17

December

Packers Coach Mike McCarthy: What Is He Thinking?

Mike McCarthy

Some of McCarthy’s decisions have led to many questions about whether they will help or hurt the Packers from here on out

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has a track record that speaks for itself:

73 wins

37 losses

.664 winning percentage in regular season

5-3 record in playoffs including a Super Bowl Championship

Two appearances in the NFC Championship game

Three NFC North division titles

Not bad, right?  Even by the sky-high standards of the Green Bay Packers and their fans, those numbers exude success.  But McCarthy has become somewhat of an intrigue lately.  As we know, he calls the offensive plays for the Packers during games.  He has done so since his arrival in Green Bay.

At times, especially this season, he has had fans and analysts alike scratching their heads with some of his decision making.  Now, I realize that he gives quarterback Aaron Rodgers some freedom to alter the play at the line if Rodgers sees something he thinks he can take advantage of.  It’s hard to say exactly whether some of these offensive failures were McCarthy calls or Rodgers check-out’s.  Whichever is the case, McCarthy is responsible for all of it as head coach.

Despite having clinched the NFC North division with today’s win over the Chicago Bears, the Packers still have a chance to improve their playoff seeding over the last two weeks of the season.  They return home to face the Tennessee Titans next week which screams (and I mean a blood-curdling scream) “trap game”.  Any lapse in that game and even worse, a loss, will fall squarely on the shoulders of McCarthy and how he prepares the team this week.  In week 17, they will face the Minnesota Vikings in what will surely be a tough game as the Vikings are now in great position to reach the postseason.

Any Packers player or coach who is asked will tell us:  “We believe in coach McCarthy and what we are trying to accomplish”.  And that’s not a bad thing.  I’d rather have that type of team culture than some others that I see (the Philadelphia Eagles come to mind).  At the same time, I think Packers nation is starting to grow anxious as we watch McCarthy baffle everyone from fans to the TV analysts (even Joe Buck and Troy Aikman) with some of his play calling.  And specifically late in games when the Packers have a decent lead and their destiny is in their own hands.

Now, I understand that Green Bay has benefited from some of the trickery they have tried this season.  There was the fake field goal for a touchdown against the Bears in week two.  There was the direct snap fake punt against New Orleans in week four that converted for a first down.  But that’s when the magic seemed to end.

We all recall the attempted pass that punter Tim Masthay thew into coverage against the Jacksonville Jaguars.  That was with the Packers up 14-12 and struggling at the time.  The pass somehow wasn’t picked off.  I’m not sure if McCarthy just thought the Packers were that much better than Jacksonville that even if it didn’t work, they’d overcome it?

There have been countless dive calls to running back John Kuhn on 3rd and 1 that have failed.  How many times have the Packers thrown deep on 3rd and long and not converted instead of just picking up another first down?  Has McCarthy forgotten who the best player on this team is and what most any coach in any sport will tell you:  get the ball into your best player’s hands whenever possible.  It begs the question as to whether it’s time for McCarthy to give up the play calling on Sunday’s after this season is over.  It’s at least worth asking the question.

Then came today’s game.  Halfway through the fourth quarter and leading 21-10, Green Bay’s defense forces a punt.  Randall Cobb receives the punt and has some room to run.  He turns to his right and tosses a lateral to Jeremy Ross.  Ross bobbles the ball which is a fumble and Chicago recovers.  Three plays later, the Bears kick a field goal to make it a one score game.

The obvious question is: why?  At that point, the defense had been holding Chicago’s offense in check and seemed to have a handle on how to contain Brandon Marshall.  The ball was back in Green Bay’s hands with one of the best quarterbacks in the league and a run game that had been controlling the clock.  At that point, that should have been the goal:  to control the clock and secure the win.

Instead, it gave the Bears the ball and already in scoring position.  As we know, momentum is big in a football game and that could have easily sparked a comeback for the Bears.  Fortunately, the Packers defense (and Alshon Jeffery’s over anxiousness for the ball) were up to the task and they got the stops when needed.  Sure, Shawn Slocum is in charge of special teams and makes calls, but that all likely has to go through McCarthy.

Just moments after today’s win over the Bears and already having to answer questions about why he would try the trick on the return at that point in the game, McCarthy was asked about the status of kicker Mason Crosby.  Would the team be exploring alternative options and was it time to make a change before it cost the team a game or their season?  McCarthy quickly ended any speculation by again endorsing Crosby and stating that he’s the team’s kicker for the remainder of the season.  I get that it’s late in the season and there aren’t many other options out there, but even those few options are better than Crosby right now.  Kicking isn’t like another skill position where an intricate knowledge of the offense is required.  This team’s need is simple:  a guy who can put the ball through the uprights.

So what happens when these decisions lead to a loss?  What about a playoff loss?  If the Packers’ season is over and they have fallen short, there will be nothing left for McCarthy to do nor offer but some sort of explanation.   At this point, McCarthy is going to have to search very high and very wide to find a soul who will empathize with any such explanation.

It would be a shame if McCarthy’s legacy in Green Bay started to take a dive because he wasn’t open to making the changes needed to maintain this mega-talented team’s success.  In all fairness, I’m sure that general manager Ted Thompson has some input and injuries are sometimes a factor.  But every team deals with struggles and the successful ones are the ones who make change when it’s needed.

It has been almost five years since the Packers have won a home playoff game.  As we sit here in mid-December and with another one looming, it’s time for McCarthy to get a grip on this team and how is best to lead them into late January and, just maybe New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

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31 Responses to “Packers Coach Mike McCarthy: What Is He Thinking?”

  1. Rob says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  2. Mike says:

    Not that I want to see them but I do wonder what kind of naughty photos Crosby is holding onto that McCarthy does not want us to see.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5

  3. Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

    From the very onset of the season,many have clamored for some ‘trickery’ especially with Cobb involved.Well,you all got you wanted for so long and now are removing the head and pulling out the brain of MM to understand what he was thinking when he offered you a piece of what many wanted to see.

    The fake FG was successful and if it failed would not have had the effect on the game as much as this one would have if Chi had scored a TD.

    Trick plays are ‘wows’ for fans when successful and should only be offered when a win or loss is so far from denial.

    The fake FG and fake punt as with the on-side kicks are gambles on measured thoughts.What was seen Sunday was just total trickery and served no purpose and never has over all IMO.

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  4. wim says:

    the cross field lateral was the worst call i can remember since sherman did not go for it on 4th down in regulation with the eagles unable to stop ahman green and kick instead. but mccathy’s mindfart was of a different sort. then there is the stick with crosby. yes he can get it to the endzone, though at some risk that he will also kick it out of bounds, but he has never been what you would consider a reliable kicker. once as a rookie and that is it. he seems to miss when it matters. two of those misses cost us games this year at seattle and indianopolis. i am baffled.

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  5. PatMc says:

    as we watch McCarthy baffle everyone from fans to the TV analysts (even Joe Buck and Troy Aikman) with some of his play calling.

    I for one have wanted McCarthy to baffle people instead of always doing the “out of box” stuff. If he is baffling other coaches, isn’t that a good thing?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  6. alex parkhurst says:

    Trick Play Idea

    Remember a few years ago when we punted and I think Devin Hester looked as if he were going to catch the ball on the sideline. The ball was caught on the opposite sideline by another of their players and it was run back for a touchdown onle to be called back by a penalty. Hester fooled everybody including the camerman and the announcers.

    The announcer said that was the coolest trick play ever.

    Let’s try that one. No lateral. Just fakery that worked. If our guy catches the ball and doen’t advance, so what. It’s worth a try.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

    • Bob W. says:

      That was a geat rick play the bears pulled off, thank god the penalty brought it back. The play worked so well due to lack of the punt team not locating the ball though. The Bears are noted for their special teams which has won many games for them. The fact still remains giving the nature of the game and what was at stake it was by far his worse call of the year, and he has had alot of them. I do agree that we need to bring in a different play caller.MM stated last week or the week before how he wanted to be more balanced and not be like last year where they were a more high octane offense and put the defense in bad postions scoring so quickly. You need to find a more middle ground.

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  7. alex parkhurst says:

    Prediction

    Crosby will get “injured” before the play-offs begin and we bring in someone else.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

    • Bubbaloo says:

      alex, I’ve been waiting for that mysterious “groin injury” for about a month now, would someone please kick him somewhere, Please!

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  8. Dan says:

    I’m giddy about winning the division in spite of all the injuries this year, However, I’m losing faith in MMs decision making, what’s up with musclehead mike this year? Things need to change for the playoffs…and get rid of Crosby Damn it.

    Because of our below avg Oline, I’m hoping certain events play out for the playoffs. 1st, I hope SF loses to Seattle. The no 2 seed will be nice. I hope the giants miss the playoffs….and, I hate to say this, but why do I feel that the packs playoff hopes hing on the results of Justin Smiths MRI today. The pats scored 28 pts last night when smith left the game. I hope he’s ok

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  9. Rick says:

    Watch the ST plays again. The Bears were directional punting to try and pin Cobb near a sideline and focused a lot of attention on him. When Cobb caught it the Bears crashed in and the lanes the Bears ST were in broke down. If Ross catches the ball he has a great retrun chance. Even if he did not get a great return the Bears will have to hold the lanes better which allows Cobb to return more freely. It is risk reward just like taking adavatage of the Bears Fg block overload in week 2.

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    • Dan says:

      “If Ross catches the ball”….exactly, “IF”, that’s why you don’t try that play with the circumstances at hand. And who is Ross? Nice hands. What a STUPID call. Keeping Crosby? STUPID, Kuhn run on 3rd and 6? DUMB. Getting away from a game plan that was working? Not smart. Pack beat one good team this year, we need to get our $h!t together for the playoffs.

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    • Rob says:

      The Pack has needed the run game to keep pass defenses “honest”. Doesn’t this work to keep kick defenses “honest”? This may have been intended for more than just this game. Every kick defense will hesitate just a bit, wondering… And what better time for it? Your defense has the Bear’s number, you’re up two scores… Worth the risk?

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  10. lambeauleaper says:

    There are time for trick plays,and there are times when cooler heads should prevail!In the case of this weeks trickery on the punt return,we should have caught the punt, worked the clock, and played for field position.

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    • Dan says:

      Exactly, especially when the division title is on the line, on the road, with a lead. The last thing you want to do is run something dangerous, and unnecessary, that could potentially give your opponent a better chance at coming back, a play that might change momentum. Dumb Da Da dumb!

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  11. Dan C says:

    What about the fact that we literally ran the ball on every first down in the Bears game? I kept laughing everytime we did it. Not that it wasn’t effective, it was, but we ran EVERY time. Don’t you want to mix it up, sometimes?

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  12. marpag says:

    OK, I’m just gonna say it. In the vast majority of cases, bitching and moaning about play calling is lame, and is almost always a display of ignorance.

    There. I said it. And it’s true.

    I can’t remember how many times this season I’ve heard people whining about McCarthy’s “horrible third down play calling” … what, with all the running when he should throw, and throwing when he should run, and throwing deep when he should throw short. From all the complaining that I hear, McCarthy must be clueless.

    Seriously? Do you guys watch football?

    In 2012, the Packers have converted 43.4% of their third down attempts. That’s good enough for fifth best in the NFL. Are you guys really saying that McCarthy sucks because only four teams in the league are better at converting third downs than the Packers are?

    And yeah, let’s talk about yesterday. The Packers face a 3rd down and 4 midway through the second quarter. Rodgers tosses a 29 yard touchdown pass to James Jones. Why the hell does McCarthy insist on doing that?? Doesn’t he know he should just check down and move the chains? But noooo… he’s gotta throw it deep … for a touchdown.

    Seriously, maybe it’s time for that pinhead McCarthy to give up the play calling duties. He clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing.

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    • Dan says:

      MM did a good job in the past at play calling and at times this year too. But, there has been plenty of questionable play calling and in game decision making this year. The Pack ranked 17th in offence, this year , heading into the bear game. That’s got to be the worse rating in rodgers career. I don’t think we are ignorant for making this observation and having an opinion, but, I think you are for calling us out.

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      • Rob says:

        Did you just miss marpag’s comment?!

        What would they rank offensively without all of the dropped passes? Are those due to “questionable” play calling?

        What did Bogart say? “I’ll slap you and you’ll like it!”

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

        • Dan says:

          Every team has dropped passes that factor into thier offensive ranking tardski. The Pack is ranked 17th, bottomline

          Look, all I’m saying is there’s been some questionable decisions being made this year including some play calling. The Pack is beat up this year and we have a below avg Oline that has caused our QB to be sacked more then any NFL teams. The Pack has already loss to NFC power teams and have won against some NFC under-belly teams.

          If the Pack is going to make noise in the playoffs, when playing against quality teams that will be pumped up to play for all the marbles, stupid decisions like keeping a fried FG kicker and dumb ass laterals on punts, and some of the other stupid calls , are just not going to cut it. We will need ever edge , which includes smart decision making. I’m glad MM is our coach, but he needs to be on top of his game come playoff time.

          There’s been games this year were our opponents out coached us. This can’t happen in the playoffs.

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    • Corporate cheesehead says:

      43%. Looks good, feels good, but its a misleading. The pack converted 6 of 13 against the 49ers. Hmmm. The 49ers physically owned the packers and held them to seven points in three quarters. The pack were 5 of 12 against the giants in November. How’d that one work out?

      The issue I have with mm is if he can adjust against more physical teams and be more balanced offensively. So far, he hasn’t or takes two or three quarters to do it. Running the corvette in fifth gear in a foot of snow just puts it into the ditch eventually. I’ll take victories over style points against more physical teams.

      And with that said, Mm is a top three coach in the league. what we are all really jabbering about is how best to win superbowls. nice problem, especially with all the injuries.

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  13. ZeroTolerance says:

    If you are so smart – apply for a HC position in the NFL. I’m sure you’d be taken seriously.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 6

    • Rob says:

      I sure could use the money. I could probably take a good team to 0-16. I wonder if the Lion’s will have an opening next year?

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  14. Jason Perone Jason Perone says:

    Some good conversation! You guys and girls never disappoint!

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  15. MARK says:

    Well written and right on spot. Live by the sword and die by the sword. If McCarthy isn’t willing to make the smart and necessary decisions then if and when it costs the Packers a playoff birth or playoff game he needs to be held accountable. Up and to and including firing. This is common sense decision making.

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  16. MARK says:

    I can live with the questionable play calling. Even the refusal to go for it on several 4th and less then a yard calls. The sticking with the worst FG kicker in the NFL is not explainable.

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