diego Chargers. They are an unfamiliar opponent because we haven't played them for four years, so it gives us an opportunity to do some additional game planning. We're going to start on the Chargers today to make sure we have a good plan ready for our players when we start back up on Monday.
Q. Was there a particular mindset or commitment that made the running game so effective in the final 2 ½ minutes of Sunday's game?
It really came down to fundamentals. We had some positive runs early in the game, but I was a little frustrated with the running game in the third quarter. Having an opportunity to watch the film, we had a little trouble with the coordination of the running back and his course and patience with the blocking. We had to get those in sync and we did. I thought our guys executed extremely well on that final drive. It really came down to execution. The credit goes to the players. As a play-caller, your responsibility is to give the players a clean look as far as the play-call versus the defensive call. We were able to do that, and our players did a great job executing.
Q. What's the effect on your own team and on future opponents to be able to finish a game like that?
We spend time practicing our four-minute offense every Friday. We always want to get in a situation where we call "no mas," which means we're just trying to get the first down and run out the clock. When we're on defense, we call that a "Jesse James" situation, we're emphasizing the need to force a turnover. It's a situation like any other, third down or red zone, that we practice every week. It's very gratifying because that's phone-booth football, that's running the ball uphill. That's the way you want to finish a game in that situation. It's mano-a-mano, putting your hand in the dirt and going and getting it. James Starks did a great job breaking tackles. T.J. Lang and the other linemen did a great job getting to the second level and finishing blocks down the field. That's what real NFC North football is all about.
Q. At 7-0 at the bye week, what's your assessment of your team's play at this point?
We're playing better than anybody in the National Football League, and our record reflects that. That's where we are. It's a business that is evaluated from every angle, including our own internal evaluation, and we feel we have better football to offer as a team. That will be our focus. We're not going to apologize for our margin of victory; I think that's totally unrealistic. Our challenges are going to be greater every week and everybody knows how this league operates. The more success you have, the more people are gunning for you, and that will be no different as the season progresses. We're not even at the halfway point yet, we're seven games into this. We need to work to continue to improve. I think our younger players are now acclimated to our program. They know what the expectations are. We have to really tighten up some areas. The coordination of everything fitting together and running effectively for 60 minutes is going to be our goal in the third quarter of this season.
Q. You speak of improvement. What needs to improve?
The first thing is always the fundamentals. It goes back to the padded work. When we come off the bye week, we'll have an extra padded practice prior to playing San Diego. We are allowed to have two padded practices in one week during the season's first 11 weeks and we will do that after the bye. The primary focus will be fundamentals. We have to do the one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three run-blocking drills, the one-on-one defensive backs versus receivers, the tight ends, the tackles, and guards with their combination blocks, and of course tackling drills. We just really have to hammer the fundamentals, because at the end of the day, that's what it's all about.
Q. Is this a chance for Mike Neal to get healthy and get back on the field?
I hope so. Mike's making progress. I know he had a good week. His spirits are up. He's definitely headed in the right direction. Hopefully we'll have more information after we get back.
Q. Thirteen consecutive wins is a Packers franchise record. A source of pride?
I would agree about it being a "source of pride." When you're on the journey, in the fight, you don't focus on it. I'm appreciative of it, because anything you accomplish that is a franchise record within the history of the Green Bay Packers, it makes you sit up in your chair. That speaks volumes, because of the great teams and great players and coaches that have come before us. It's something that makes you feel good, but those types of records are ones you like to keep going, and you'd like to see at least 13 wins in the same season. That would be nice. It would be great to continue to build off of the13 wins.
Q. Do you see any trends developing around the league?
I think offenses are playing as wide open as they ever have. We're seeing more and more of that each year. I think that really speaks to the development of the quarterback position, because when you see offenses more wide open, you can also point to the young quarterbacks who are starting to make an impact in this league. I would have to say the quarterback play is improving. Defenses are a little behind because of that and it's important for them to catch up.
Also, I've been interested in how teams are handling kickoff returns. Teams have been much more aggressive in returning the ball instead of taking the touchback. That's a trend. We've never seen so many balls coming out of the end zone, at least I haven't in my time in the league.
Q. Fewer padded practices. Has it had any impact, positive or negative?
I hope it doesn't have an impact. I'm not a fan of the new rule. I don't think coaches should have limitations on what they need to do to prepare their team to play a football game. I've never felt putting players in pads during the season was a detriment to their health. Padded practices in-season are much different than padded practices in training camp. If teams practiced in pads throughout the season the way they do in training camp, then the players would have a legitimate issue. My focus on padded practices in-season is more for the individual work. There have been times later in the season when we've gone in pads at the beginning of practice to get our individual, fundamental drills accomplished, and then we've taken the pads off for the team drills. Everyone understands that it is important to keep the players fresh and protected, particularly as the season goes on, because their bodies do get worn down. I hope the limited padded practices don't have an impact.
For last week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," click here.