Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy recently sat down with Packers Plus correspondent Rob Reischel to talk about how he measures success, his team's perceived lack of toughness, and his impressions of Ted Thompson's off-season plans. Here are a few excerpts from the interview.
Q. A lot of coaches talk about learning the most from losses. Do you agree with that premise?
A. I disagree with that, but in a good way. I think you're able to learn more from losses because the emotion of the game stings a lot more and I think it heightens your sense of urgency. To me, the true challenge in this league is to make sure you learn enough from your successes because handling success is ultimately, I think, a team's greatest challenge. I think the biggest challenge is your ability to learn from your successes, because with human nature it's natural that when you do achieve success you exhale. And you can't do that. And that's why you really have to keep the team and really the whole operation focused on the quality of play. That's where I spend the majority of my time. I don't get as caught up in the wins and losses. We've been blessed because we've won a lot of games. But the quality of play is the true indication and the true element of how you make progress and learn.
I tend to agree with Coach McCarthy on the "moral victories" front. I believe you can learn more from successes than you can from failures. How are you supposed to learn from doing something wrong anyways? Silver linings and moral victories are for the apathetic, and there isn't a lot of room for that in the NFL. It's interesting to hear Coach McCarthy talk about using negative energy as a short-term motivator, and then turning that into long-term positive energy.
I'm sure that players and coaches use the negative energy of a regular season loss as a short-term motivator leading up to the following regular season game, but if they are still using that playoff loss to the 49ers as negative energy come Week 1, they are going to be in trouble. They have to move on from that experience, and show up more prepared, focused, and determined than they were in January. If they are still reliving that nightmare, like the majority of the fan base is, they are only going to show up to Candlestick Park in week one waiting for the first negative thing to happen. It's clear Coach McCarthy doesn't even like talking about the game anymore, and I hope they've made the proper adjustments in the defensive scheme to be better prepared for the read-option. This doesn't guarantee a different outcome, but it does guarantee a more focused preparation leading up to the game
Q. The toughness of this team has been questioned over the last several months. How did you react to that?
A. I think it's a load of nonsense because I think the proof is in the pudding. If you watch the tape and the film and you win 12 games a year and you don't win the Super Bowl, people have to question something. I get that ... Your will and your toughness are challenged every day. So to ever label an NFL football team as not being tough? I mean, there are some teams that are tougher than others. Most teams think they're tougher than everybody else. That's part of the DNA of our sport. But I'm very, very confident in the toughness of our team.
I'm glad Coach McCarthy is sticking up for his team, and not letting the continued perception of the Packers being "soft" to grow anymore than it already has. The media likes to pose questions about a team's will when they can't come up with a logical reason for a team's inability to win a championship. You will often hear "I don't know if Team A 'wants it' as bad as Team B" and other nonsense. The Packers are an easy target lately because they have failed to run the ball successfully, and their defense has underachieved.
This team's DNA will always be a pass-first style offense with a defense that causes havoc off the edges with Clay Matthews. If that warrants a "finesse" label, so be it. Coach McCarthy isn't going to change his philosophy because the media thinks his team is soft. McCarthy seems confident that the 2013 Packers offense will be able to establish a steady rushing attack, and has high praise for the potential of the young collection of talent at the position. Competition often breeds a quality product, and I think the Packers running back competition will produce a steady rushing attack that will keep defenses honest this fall.
Q. Do you ever get frustrated in the off-season when the general manager is largely an innocent bystander during free agency?
A. I think there's a little bit of a misconception of how it all unfolds. We actually do look at free agents. Our personnel department, particularly our pro personnel department, work very hard. But it's a hard time of the year. Trust me. It's tough. We're involved, it's just we feel like we're making sound decisions. We're not going to jump out there for the big, high-priced tag guy because at the end of the day, we've been blessed with the ability to draft and develop, and we've really focused on trying to pay our own guys, get our own free agents done.
It's a very healthy theory and it definitely fits into the nature of this organization, which is to take care of your own. I think we often forget how young the Packers defense was last season, and how many injuries occurred along the way. The Packers were on their third-string inside linebacker after Week 6, Woodson and Matthews missed extended time, and the first two draft picks, Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy, both went down with season-ending injuries. Woodson didn't quite look the same after returning from his second collarbone injury since 2010, and the young secondary was hit or miss throughout the season. If the Packers can stay relatively healthy, and the young talent can pick up on the defensive schemes of a Dom Capers 3-4 defense, this team could help the Packers defense return to it's 2010 form.
I thought I would add a little reaction from Coach McCarthy on Ted Thompson for all those out there who are frustrated with the Packers' GM. If you are going to blame Ted Thompson for his personnel decisions, let's not forget that Mike McCarthy had Alex Smith ahead of Aaron Rodgers on his draft board when he was with the San Francisco. The fact of the matter is that no decision gets made solely by Ted Thompson. He has a lot of pull, but the Packers wouldn't make a move unless Mike McCarthy was comfortable with it. No one is perfect, and both Thompson and McCarthy have made their mistakes. This organization won a Super Bowl two years ago, and is a year removed from going 15-1 in the regular season; let's not freak out just yet.
Q. Despite a high level of success, you haven't had much movement among your assistants. Why is that?
A. Well, to have them stay together is all about growth, and I feel good about giving guys some other opportunities to grow from within without leaving. Sometimes people think they have to leave to another spot to grow. I hope our assistant coaches don't feel that way. Based on my communications, we feel like we're giving guys a chance to grow as much as they can individually. Ultimately, it's about winning. But this stuff, drinking from the cup of success, winning a Super Bowl is all everybody's focused on. We talk about capturing that moment again and there's nothing like that. I'm very blessed to have these guys. And who knows? Maybe it's this year. I'm a little surprised some of these opportunities haven't gone to a number of our guys because we have an extremely talented coaching staff.
Much like the player development within the organization, the Packers seem to prefer to keep a level of familiarity within their coaching ranks. Winning a Super Bowl likely helped Joe Philbin land the Miami Dolphins head coaching job, and if the Packers are able to hoist another Lombardi Trophy, I expect a few coaches to get promoted elsewhere. The fact that Packers are built around a developmental philosophy must make an assistant coaching position with the Packers pretty appealing to young coaches around the league.
I found this interview refreshing, especially after all the OTA and minicamp press conferences in which McCarthy was fairly generic in his responses. It's pretty clear that McCarthy is excited about the potential of the 2013 Green Bay Packers team, and he seems to be motivated to prove people wrong after a disappointing ending to the 2012 season. We as a fan base need to follow coach's lead and turn all this negative energy into a positive influence for the 2013 season
Like Tony Perkins, Ben Stiller's character in Heavyweights, once said, "Feel the chi, repulse the monkey, and part the wild horse's mane." Namaste my fellow cheeseheads.