In this week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," the head coach discusses game-planning, mental fatigue and the win over Detroit, 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.*
Russ from Boise, ID
Q. How do you see your game plan evolve throughout a game? Do you take what the opponents give you and adapt, or do you pursue the original plan, regardless of how they react?
When you put together a game plan, it isn't derived from a singular concept. The plan is based on your strengths, specifically what you feel your offense and defense are capable of on a consistent basis. Additionally, your game plan is affected by how your opponent lines up and employs their personnel. Offensively, you always have a path you want to follow at the start of the game. We are trying to maintain our offensive aggression while forcing the defense off-balance as we gather information. The information you glean from the defense is utilized throughout the game. Every game plan is countered by an opponent's game plan, and at a certain point, it's clear how they are going to line up and play against you. It's important to utilize a variety of personnel groups and formations to attack your opponent's game plan.
Donna from Delafield, WI
Q. What is the theory to deferring on the coin toss?
First, you have to break it into two categories – home games and away games. There are a number of different variables you look at within each category, such as how the team is playing, the crowd noise, etc., and you discuss them as a staff. We talk about every factor each Friday in our game management meeting. We then come to a consensus of how we're going to approach the game that week. Sometimes the decision is based on a gut feeling because the variables weigh out at 50-50, and sometimes it's clear-cut what the decision should be. It's a bit of a moving target, which is why I think it's important to wait until Friday to discuss it. At that point, you'll have a full week of preparation leading up to the game and you can take into account all the relevant factors.
Adam from Bismarck, ND
Q. Late in the season, many people bring up fatigue with the players as the season wears on. How do you, as a coach, deal with your own mental fatigue?
I've learned over time to be more in tune with mental fatigue. I was ignorant in the earlier stages of my coaching career. I used to believe that sleep was for the weak, and that's one of the dumbest mindsets you can ever adhere to. I was ignorant enough to adhere to it for quite some time. I prescribed to the old-school method of sleeping in the office. I was addicted to football. I couldn't get enough of it, and that imbalance affected me in my personal life. I'm now very conscientious of work-life balance for not only myself, but also my staff. With the resources available to everyone in today's NFL, there's no reason to be at work after midnight. There's always plenty of work to do, but we regularly assess our job responsibilities and time management. We hand out a daily staff schedule for the week every Monday and it details what's expected of our staff in terms of game-plan meetings, player meetings, etc. It's something we're very cognizant of. You'll occasionally have a coach or two who push themselves too far, and after experiencing that as a young coach, I don't tolerate it. It's important to balance your professional time and your personal time. It's a hard lesson I learned earlier in my career, but I think our coaches do a very good job of finding the right balance. We carry the same emphasis into the offseason. I believe by giving the staff time off, it comes back ten-fold because we are much more productive when we do work. Our time management as a staff is top-notch, and it's important to keep your finger on the pulse of that.
Q. What did the win in Detroit mean to the team?
The win in Detroit was an important victory. It was a division win on the road, and as a result, it will be recognized as one of the more important wins of the season. There was a lot of hype surrounding the game. They're a good team with a good record and it was important for us to get that game. Every game carries a chunk of confidence that you can take forward, and that victory had a little bigger chunk of confidence than some of the others. Winning a division road game, in a dome, on national TV and on a short week of preparation is a tremendous challenge. I was very proud of the way our team approached the game and completed the stretch of three games in 11 days. I think we're only the second team to ever do that. It tells you a lot about the character and focus of our football team.
Q. Who received the game balls?
The offensive game balls went to Aaron Rodgers and Marshall Newhouse. On defense, it was Robert Francois and Erik Walden, and on special teams it was Jarrett Bush. The big hit awards went to Randall Cobb and D.J. Smith.
Q. What are your thoughts on the Pat Lee ejection?
I think Pat Lee's ejection is the classic scenario of the second reaction getting penalized. A lot of us saw the whole play. He was locked up with a couple of Lions' players for an extended period of time after the play ended. You would have liked to see that situation resolved by the officials more quickly, because it went on way too long. Patrick was frustrated and he reacted. It was his reaction that the referee saw and he was penalized for it. Retaliation is something you coach against, and it's something you learn as a young football player. The player retaliating always gets penalized, and that was a classic example of it.
Q. What stands out to you about the Giants?
The Giants are a very talented team. They have a number of key veterans to complement a core of young talent. This game is going to be a tough challenge. It's always hard playing in New York. They have great fan support and coming off the loss against New Orleans, they'll be playing with urgency. It will undoubtedly be a very physical football game as it always is when we play them. It starts up front on both sides of the ball. Their offensive and defensive lines are definitely talented and deep. We'll have to concentrate on the little things and make sure that we're detailed and disciplined.
Q. There hasn't been a home playoff game since 2007. What would a home game mean to you?
That's the goal. It's always the goal at the start of the year to win the division and host playoff games. There's no place like home, and there's no place like Lambeau Field, especially in January. Playing in front of our crowd in that climate provides an excellent home-field advantage. It's something we consistently emphasize and that's what we're fighting for.
Q. What are the fundamentals of late-season football?
The fundamentals of late-season football are the same ones we emphasize at the beginning of the year, coupled with the discipline to carry them out. We continue to focus on tackling, ball security and blocking. When the weather is cold, you really have to emphasize low tackling, wrapping of arms, finishing and getting players on the ground. Throughout the league, you'll see players coming in with a high tackling target and trying to knock guys to the ground, instead of taking them to the ground, as the season progresses. The discipline to low-tackle at this time of year is critical. Taking care of the football is also essential. Everybody knows the importance of the turnover ratio. Currently, our ability to force turnovers and protect the ball is right where it needs to be. It's something we need to maintain and potentially improve upon throughout December and into the playoffs. Last but not least, the final fundamental is blocking, and the ability to get off blocks. Shedding and separating from blocks is more challenging at this point in the season because the footing has changed. It's important to understand and emphasize keeping all your cleats on the ground. As you monitor the health of your team and have fewer padded practices late in the season, every coach worries about fundamentals. It all comes down to playing with leverage, and that is so critical in cold weather.
*For last week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," click here.