Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy met with the media on Wednesday afternoon at the NFL Combine as the team begins preparation leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Here’s everything he had to say.
Q: Challenges of such a long relationship with quarterback Aaron Rodgers:
MCCARTHY: I think it goes all the way around. The way you interact with everybody in your program. Obviously, you have the 1 on 1 component. We’re both driven and focused on the same thing. As I watch Aaron now compared to his younger years, he’s the oldest guy in the locker room. It’s a different relationship for him in there then it was in the early years. Just staying in tune with that. From a pure football standpoint, as far as the scheme, just continue to grow that too. In specifics, what we’re going through now as an offensive staff is we’re spending a ton of time in the passing game particularly, doing a 12-year study, looking at his first six years compared to the last four, particularly the last three. Kind of breaking it down the first seven and last three and just seeing the differences in everything involved in that. Because this is the time when he goes away but when he returns in April, that initial meeting of these are the things we’ve done, here’s the history, the past, these are the changes and so forth. That part of it is always fresh for him. He likes a challenge so we make sure we continue to challenge him as we grow as a football team.
Q: Have you done similar studies in the past?
MCCARTHY: We have, I would say the last five or six years have been in the four-year realm. So, the chance to go back and take all 12 years, particularly the video of it and watch the origin of the concept, the original installation of it, how it evolved, what we got away from, what we stayed with. In this league, the evolution of scheme is the challenge and the focus that every coach goes through whether it be offense, defense, or special teams. The ability to stay on the front end of that curve and try to hopefully stay a step of so in front of your opponent in that particular challenge is where we’re always focused on. We have tremendous history with both Aaron and Brett [Favre] in ’06 and ’07. It’s really probably been as good for the coaches as it will be for the players when they get back. It’s brought us back to the basics in more ways than one.
Q: On the Free Agency plan for this upcoming period:
MCCARTHY: We like the word ‘aggressive,’ but I think it’s like anything, you have to be in touch with reality of the process. The process of veteran free agency is different today than it was prior to Brian [Gutekunst] being the GM. It’s a whole different breakdown and approach, really. That’s the first part of it, so you have the evaluation stage and then the application of it is really what it’s all about. It’s not just one thing that directly leads to another. We don’t want to lose good players, that’s something we’ve always focuses on, particularly our own. We’ve spent pretty much our 12 years here really focusing on improving from within but we need outside resources, we’ve determined that. At the end of the day it’s a market, it’s a market that every team is involved in and we’ll see what happens.
Q: How has the new front office structure been going?
MCCARTHY: It’s different, different structure, there’s meetings, communication is weekly. The reality of what I’m doing specifically, with new coaching staffs, predominantly, probably the last five weeks have been bunkered down with the offensive perimeter group going through the passing game and Mike Pettine has done the same with the defense. We’re kind of in a ‘year one format,’ kind of what you go through when you go into a place with a new staff. Unfortunately, we had an early start with a couple extra weeks before the Super Bowl. Our approach is the same. We’ve always made sure that when players get back on April 16th that we’re ready to go. Every minute that they’re available they’re our priority.
Q: Is the NFL Scouting Combine a fresh start no matter what happens the previous season?
MCCARTHY: I think more for the interaction for the media and the rest of the world, maybe. Really, you get a little time off, the assistant coaches had a little time off. Obviously, we were involved in staff changes. It really kicked off once we turned that first tape on and started to scheme evaluation for me. That’s really the day that the page is turned and you’re able to move forward. This is part of that new journey of 2018.
Q: On Mike Pettine’s scheme, 4-3 or 3-4?
MCCARTHY: Frankly, if you asked Mike if he plays the 4-3 or the 3-4 he’d say ‘yes.” That’s the reality of what a good defensive system is. The ability to utilize your players. We’ve never had that luxury of saying ‘we need this specific kind of player.’ I think when you’re picking where we’ve picked for as many years as we have, and with our prior focus on veteran free agency, we have to acquire good players. In our system, on offense, defense, and special teams we have to take advantage of those players and make sure we’re playing to their strengths and that’s no different with Mike.
Q: On the running back position and Ty Montgomery’s position:
MCCARTHY: First thing, Jamaal [Williams] and Aaron [Jones] did a lot of good things. Probably the most important statistic for me when evaluating players as far as you move forward to the next season is availability. I have a depth chart board in my office and it has their picture, original tag, number, and play time. Play time is a reflection of availability. None of our running backs this year were available for the whole season. That’s the first hurdle that they need to meet. In Ty [Montgomery]’s particular case, his availability the last three years has been his challenge. He’s a multi-positional player. He’s a running back, to answer the question, but he gives us great flexibility to use him so many different ways, so that won’t change. We’re going to need all those guys next year, so that’s going to be our approach.
Q: How can Mike Daniels benefit from a schematic change?
MCCARTHY: There will be some. It’s important for every coordinator through their positon coach, to play their scheme and more importantly their vision and make sure the play style is consistent. Mike’s playing style is a huge asset to not only our defensive line, but our whole football team. Schematically, I think you really just need to play to Mike’s strengths. Create the opportunities, and I think anytime you can get Mike in a one-on-one situation you’re probably going to see more production. I think it’s important. We’re not scorching the Earth or throwing out the baby with the bath water with our defensive approach. There’s some history there with our past defense that Mike [Pettine] will be able to carry over with his scheme. We’ll build off of that but the specifics of what he’s doing, but more importantly how he’s doing it, and even more importantly than that why he’s doing it, will make all of our defensive players, particularly Mike Daniels, better.
Q: On needing a culture change on defense:
MCCARTHY: I think that’s a big statement. I mean, culture change, I think you have to look at more of the definition of it is, from my perspective, my approach is you have an evaluation that you do each and every year. You have filters that you run your data, conversations, and all the input that you take from within, or even outside the organization in some small level. With that you assess. Obviously, the last nine years I felt that internally we were able to take the resources that we had, build the vision, the plan for the upcoming season. Obviously, I felt differently this year and the result was all of the coaching changes. I don’t get too far away from the reality of how our operation is every day and that is the culture. Our culture is what makes it go. That’s how you sustain success. It definitely has been changed, on a lot of levels it has been adjusted, too.
Q: Assessing Brett Hundley and his evaluation from 2017:
MCCARTHY: I think when you look at Brett [Hundley], like anything, you look at what he was able to accomplish. Now his live reps are on video. We felt that he could have been better prepared as far as our whole operation. You look at the evaluation as far as where he started, how he ended his season. He definitely improved throughout his opportunities there. I feel very good about that. I believe in Brett Hundley. I do fully recognize that he has a lot of football in front of him. He has a big upside and our structure and our coaching staff, we need to make sure that we maximize that. We also need to learn from the other parts of the offense that we didn’t do as good as we would have liked. We’ll learn from that and apply it forward. I do believe that Brett as a big upside and looking forward to getting back to work with him.
Q: On the health of Aaron Rodgers:
MCCARTHY: I can’t answer that. I feel confident that he’ll be ready to go. I had a short meeting yesterday with Dr. Pat Mackenzie and his assessment of everything is that everything looks good.