After Brian Gutekunst spent some time discussing the Green Bay Packers’ approach to free agency and the draft on Wednesday morning at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, the team’s head coach, Mike McCarthy, took to the podium to divulge some insights of his own.
What he revealed was not exactly Earth-shattering, but it was revelatory at least about how he views the changes that have been taken on the coaching staff and how he and his staff are going about reviving an offense that has been less effective in recent years than at its peak.
That offense has struggled since about a month into the 2015 season, when opposing teams began playing more press-man coverage and forcing the Packers’ receivers to beat their defenders one on one. Without the luxury of Jordy Nelson that season, Aaron Rodgers and company scuffled, making the playoffs but with only moderate offensive success all season. The 2016 season was somewhat improved, but still showed flashes of the same issues at times, while 2017 was a mess when Rodgers broke his right collarbone.
That led McCarthy to re-evaluate the offense entirely, and with the help of returning offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, that involves a deep dive into finding out what does and doesn’t work. “We’re doing a twelve-year study,” McCarthy said at the podium in Indianapolis, referring to the span over which he has been the head coach for the Green and Gold. He elaborated further: “(we’re) looking at (Rodgers’) first six years compared to the last four, particularly the last three; kind of breaking it down into the first seven and last three and just seeing the differences.”
It’s obvious that the transition from 2014 to 2015 is the right point to split up that analysis. Prior to 2015, Rodgers averaged 8.3 yards per attempt and won a pair of NFL MVP awards, including his second in 2014. Since then, he has averaged just seven yards per attempt.
A cerebral player, Rodgers presumably will welcome this fresh look at the offense as a whole. “He likes a challenge,” McCarthy said; “we have to make sure we continue to challenge him as we grow as a football team.”
With so many new members of the coaching staff, this deep dive into the offense should be especially helpful. McCarthy is relishing “the change to go back and take all 12 years, particularly the video, the original installation of it, how it evolved, what have we got away from, what we’ve stayed with.” That self-analysis will hopefully pay dividends, and should allow McCarthy and company to get back to being ahead of his defensive counterparts. “In this league, the evolution of scheme is always the challenge and the focus of what every coach goes through ... The ability to stay on the front end of that curve and hopefully stay a step or so in front of your opponent in that particular challenge is what we’re always focused on.”
Meanwhile, McCarthy made plenty of changes on the defensive staff as well, with the most prominent being the hiring of Mike Pettine to replace Dom Capers as defensive coordinator. That decision came after quite a bit of agonizing, however: “Obviously the last nine years I felt that internally, we were able to take the resources that we had, build a vision and a plan for the upcoming season,” he said. “Obviously I felt differently this season and we went out externally and obviously the result was all the coaching changes.”
While McCarthy was shaking up his staff, the Packers also made a big move in the front office, as Ted Thompson stepped back out of the GM chair and Brian Gutekunst took over. As far as working with Gutekunst, it seems that McCarthy feels that he’ll have a little more feedback and input on the player acquisition process, particularly as far as free agency goes. “We like the word aggressive, but it’s like anything, you have to be in touch with the reality of the process,” he said, noting that free agency is very different in 2018 than it was years ago. However, he seems to embrace a shift towards at least considering players from other teams on a regular basis. “We spent pretty much our 12 years here really focused on improving from within, but we need outside resources. We’ve determined that.”
It was unclear whether that determination he refers to came from himself and the coaching staff or from some combination of efforts with Gutekunst and the front office, but the message is clear: McCarthy both wants and expects the team to be more active in that arena than it was under Ted Thompson.
On a final note, Ty Montgomery may seem like a man without a position going into 2018, after seeing two rookies take over the position in his absence following yet another injury. Availability is the buzzword for the head coach, and he noted that none of the three runners — Montgomery, Jamaal Williams, and Aaron Jones — made it through the entire season without missing time. However, McCarthy made it clear that Montgomery will not move back to wide receiver on a full-time basis: “He’s a running back ... but he gives us great flexibility to use him in so many different ways. So that won’t change, and we’re gonna need all those guys next year.
Click here for the full video of McCarthy’s press conference and stay tuned for more updates live from Indianapolis all week long.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy speaks live at the 2018 Combine:Posted by Acme Packing Company on Wednesday, February 28, 2018