Deciphering Mike McCarthy’s Staffing Moves

After what seems like years of the status quo, it appears that Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is shaking things up with his coaching staff. Since nothing has truly been confirmed, the moves seem like the stuff of conspiracy theories complete with tin hats and a grassy knoll.

Multiple outlets not based at 1265 Lombardi Avenue have run with the story but it has yet to be confirmed by anyone within the Packers organizations. If the news is true, then McCarthy is handing over the offensive play calling to offensive coordinator Tom Clements. Clements will be elevated to the title of Associate Head Coach and wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett will be promoted to Offensive Coordinator.

But what does this mean? Lots of speculation, lots of conspiracies. Until Packers, Inc. explains it further, all we can do is guess.

Theory #1 (aka the Tinhat Theory) with thanks to ESPN Milwaukee’s Bill Johnson for birthing such a juicy conspiracy: The staffing change is an Aaron Rodgers’ power play and he’s the actual play caller now.

In this scenaritinhatso, it is Rodgers, not McCarthy pulling the strings for a staffing change.  It’s no secret Rodgers thrived under Clement’s tutelage while he was the quarterback coach. After all, the Packers won the Super Bowl during that time and Rodgers was the greatest player in the league.

With this theory, Rodgers is given more freedom to call the plays as he sees fit. He becomes the de facto offensive coordinator and emperor of all he surveys. He has the freedom of Peyton Manning to call plays but a figurehead to blame (Clements) if it all explodes in his face.

This is where I take my tinhat off and say, “WHAT?”

Sure, every elite QB wants to be in control. They’re NFL quarterbacks, duh. Their egos have been stroked and groomed since their days in Pop Warner football. The sun rises and sets on their command.

To Rodgers’ credit, he does have a very high football IQ. He can read defenses and can problem solve from the pocket. And then there was the 2011 victory against Detroit where he was the playcaller while Matt Flynn looked like an MVP caliber quarterback.

But if the team wanted to give him more control, why the multi-layer elaborate rouse? Wouldn’t it be a heck of a lot easier just saying Rodgers has more power than playing musical chairs with the coaching staff?

This isn’t 2112. There’s no, “Attention all planets of the Solar Federation. We have assumed control” coup to this.  No player–no matter how many MVP trophies are on the shelf–has that much power.

The Green Bay Packers are methodical, not reactionary. They already had to deal with a QB demanding a separate locker room and demands to be traded to the team of his choice. No one wants to relive 2008. Ever. If they didn’t submit to a QB’s demands after the last NFC Championship game loss, they sure as heck aren’t going to start now.

So while I love a good conspiracy theory, Rodgers isn’t landing fake moon rovers in a studio. I don’t buy this extreme notion of a power grab.

Theory #2: Packers aren’t going to settle for cruise control in the future.

I think cruiseevery person watching the Packers collapse in the final minutes of the NFC championship was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It wasn’t the first time McCarthy eased off the gas in a bend but don’t break plan once a lead was established.

He has a reputation for conservative play calling down the home stretch. Why exert more than what’s needed? With a victory in sight after manhandling the Seahawks for 56 minutes, did McCarthy and his staff stop thinking about the task at hand and start focusing on a game 2 weeks in the future?

It wouldn’t be the first time the team went into an autopilot mode. Play it safe ground game, poor clock management. And what about the whole Morgan Burnett slide after his INT for no reason. The team looked like it had checked out with a lot of game left. Moral of the story: don’t start booking hotel rooms for friends and families until the final whistle blows.

Perhaps this staffing change was the result of self-reflection and the need for a more aggressive 60 minute game plan. Or perhaps the edict came from higher up. Either way, the move signals to me that–unlike the Slocum firing that seemed to be a token sacrifice to the angry football gods–that complacency will no longer be accepted on a personal and system-wide standpoint.

Personally I like this theory. It’s about accountability that starts from the top on down. Identified liabilities like Brad Jones and Brandon Bostick aren’t being treated as scapegoats in this scenario. Sure, they may be shown the door in the offseason, but they aren’t being blamed by the Packers staff for the reason for the Speechless in Seattle collapse.  This move tells me that the staff was not satisfied and the gut check starts with the coaching staff.

Either wall inay, this staffing move tells me that it won’t be business as usual in 2015. The team isn’t going to settle for anything less than the championship. Who knows, maybe Rodgers will be set free and given more liberties with changes to the plays. Maybe Bill was right to a certain extent.

And if they don’t make it there, it won’t be without a fight. Go big or stay home.

No more one and dones in the playoffs–especially at home. No more coasting when the end is in sight.

It tells me that Mike McCarthy and his staff are all in for 2015. If the current status quo didn’t get it done, then something else needs to be tried. Bend but not break wasn’t cutting it, and teams caught on a long time ago that this was one of McCarthy’s Achilles’ Heels.

While I don’t think the changes will just be limited to the offense and special teams. Expect an overhaul of the the defense as well.

The 2015 Green Bay Packers are already letting the league know it won’t be business as usual. They aren’t the same conservative team that the NFL has seen the past few years.

They’re all in. Hopefully the aggressive changes will be felt on the field as well.

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Kelly Hodgson is a writer for PackersTalk.com and you can listen to her as a Co-Host of Out of the Pocket. You can also follow Kelly on Twitter at @ceallaigh_k

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  • Jeff

    I think by them bringing in Montgomery they are also putting Capers on the spot to do or die as well. His conservative defense is also part of the reason they lost in Seattle. Also Montgomery knows college read options better than Capers and can give him insight on teams that run those types of plays.