Trying to decipher Mike McCarthy

We’ve officially reached the equivalent of the dark side of the moon when it comes to Green Bay Packers news. The Scouting Combine has come and gone. The owners meetings aren’t for a few weeks. Sure,  head coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson had the typical boilerplate cliche bingo. Not much new, and we all know we’re licking the equivalent of a Wetnap at this point trying to catch a football buzz.

So while we wait for Bryan Bulaga and/or Randall Cobb to be signed or not signed, let’s try to decipher what coach meant last week at his brief presser in Indianapolis.

Regarding how things ended:

What Mike Said:

“I thought we were the best team in football when our season ended. You have to prove it on the field obviously.”

What you’ll never hear him say:

“Yes, we screwed the pooch and embarrassed ourselves in Seattle. The Super Bowl was in our grasp and we tossed it away.”

The organization is well aware of its epic flame out in the NFC Championship game. The film has been dissected, the sacrificial lambs named Slocum, Bostick and Jones have been offered up to the angry football gods.

Of course every team thinks theirs is the special one that will win it all, but this loss is different. They really were the team of destiny that could have won it all. This loss stings more than other NFC Championship losses. They had it, and they gave it away. Seattle didn’t win as much as Green Bay gave up.  That Championship window just got a little smaller, but hopefully this loss will be stuck in their collective craw for quite some time and serve now as a teachable moment and a motivator to set the bar high for 2015.

On giving up micromanagement on offense and turning over play calling to Associate Head Coach Tom Clements:

What Mike said:

“I’m going to spend more time in areas I haven’t spent time in. That’s the biggest change I’m going to make. And I’m not saying that just because I’m there it’s going to be 100 times better. I felt like I was really stretched this year. I felt really, really stretched.”

What you’ll never hear him say:

“You’re right, I don’t have that killer instinct. I need someone else to put the pedal to the medal and gun toward the finish line.”

If you’re expecting an admission of guilt and a giant Mea Culpa here, you’re never going to get it. The Packers know they rank dead last in Special Teams. McCarthy is well aware of the criticism from fans and unnamed players that like to talk to reporters as anonymous sources.

And what coach is gong to admit that he lacks a killer instinct? It puts a giant target on his back. Remember that neato fake punt that Seattle inflicted on the unsuspecting Packers? Remember how that whole play was predicated upon the idea of Brad Jones being on the field?

That’s what happens when everyone and their dog notices a weakness. Admitting you have a giant Achilles Heel does nothing but cast a giant spotlight on potential weakness for opposing teams to exploit.  He’d be the Brad Jones in any opposing team’s game plan. Be happy he can self-reflect and evolve with the team.

Regarding how this will change McCarthy’s role as head coach:

What Mike said:

“I’m changing my whole outlook of how I attack the day when the players are here, both in the off-season and in-season. That’s something that I felt from the first week. As a leader, the areas you’re responsible for, you need to touch those areas all the time.

“And this was the biggest year, the challenge of that. You’re walking down the hall and the receivers coach or special teams coach or the video director or the assistant strength coach, they need to talk to you, I think the worst thing you can do as a leader is say, ‘I can’t, I’ll have to get you later.’ You have to build that into your job responsibility, and you have to build that into your daily planner.”

What you’ll never hear him say:

“I was stretched too thin and couldn’t see the forest through the trees.”

Many leaders like to micromanage. Coaches are leaders. You can finish this syllogism. Actually, that’s the TLDR version of what McCarthy actually said. He has a point here. A head coach oversees everything, but that doesn’t mean has to do it all himself. He leads by raising up those around him. He delegates and he trusts his assistant coaches to help bring the vision to fruition.

And if you’re bogged down micromanaging the offense, then you very well may lose scope of that big picture.

A head coach needs to feel the pulse of the team, and if you’re too busy serving as the overlord over the offensive coordinator, how much time and energy do you have to focus on defense and special teams. When did he realize special teams was an absolute hot mess?

Regarding his interactions with quarterback Aaron Rodgers:

What Mike said:

“I might be around him more.”

What you’ll never hear him say:

“He’s a pain in the butt diva that I need to rein in.”

This is such a frequently speculated and contrived much ado about nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s fluff and has the same credence and accuracy as fan fiction. McCarthy and Rodgers are at odds…Aaron’s fighting for more control… Rodgers is turning into Favre…

Or best of all: McCarthy and Rodgers can’t stand each other.

Oh come on now, you don’t think two grown men, some of the best at what they do, can’t be professional and work together?  Aside from a few arguments on the sideline, the appear to have a good working relationship, possibly a good personal one, too. will they get angry at each other? Of course. They are professionals and highly motivated. Tempers will flare, but that doesn’t mean they are personally or professional at irreparable odds.

Last time I checked, Aaron Rodgers wasn’t demanding his own locker room. He has needed a cabal of minions to fly to California in the off season to convince him to return for another season.

If they say they respect and trust each other, then we should take it at face value.

The window to the next championship may have closed a bit as the Packers boarded a plan in Seattle to return home. But that window is still very much open. Aaron Rodgers had the best year of his career this past year. And Mike McCarthy did a heck of a lot of reflection and chose change over complacency.

McCarthy thought they were the best team in the league, and he was proven wrong. Instead of believing his own hype, he’s turning that loss into a motivator for change.

He may always play it safe and stick to football cliche bingo, but at least he isn’t pulling a Marshawn Lynch who’s only there so he doesn’t get fined.

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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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  • Interpreting Muke McCarthy comments has always been a little hobby of mine. You did a nice job here, Kelly.