About five hours after Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson took to the podium on Thursday, head coach Mike McCarthy followed him to discuss the Packers and his recent decision to give up primary playcalling duties.
McCarthy was asked about the playcalling at the beginning and end of his press conference, and said that he's "already thinking about (his) call sheet" and how the flow of the game will go with the new system. He indicated though that it should not be a huge change, as the framework for how to handle the changed responsibilities on game day is already in place, saying that "the offensive coordinator in the past has called the fourth preseason game so I have an idea what that looks like and I'm looking forward to it."
Even though McCarthy mentioned in his most recent press conference that the relationship between Aaron Rodgers and new playcaller Tom Clements as a big reason for the decision to make the change, he said that a number of other people play into the decision. In fact, he mentioned almost every offensive coach by name, starting with Alex Van Pelt, who "is someone who has a great relationship with Aaron, and I think he's done a great job in the QB room." He also discussed Edgar Bennett's contributions and James Campen's work with the offensive line, but did refer back to the fact that Clements and Rodgers have ten years of experience together and that it played a big part. Overall, he said "the fit with Aaron and the coaching staff has really made this decision for me very easy and I have a lot of confidence."
Speaking of Campen, the offensive line was a hot topic, both in terms of the continuity of the line overall and Bryan Bulaga's free agent status. McCarthy said about Bulaga that "definitely I want him back (and) I know Bryan wants to be back" but that everything is now in the business and negotiation realm. Regarding the line as a whole, though, McCarthy touched on the continuity once again and complimented the line:
"History will tell you you got five guys that line up and play together week in and week out, you're going to have a pretty good offensive line. This line's the best line I've coached in my time in Green Bay, clearly. What we ask of them as far as the responsibility is more than we've ever done (before). The continuity that they've created has been awesome. The production is definitely the best that we've had. This has definitely been our best group."
As far as the backups to Aaron Rodgers go, both Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien are unrestricted free agents. While McCarthy had little to say about Flynn specifically, he did have positive things to say about Tolzien, commenting that he's "definitely an ascending player" and that "he has more growth in front of him." However, McCarthy certainly did not rule out the Packers drafting a quarterback - in fact, quite the opposite, as he said that "if you have one at a value that you're comfortable and he's in position to pick him, I think you pick him."
McCarthy was then asked if he had any explanation why Eddie Lacy had seemed to start off slowly the first month of the season the last two years, and he made fun of himself (and maybe the media a little bit) in his response. McCarthy said "I don't see Eddie as a slow starter. Based on some of the things that I've read, the playcaller just needs to get him the damned ball in September."
He did say that Lacy had a great second season and that he "took the big step that you look for rookies to take into their second year." Specifically he mentioned Lacy's improvement in the passing game as both a receiver and blocker as major improvements, as well as a change in his tendencies to try to get him the ball more often out of the backfield.
Moving to the defense, one of McCarthy's best quotes of the day came in response to a question about whether he hopes that Julius Peppers will remain in Green Bay for 2015, to which he said "Yes, I do, and I must be the only one who doesn't understand why the question keeps coming up." (Clearly, McCarthy doesn't worry himself with the details of contract structure and the salary cap.) He did say that he thinks Peppers will "definitely" be a Packer in 2015, and complimented Peppers' impact on the team both on and off the field, saying "I think he looks great in the Green and Gold."
McCarthy later drew some parallels between the inside linebacker position this year and the safety position a year ago, saying that at the 2014 Combine he took "about seven questions about the safety position." He was happy to praise the safeties though, and said that the improvements at the position "not only gives you stability but gives you flexibility (and creativity)."
For the inside linebackers, though, McCarthy did mention Sam Barrington as a player who in 2014 was expected to take the second-year step that the Packers tend to expect. The coach said that he "really liked" Barrington's progress last season. Overall at the position, McCarthy said "we had a number of moving parts there (in 2014) so we'll see what this process, where we go through as far as player acquisition, how that affects it."
We'll have McCarthy's full transcript up later on.