In this week's edition, the head coach discusses the tradition of Lambeau Field, indoor vs. outdoor football, and the merits of an up-tempo offense, among other topics.
The Festival Foods Facebook question of the week is from SuAnne from Appleton, WI. Her question is: You've been a coach for a long time and played at NFL venues all over the country. How is playing at Lambeau Field different than playing anywhere else?
Lambeau is unique in so many different ways. I can recall a conversation I had with Bob Harlan when the Packers went through the first renovation 10 years ago. It was very important to him to maintain Lambeau Field's iconic tradition. That tradition remains visible throughout Lambeau and the greatness of the '60s can still be felt. We will also be able to maintain the stadium's unique presence through the current renovation, and that's a credit to Mark Murphy. I hear all the time from people who are visiting that Green Bay fans are so gracious. That says a lot about the fiber of Packer Nation. In my opinion, our fans support this team better than any other in professional sports and it creates such a great gameday atmosphere. How many stadiums have a neighborhood right across the street? Our public ownership is not only on paper, it's intertwined in every aspect of our team. We're clearly part of the people, the city and the state, and that's special.
Cory from Pewaukee, WI
Your teams seem to play very well in domes compared to previous Packers teams. Do you change your schemes much for indoor vs. outdoor games?
I wouldn't say we change our schemes, but we obviously account for the playing surface. There are teams that play differently on grass than on turf, and we're not dissimilar. I would characterize our team as athletic, and that's by design, because we want to be able to play any type of game we need to. When we are in a dome and on a fast surface, it plays to our team's athletic ability. Within our offensive and defensive schemes, we're always trying to get the best personnel on the field in a given situation. The biggest challenge in a dome is the noise. However, the training and preparation for loud environments has vastly improved, particularly in the last 10 years. I distinctly remember how visiting teams struggled with the noise in Arrowhead Stadium when I coached at Kansas City. If you can't perform successfully in loud environments, you can't play in the National Football League. If your cadence operation can't handle noise, then you can't compete. Teams have really improved in that area over the years.
Archie from Waupaca, WI
With the talent you have as players, what determines who gets to play each week and is that decision solely yours?
It really comes down to four things – health, scheme, matchups and productivity. I have regular meetings with the doctors to discuss injuries and determine the availability of players. The game plan against a particular opponent is also a factor, as well as how a player has performed when given opportunities. During the week of preparation we always want competition throughout our 53-man roster to determine the 46 players that will take the field on gameday. As the week progresses, we have some players that we know are going to be active for the game and some who are candidates for the last few active spots. At the end of the week, I meet with all three coordinators and we make the final decisions.
Q. In terms of stacking success, do you feel like this is a good time to get on a roll?
There's never a bad time to get on a roll. We lay out our schedule in quarters, and our second quarter has five games, finishing with these two games at home before the bye week. Obviously, it's important for us to win at home and we didn't take care of that back in Week 1, but succeeded in Weeks 2 and 4. We also need to continue to show improvement. I see a team that is playing pretty good football, but I also see a team that has a chance to grow into something more. That's what everybody is focused on.
Q. Why do you believe so strongly in the merits of an up-tempo offense? What are the merits of it?
In my mind, the merits are simple. You have 60 minutes to play the game, and there are two philosophies. You either try to slow it down to test your discipline versus the other team's discipline over a smaller number of plays, or you try to speed it up and test the discipline and efficiency over a larger number of plays. As much as we prepare and practice, we want to run as many plays as we can. That's the way I learned the West Coast offense. I don't remember Bill Walsh's exact quote, and Paul Hackett used to also say it, but the precision and timing of the West Coast offense will always defeat a defense. I learned that from Day 1, it's the way we train our quarterback and offense, and it's a great starting point.
Q. Do you teach the concept and execution of a "free" play?
Absolutely. It's a street-ball mentality. There's a design to the free play, and it's related to how we train our offensive players in a scramble drill. The most important component is that the pass protection unit can't stop blocking on the play. They need to keep the quarterback protected so he can take that shot.
Q. More and more it appears that linemen are playing higher. Is pad level still important?
It is a blocking fundamental, and it's something we train every day. Sustaining blocks, getting off blocks, it all plays into our success. The game is more wide-open now, but I still believe the teams that play with better fundamentals will be the most successful. They'll definitely be the more consistent football teams.
Q. How was the onside kick decision made?
Shawn Slocum and I discuss those situations and play calls before a game. Each game we have specific deceptive plays in the gameplan and our previous communication allows us to make the call seamlessly if the time comes.
Q. What's the next level of performance for your team?
We just have to beat Jacksonville, period! I think people sometimes get caught up too much in statistics – margin of victory, yards surrendered, all of that. In a lot of ways, statistics are for losers. At the end of the day, the three components of your team have to come together to win a game. The contributions are rarely balanced, but when it is, you have a really special performance. Statistics are barometers or red flags that force you to ask why. Why did we rush for so many yards or allow the other team to rush for so many? We identify and confirm the positives, and we teach from the negatives. There are many different ways to win in this league. Look at that game Monday night between the Bears and the Lions. Chicago's defense won the game. It's still a win. People will talk about the Bears' offensive production, but they're 5-1. That's all that matters. That's a team whose chemistry among the offense, defense and special teams is working right now. It's important to acknowledge that. What I like about our team is it has the ability to grow in all three areas and be more balanced. Special teams have been the leader for us all season. Our special teams have played the best and most consistent of all three phases, and the offense and defense need to perform to their level. That's what I'm looking for.
To see previous editions of "Tuesdays with McCarthy," click here.