With NFL Network’s Ian Rapport confirming Chris Havel’s report it seems likely that Mike McCarthy will cease play calling duties to Tom Clements and Edgar Bennett will be promoted to offensive coordinator. Where there is smoke there is usually fire.
Even though McCarthy hinted at this possibility during his season ending press conference it still comes as a pretty big surprise. McCarthy has been calling offensive plays for Green Bay since he took over as head coach in 2006 and the Packers are coming off a season in which they led the NFL with 30.4 points per game.
Most of the peanut gallery is happy about this since McCarthy’s play calling has been a major source of contention for many fans for years. So, I’ll play devil’s advocate and offer a different perspective. There are people who I respect who feel that way, but of course the reality is that it will be the same for many fans with Clements calling the shots. They will complain when a play doesn’t work out and praise it when it does. That will never change.
My thought is that people should be careful what they wish for. McCarthy’s offenses have an excellent track record of success with him calling the plays. Yes, Aaron Rodgers is essential to that, but guess who developed him when he was far from a finished product coming out of California? He was even able to do that while calling plays.
The Packers have finished in the top five in points scored in the NFL in each of the last four seasons. In one of those seasons Rodgers even missed about half the season. Clearly, they have been one of the elite offenses in the league for a consistent period of time. Yet, the changes are coming on offense, while the defense that has been mediocre at best every season since 2010 remains the same? It doesn’t really add up to me.
This is happening because of the final five minutes against Seattle, and it seems like a bit of an overreaction. I wrote the morning after the collapse that more changes might be coming than just Shawn Slocum getting fired and Brandon Bostick getting cut. If Bostick catches an onside kick is McCarthy giving up play calling? I highly doubt it. The larger sample size says McCarthy is very good calling plays.
While McCarthy has a very good track record of offensive success while he is calling plays, Clements really has none. He hasn’t called plays in the NFL since he was with the Buffalo Bills in 2005. Since he has been with the Packers very few teams have come calling him for interviews. The offense hasn’t been quite the same since he took over as offensive coordinator for Joe Philbin in 2012.
I would feel a lot better about this if it were Edgar Bennett or Alex Van Pelt calling the plays. They would bring some real new perspective and fresh ideas to the table. Rapoport mentioned McCarthy doesn’t understand why Clements or Capers haven’t gotten NFL head coaching interviews. In Clements’ case a big part of it is his age. For Capers it’s his age and that his defenses haven’t been all that hot. NFL teams are looking more for young up and coming coaches rather than recycled ones in their sixties. Bennett and Van Pelt fit that mold much more than Clements.
McCarthy’s major errors in Seattle came in kicking two field goals rather than going for it near the goal line. Does he still make those decisions if he isn’t calling plays? That’s impossible to say. Maybe if he isn’t calling plays he has more control of his team down the stretch. Again, that’s just guess work. Nobody really knows for sure.
If McCarthy is giving up play calling clearly he must feel that he needs to have a bigger impact in the overall management of the game. I think this is coming from him and not above. NFL upper management generally lets the head coach handle his coaching staff, and Ted Thompson is not one to overreact to something. If McCarthy feels that way who am I to disagree with him? However, if you’re giving me the choice of who I would rather have calling my plays between McCarthy and Clements, and it’s McCarthy every day and twice on Sundays.
Fans who have been asking for significant change this offseason have gotten it. It would be nice if those changes were on the side of the ball that needs it, but I digress. Maybe those are still to come. But for fans who think McCarthy not calling plays is for the best it will be interesting to see what they’re saying at this time next year.