So the Packers hire Dom Capers and decide to switch to a 3-4 defense. I really don't think it gives them a huge advantage, but I don't think it hurts them either. In 2008, some great defenses, like Pittsburgh, used the 3-4, but other great defenses, like Tennessee, used a 4-3. If the 4-3, or 3-4, were clearly superior to the other, then every team in the NFL would be using the better one. We'll see how it turns out for the Packers next season.
The Packers have gone 27-21 over the past three seasons, which is pretty good. They'd be pretty good in 2009 whether they made the switch to a 3-4 or not. Is Mike McCarthy just desperate?
(There's a claim that's been made that firing half your staff is an act of desperation. How do you respond to that?)
"I don't agree with it. I think I have answered that question here today. It was an evaluation period that went on and I felt it was in the best interest of our program to make changes."
Well why make the change to a 3-4?
"Our starting point will be the 3-4. I'm a big believer in the 3-4 defense for a number of different reasons."
Mike, you've been the head coach for the past three seasons. If you're a big believer in the 3-4, why did you wait three years to run it? Were you previously a bigger believer in the 4-3?
The press conference also mentioned another tidbit, when McCarthy fired strength coach Rock Gullickson. Hiring Gullickson was a big deal in 2006. McCarthy got rid of the machines and brought back free weights. And he spoke very highly of Gullickson:
"Our players are the organization's most important investment," McCarthy said. "They already have some of the finest resources and traditions in all of sports, but they also need people to equal those standards. Rock is without a doubt one of those people. He's the best person for this job, and I consider this position as important as any on my staff. I've seen first-hand what he can do with professional athletes. Our players will be impressed."
But there wasn't enough "growth and improvement" so out the door he went:
(What went into that decision? When you got here, you talked a lot about Rock's approach. To see you change course, it's hard to figure it out.)
"Really it's similar to the issue on defense. It was about making progress. It's important for everybody that is part of our program to make sure there is growth and improvement, and I did not see that. There is an environment that existed that was not what I was looking for frankly, and that's why it was another tough, difficult change to make, especially on a personal level. But it's a big part of our program. It's a part of our program that needs to improve. We are a young football team, and we need to make the changes. I don't care if we're lifting free weights, flipping tires, or whatever we are doing, but we need to do a better job in there."
Either McCarthy was wrong about his defense and his players' conditioning over the last three seasons, or it's time to shake up the place after a losing season. It's what GM Ted Thompson did after the 4-12 season in 2005. Out goes Mike Sherman, and a lot of change is made. When McCarthy says "I don't care if we're...flipping tires" it sounds like he is making change for change's sake. He doesn't care what is done differently, but something will change to show his players and the team's fans that a losing season will not be tolerated.
The strategy worked out when the Packers rebounded from a 4-12 record in 2005 to the NFC Championship game two seasons later. We'll have to wait and see how it turns out this time.