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Tuesdays with McCarthy


In this week's edition, the head coach discusses the running back rotation, his affinity for boxing, and the next level of performance for the Packers on both sides of the ball, among other topics.

The Festival Foods Facebook question of the week is from Steve from Fond du Lac, WI. His question is: How do you feel about the idea of getting rid of the kickoff?

It would be a major change for the game, and it's not a simple issue. It's important to be mindful of the game's history and traditions and I'm not a big fan of major rule changes. However, player safety is paramount. There are numerous statistics that illustrate the injury risk on kickoffs. The first adjustment the NFL made, moving the kickoff up by five yards, has had a positive impact on player safety by reducing the number of returns. Overall, it's a difficult issue to consider during the season. It's probably a better question to discuss at the league meetings in March when the league will have all the pertinent information and data to discuss the viable solutions. At that point, an educated and sound decision can be made. Everyone agrees that player safety should be at the forefront of all these decisions.

Anthony from Appleton, WI
How do you determine your running back rotation?

There are several factors. In part, we consider an individual's past performance and his comfort level with certain portions of the playbook. Injuries and our offensive tendencies are also factors. Everything is considered as we build our game plan. Rotating running backs is a challenge because it's not just about putting a new guy in the game and giving him the ball. The backs have other responsibilities, such as pass protection, that we must also consider. Protection is very important to our offense, and there has to be a lot of trust and communication among the backs, the protection unit and the quarterback. Everything factors in and that's why we have long game plan meetings every week.

Hector from East Illinois
What led you to showing the film of the Ali fight to your team before the game, and are you a boxing fan?

I used to be a big boxing fan. I have great memories of watching boxing with my father as a kid. I don't think we ever missed a Muhammad Ali fight, and I remember that '76 Olympic boxing team with Sugar Ray Leonard and several other greats. Regarding our team, we have a theme each week, and our theme going into Chicago was the ability to "punch and counterpunch." In those types of games, you're going to throw as many punches as you can. However, you're also conscious of the fact that when you're on the road, in Soldier Field, there's the potential for big momentum swings and you have to be able to counterpunch. With that in mind, we showed some highlights of the Ali-Foreman fight in '74, the "Rumble in the Jungle." That fight not only displayed the physical greatness of Ali, but also his mental and strategic ability as he went on to win the heavyweight championship that night against an incredible champion himself, George Foreman.

Q. Is a bye week in the postseason good or bad?

It's great and it's a definite advantage. I understand recent history and the theory that a team can benefit by playing on and not taking a break. However, my opinion is that a fresh football team gives you the best opportunity to win in the regular season and the postseason. Given the opportunity, we are definitely going to try to earn a first-round bye.

Q. Other than winning, what qualifies a team as being hot?

Quality of play. The game of football is about winning and quality of play, and that's what excites me about our team. I still believe this team has the ability to grow over the next two weeks as we head into the playoffs. I see a football team that has a lot of ability, production and potential in all three phases, and that's the difference between this year's team and last year's team.

Q. Is the whole "Cover Two" thing overrated?

It's part of the game and the path that our offense has been on this year. In the last few weeks, we've done a much better job of producing with a balanced attack. Based on what we see from our opponent defensively, it's important that our offensive play selection results in clean plays, and we're doing that. For the most part, we've had success in that area all year, but our balanced attack execution has improved. That will be a strength of our offense as we move forward. Our offense hasn't seen as much pressure this year as we've seen in the past, but Tennessee has a history of bringing pressure on the quarterback. We'll see if that's the case this week.

Q. Do you agree that your offensive line provided running room on Sunday?

Yes. However, we didn't grade out as well offensively as I thought we would when I walked off the field on Sunday. There are some things we can continue to improve upon. Don Barclay keeps getting better. The line was solid against a defensive front that incorporates a lot of movement. It's important to look at the combination of the running back's course and the run-blocking unit together. Rhythm and timing are not exclusive to the passing game; they're also applicable to the running game. The run-blocking unit has been getting the back to the second level more consistently, but we have to do a better job on that second level of making a free tackler miss. That's the last component of the running game we need to improve on down the stretch.

Q. What's the next level of performance for your offense?

Point production. We left points on the field against Chicago, and that's the one area in which we are looking to improve. Ideally, our third-down efficiency would have been better, but we were 2-for-2 in the red zone and we converted in short-yardage situations. We excelled in situational football, but we fell short in point production. We had two missed field goals and the turnover heading into the red zone. Had we converted those opportunities, our point production would have been in the 30s and we'd feel a lot better about our performance.

Q. How about for the defense?

Build off the performance against Chicago. Our defense was dominant and the grades were outstanding. We owned the line of scrimmage. We shut them out in third-down conversion opportunities and you can't do better than that. We had a couple of penalties on their touchdown drive, but other than that, our defense played lights out.

To see previous editions of "Tuesdays with McCarthy," click here.

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