In this week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," the head coach discusses the holiday schedule, the two-minute drill and managing the line of scrimmage, 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.*
Terry from St. Peters, MO
Q. Do you see the upcoming holiday season presenting any kind of distraction for your team?
Anytime you get to this point in the season, the holidays and time management are areas you focus on as a football team. The personal side of this business is very important, and it would be naïve and ignorant not to acknowledge that. We're all professionals, and we understand the importance of December football, but the personal demands are also evident. The emphasis on time management in December is at a season high and we try to be pro-active with how we budget our personal and professional time. The fact that we're playing on Christmas and New Year's Day is truly unique. Playing the only game on Christmas night and facing the Chicago Bears at home is an exciting opportunity for our football team. This is the most favorable Christmas schedule that I have ever experienced while working in the NFL. We will move our traditional Saturday evening meeting to Sunday afternoon, allowing our day to finish at 11 a.m. (Saturday) on Christmas Eve. As a result, every member of our football operation will have Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at home with their family. We're fortunate to be playing this game at Lambeau Field. That doesn't happen very often in this business and I think it's going to work out very well. I always take a long look at these elements because you want to eliminate as much stress on your team as possible. If you don't schedule properly during the holidays and acknowledge the importance of family on special days like Thanksgiving and Christmas, it can affect the psyche of your football team.
Josh from Struthers, OH
Q. How much communication does the sideline have with the quarterback during the two-minute drill? Did Aaron call all the plays in the final drive against the Giants or were the calls coming in from the sideline?
During two-minute drills, you still have the ability to talk to the quarterback through the headset until the play clock gets down to 15 seconds. We have a plan and potential scripted plays for those situations; however, it can change based on what happened earlier in the game. On that particular drive, with one timeout and 58 seconds remaining in the game, we had our first play called. It was at the top of the list on the game plan. There was an adjustment to be made with that play call and Aaron did a great job handling that. The next three calls were base plays that Aaron has had countless reps in. He actually made an adjustment on the Jordy Nelson pass as well. They were four very standard plays that really came down to outstanding execution of the offense.
Brian New Egypt, NJ
Q. At what point does the coaching staff begin to look at film and prepare for teams they might face in the playoffs, which would include teams that Green Bay hasn't faced in the regular season?
*That probably would not come into play until the last week of the regular season. Traditionally, the playoff field remains unsettled as the fourth, fifth and sixth seeds often aren't determined until the final week of the season. However, in order to ensure our quality control coaches have enough time to do the film breakdowns, we'll probably start charting potential opponent desired game film for evaluation two weeks prior to the end of the regular season. *
Q. What's important as the postseason nears?
It's about getting back to the basics and fundamentals. That will be a big part of the message to the football team this week. For example, we have to tackle better. We had too many technical mistakes in the Giants game. December football is different. We're going to be playing outdoors in cold weather and on natural grass for the rest of the regular season so it's important for us to really emphasize our fundamentals. It's especially important with the limited number of padded practices we have remaining.
Q. You're mantra of don't be the hunted, be the hunter, how did you acquire it?
I'm sure someone used it before me. One thing about this business is that you can't claim or put patents on too many things because pro football is one big cycle. Whether it's scheme, motivation or scheduling, it's likely that it has been used before. However, if you're in tune with history, it's a great resource to utilize. I'm sure I came across that mantra at one time. I have a folder of notes that anytime I see, hear or think of something, I'll jot it down. I have a stack of yellow message cards in both of my bathrooms, so anytime I get out of the shower, I'll write notes. I keep them in a file and often refer to them, but I don't recall where specifically that one came from. When I was thinking of a theme for this season, that was definitely one that seemed appropriate.
Q. The running game: What's most important, yards or carries?
Carries. They are body blows to the defense. To me, running the football is like a boxing match. I don't concern myself with the number of yards. The one statistic in the running game that I do look at is the number of negative runs. It's been a problem with our run game this year. We've had way too many negative runs, including five against the Giants. I find rushing attempts to be far more important than yards. I am a firm believer in the philosophy that when you run the football in the first quarter, you might gain one or two yards. In the second quarter, they become two- or three-yard runs and in the third quarter, three- or four-yard runs. By the time you are in the fourth quarter, those runs are going to start to come out the back end of the defense. It's a body-blow mentality. That's what I've always believed in, and that's the way I approach it.
Q. Has Aaron Rodgers reached the level of game management and line of scrimmage control for which Peyton Manning is famous?
That's a good question. I can't really comment on Peyton, but it looks like he's had a lot of control at the line of scrimmage. We have two phases to our offense – no-huddle and the traditional where we do huddle. In the no-huddle, Aaron is in the driver's seat. He has the best seat in the house, and that's really the design of our offense. No one has a better seat for calling plays than the quarterback under center. There are play-callers who may disagree with that, but the reality is that the quarterback has the best knowledge of what the defense is doing, especially if you give him enough time at the line of scrimmage before the snap. When we are in the no-huddle, our philosophy is to have Aaron get us in the best play available. In the traditional offense, I call the plays into Aaron. When you call offensive plays, you have plays where you run it as they are called or plays in which you can make adjustments. We've always emphasized plays with adjustments because defenses today will overload or try to take you out of what you do well. I've said it time and time again, I don't think you play uphill unless you have to. You can play uphill in certain situations such as four-minute offense, goal-line or short-yardage situations, but to do it for four quarters is not our philosophy. Aaron (QB position) is the key to making our system successful.
Q. The Raiders are a power running team. Your thoughts on that?
The line of scrimmage is going to be a battle on both sides of the ball. They're a big, physical football team. They have a lot of size on both their offensive and defensive lines. The run game is their starting point and it's where they're the most effective. It keeps their quarterback in favorable down-and-distances. Carson Palmer has a lot of history with the play-action passing game, and that's the way they'd like to play. We need to stop the run. It's going to be a challenge. They're going to run the football like they do every week. They've got big backs, and Michael Bush has done a good job since Darren McFadden has been injured. That will be our defensive focus.
Q. How do you eliminate giving up big plays?
It goes back to what I talked about earlier, technique and fundamentals. The starting point to pass defense is the pass-rush and making sure the quarterback is not on his spot throwing the ball all day. It's also about playing to your leverage in pass coverage, squeezing the leverage when the ball is in the air and challenging the completion. Interceptions don't come very often by jumping routes or cutting underneath routes. Our guys are probably the best in the league at doing that. However, most interceptions come when your coverage unit is playing with the proper leverage and the ball is thrown a little off, or you're breaking on the ball and it causes a collision and the next guy gets the interception off a deflection. We just have to be cleaner with our leverage and coverage in the back end. A big throw should be a competitive catch or competitive incompletion, and we just have to do that on a more consistent basis
*For last week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," click here.