On Wednesday, January 28th, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy met with the media to discuss his team's 2014 season, their loss in the NFC Championship Game to the Seattle Seahawks, and the plans for the offseason.
McCarthy began with an opening statement addressing those topics in general before taking questions and getting into the details.
I thank everybody for their patience. 2014, an excellent season for us, something we're very proud of. I think it's very important first to thank our organization, their commitment to football and to our team. I think you look at the resources, I think they really impact our success this year. The fans, I understand your disappointment, we're right there with you. I thought our home field advantage was second to none. The support has just been incredible from our fans and I thought they definitely took it up a notch this year.
The team, the players, coaches, support staff, I think our football IQ was probably the highest in my tenure here. I'm very proud of what was accomplished there.
My thoughts on the NFC Championship Game: very disappointing loss, definitely a game I thought we had plenty of opportunities to win, I thought we let it get away. Special teams, definitely a tough performance for us. Any time you give up 7 points and have a turnover, especially when it comes in the second half, it's tough to overcome. Defensively, we felt strongly we'd be able to handle Seattle, to keep them under 17 points. We just didn't finish it there in the overtime. Offensively, I thought we had a very good plan. Running the football was a priority when you go against an excellent defense up there. The two minute drive (that tied the game), to overcome the adversity, I thought (was a) testament to the football team, our offensive group, to Aaron Rodgers.
We will start the process of change, adjustment and emphasis as we do every year as we try to adjust for the 2015 season.
McCarthy then took questions, starting with whether he anticipates a coaching change on special teams:
I thought it would be the second or third question. It's important to evaluate. I haven't had that opportunity (yet). We'll look at everything, every job description, every performance, mine included ... some things we did from a program standpoint definitely helped from a health standpoint ... that (evaluation) process will begin.
The coaches are off this week ... they go through the rankings, we have a format that we follow. You start having your exit interviews with your coordinators, then the assistants. Usually takes about a good week or so.
In light of his brother's recent passing, McCarthy was asked to describe the support he and his family received from the Packers organization:
Unbelievable. I can't talk too much on that. Just incredible.
Back to football, McCarthy addressed more about the special teams units:
Special teams is no different from offense or defense. Comes down to healthy scheme, personnel, executing the fundamentals. Our special teams errors have been critical more because of the timing of it, it definitely showed up during the Seattle game.
On whether he has a plan or mindset for the 2015 season:
I haven't really had time to reflect on the season. We will go into 2015, it'll be its own opportunity. We'll continue to build and create the program that puts us in position to win championships. That process will probably get started on Monday or Tuesday of next week. Ted's already gotten started on the college draft.
On how the loss to Seattle might affect the team in 2015 and beyond:
Every game you compete in is a unique experience. only way you benefit is if you learn from both the victories and defeats. The 2015 football team will not bear the burden of what happened in 2014 or before that.
We treat big plays as one of the five fundamentals of packer football. SEA made the big plays down the stretch in the critical part of the game. Fundamentals, applying them to everything you do. That's how you win.
Discussing the report that Seattle ran their fake field goal solely because Brad Jones was on the field, and if the Packers coaches should have caught that in self-scouting:
I don't think it's as much of self scouting as what your call is in that situation, that is what SEA benefited from. Heck of a play by Jon Ryan. I think you have to look at it from that standpoint. You look at that series, the 3rd down conversion they had, walking out with a field goal (at) 16-3 is fine (for us). Creating the opportunity for them to make a big play is where we erred.
Fakes are risky. Jon Ryan can run, we know that. From a responsibility, the pursuit, I think it would have been a footrace for the first down. We did not execute our particular responsibility as well as we could and they had a better play called.
Regarding why Clay Matthews was not on the field late in the game:
I know he was being looked at there late at the end, I know his knee. He had a couple collisions there at the end. I talked to Clay, he said he needed a minute. Looking him in the eye, I didn't see a reason for concern. I don't get a play-by-play of every guy looked at during the game. Unless it impacts the game as far as a player injury, I'm not really notified.
On the team's strategy approaching free agency:
It's an ongoing conversation. We want to sign our guys back. I want all of our guys back.
Did he wish he had done anything differently against Seattle?
There's always plays you go back and look at. I take full responsibility for everything that goes on in the game. I regret not doing enough to help the team win ... 4th and ones? First 4th and 1, I actually called the 4th down play on the headsets, (made the) 3rd and 4th down calls (together) ... but the penetration I saw on the 2nd down, I saw again on the 3rd down on the backside, that's why I called for the field goal.
How will McCarthy watch the Super Bowl this season?
You have to go watch it somewhere where you can watch the game. I've tried to go watch with family and friends, that's not fun because they say things they shouldn't say to you. I like to watch the game to watch the game.
On Clay Matthews' role outside or inside in 2015:
It's really coming off of last year, moving him around, not only what we accomplished with Clay specifically but we were able to be more flexible with Clay and Julius and the elephant position, I thought those changes were effective. To answer your question, Clay's an outside linebacker ... and he was very productive when we moved inside. In player acquisition, hopefully we will have more options.
On Julius Peppers giving Morgan Burnett the sign to stop on the interception return:
When I look at things like that, everybody on the field and every coach, you have decision-making responsibility. Aaron on offense has the highest level, the offensive line has more than we've ever done. Defensively, Dom making the call, but still adjustments for A.J. (Hawk) or Brad (Jones) or Sam (Barrington) ... those are decisions made in the heat of the battle. I agree with the intent of (Peppers') decision. I expected us to move the ball and change the field position ... that's not Morgan's fault.
Regarding the changes to the team's schedule to help with injuries:
It's been great. Changing the schedule, frankly the new facility was the hurdle for me to make the change ... you have to give our training staff a ton of credit. (Strength/conditioning coordinator) Mark Lovat was instrumental in many of these changes ... we definitely felt like we hit a home run with the changes we made ... biggest change is the fatigue injuries.
On the free agent signings on defense:
I thought Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion were impactful for our defense. Letroy, playing against him in the division and at his age, I thought we were fortunate to be able to sign him. His personality, energy, I've always felt he was a heck of a football player. Peppers, from a leadership standpoint, knocked it out of the park. Talk about Charles Woodson, the impact he made as a free agent, he was special; Julius did a great job.
Discussing the rookie class and their expected improvements in their second year:
Definitely. I have the same conversation with the rookie class that I have with every rookie class - the biggest opportunity to make a jump is from year 1 to year 2. Where we put the emphasis definitely gives the player the opportunity to make that jump. They'll be pushed and held to the expectation to make that jump.
On the offensive line and the red zone struggles late in the season:
I don't agree (that they) struggled to get a push at the goal line ... there's some things that we'll look at and we could probably get creative doing some things there. I thought our run blocking as a whole was impressive. A number of times our goal line runs we had, we were able to create a crease and score.
McCarthy after being asked about his own health:
i feel good. It's good to be back at work. It's something that we all, my family incl, it's definitely gut-wrenching and it's put all of us on alert to make sure we take a closer look at it.
73 players, the young players they're pretty similar because they don't really know what to expect. I have a list of questions and topics I go through, that was normal. Our veteran players, that was the best I've ever had. I look at exit interviews as finding ways for me to improve. There will definitely be changes that occur from those discussions.
Finally, McCarthy gave one final statement on his difficult past week-plus:
Life's precious. I don't have the words or emotional discipline to take you through it. It's very difficult. We're pressing on as a family.