When Mike McCarthy was hired as Head Coach of the Packers in 2006, he brought with him a specific idea of what he wanted his offense to look like.
A spread type offense with a minimum 3 to 4 wide receivers on the field most plays, with the quarterback surveying the defense from the shotgun was in store for the Packers. It was the offense which brought McCarthy success in New Orleans, San Francisco, and eventually led to his being hired in Green Bay.
Nevermind that the offense McCarthy inherired in 2006 included the eventual all time Packers rushing leader in Ahman Green, McCarthy’s offense was going to be obvious: pass first, run second. That was the way to success.
That formula has been the Packers modus operandi for the past seven seasons. Whether the quarterback was Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers, this was McCarthy’s way. Regardless of whether the running back was Green, Ryan Grant, James Starks, or any of the other cast of running backs the Packers trotted out on the field, one thing was obvious: passing was the key to success.
And success has been found often on the field, both individually and as a team since 2006. McCarthy’s style of offense led to a renaissance season for Favre in 2007 and an MVP season for Rodgers in 2011. His pass heavy offense set numerous team records in 2011, and has consistently ranked as one of the top passing attacks since 2007. Most importantly, the McCarthy offense was part of a Super Bowl Championship in 2010.
While piling up yards and individual trophies are nice, the ultimate goal of everyone associated with every professional football team is to win the Lombardi Trophy. The Packers are no different, and with one trophy already earned this decade, they know the time is NOW to march toward adding a few more to the Hall of Fame room at the Packers Hall of Fame.
Running the ball has always been an afterthought for McCarthy in his offense. His pass happy approach was what worked for years. No matter how many times he expressed a commitment to the running game, seldom were the games that Favre or Rodgers throwing downfield were not the main way of moving the ball.
This is great when it works, which it usualy did. But when it didn’t, it transformed the Packers offense into a completely one dimensional attack, not able to run the ball when it desperately needed to.
Something had to be done to make the offense multi dimensional to keep the opposing defenses guessing. And multi dimensional it has become.
The emergence of rookies Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin and the rebirth of James Starks has transformed the once pass heavy Packers attack into the fifth ranked rushing attack in the NFL. Averaging 141 yards per game thus far in 2013, this number far exceeds the 113 yards per game they averaged in 2008, the highest number during McCarthy’s regime in Green Bay. Whether they will be able to continue at this pace remains to be seen. But this significant spike in rushing yards signifies something bigger than becoming multi dimensional is taking place.
While the rushing yards have increased, this goes against what McCarthy’s offense is known for-throwing the rock. And here in lies the issue surrounding the offense.
Will McCarthy be able to adjust his play calling to take advantage of this new found running attack? Will he be able to put his pride AKA “his” offense and take advantage of the Lacy/Franklin/Starks combo to do more than just grind out the clock?
As someone who has had his play calling called into question on multiple occasions, one can only wonder if the same will happen again this season.
Mike McCarthy’s way on offense is facing a crossroads right now. Which way will he turn when the pressure is on? Will he follow the path which is leading them to success so far in 2013 (running the ball)? Or will he follow the path he always has (throwing the ball)?
That remains to be seen.
John Rehor is a writer at PackersTalk.com.
He can also be heard as one of the Co-Hosts of Cheesehead Radio. ---------------------
He can also be heard as one of the Co-Hosts of Cheesehead Radio.You can follow John on twitter at jrehor or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.