We have your spot!
By CHRIS HAVEL
Packers’ head coach talking more about special teams, defense and devising creative ways to teach
Mike McCarthy has had an impressive offseason. He has displayed true leadership in two key areas.
First, he made the decision to turn over the play-calling duties to his assistant head coach, Tom Clements. It showed to everyone that he’s more interested in doing what’s best for the team, rather than doing what he might prefer to do himself.
Second, he followed it up by diving into the defense and special teams, while also focusing on how the big picture is impacted.
He spoke with detail and conviction about the performance of players such as linebackers Adrian Hubbard and Carl Bradford, as well as other defense/special teams’ players.
He seemed comfortable either criticizing (Bradford came into training camp out of shape last season) or praising (Hubbard’s had a good offseason, according to the coach).
It is easier to do so because he’s been able to turn his attention away from the offense, take his eyes off the play-calling chart and really use his football intellect to analyze and assess.
The NFL continues to put more responsibility on head coaches every offseason. There are rules changes, challenges and 1,000 other things that they need to be on top of.
It’s a lot to handle, in addition to coming up with the very best red-zone play on fourth down with the game on the line.
Furthermore, it’s clear he remains ingrained in the offense.
Aside from injury possibilities, there is no reason to think the Clements/Aaron Rodgers duo will see a reduction in production. On the contrary, with McCarthy still firmly in the center of the Packers’ universe, coupled with a potentially stiffer defense and more effective special teams’, the offense’s job gets easier.
Don’t kid yourself. McCarthy is still an offensive-minded head coach, much like New England’s Bill Belichick has a defensive background.
Now, McCarthy joins Belichick and another 20 or so NFL coaches who no longer call their own plays, whether it be on the offensive or defensive side.
Off the field, McCarthy remains diligent. He always has been pro-active in terms of reminding his players about what’s going to be tolerated off the field.
It wasn’t a coincidence that McCarthy asked the NFL security folks to deliver their league-wide offseason message to his players less than 48 hours before they went on summer vacation. This was planned from early spring.
What better way to impress the significance of staying out of trouble and avoiding headlines than to have that message come from the source. Clearly, it’s a message he has stated repeatedly, but it’s always wise to have it come from another voice.
This doesn’t guarantee that players won’t do something foolish. However, it does allow the head coach, his staff, the players and the rest of the organization to at least realize it’s been harped on.
Now, if a player messes up, no one can say he wasn’t warned, or that McCarthy didn’t do enough to take pre-emptive measures.
Vigilance is the key. There seems to be this myth that the Packers’ players, generally and with crossed fingers, don’t make bad decisions because, aw gee shucks, they’re “Packer People.” It’s a naïve and outdated notion. The NFL is under a microscope when it comes to player conduct and discipline. That includes the Packers.
“We had our NFL security meeting yesterday (last Wednesday),” McCarthy said at his news conference last Thursday. “That was a great lead-up to the vacation.”
McCarthy explained that everything from education to services to help prevent or get in front of situations was discussed.
“You don’t just give one talk and think things are going to fall into place,” McCarthy said, sounding at once like an NFL head coach, a realist and a parent.
He spoke of problems being resolved by his staff having honest, meaningful conversations with their players.
“A lot of this is about individual relationships,” McCarthy said. “It’s about coaches and players staying in touch with one another.”
It isn’t just about potential bad behavior, either. It could be about staying in contact to reinforce good sleep and eating habits, not over- or under-working during the time off or any number of things that are football-related.
McCarthy seemed fresh, invigorated and ready to tackle the season after some well-deserved time off with friends and family.
“I feel real good with the start of the 2015 Green Bay Packers,” McCarthy said.
The Packers’ head coach isn’t alone in that belief.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.