Earlier this offseason, the Green Bay Packers underwent the biggest change to the offensive coaching staff in the Mike McCarthy era. McCarthy gave play-calling duties to new associate head coach Tom Clements, marking the first time in his career as head coach that McCarthy will not call offensive plays.
McCarthy was the subject of much criticism following Green Bay’s fourth quarter collapse against the Seahawks in the NFC Championship game. Part of that criticism revolved around his tendency to loosen up aggressiveness when the Packers took the lead instead of putting teams away.
Though it was likely not in direct response to that criticism, McCarthy elected to forfeit play-calling duties anyway. Clements was promoted from offensive coordinator to associate head coach. When 2015 begins, it will be the first time that Aaron Rodgers receives his play calls from someone other than McCarthy.
The Packers offense is not likely to suffer any setbacks from a new play caller. The plays themselves will remain largely the same. More importantly, the offense itself, which features the same eleven starters from last season’s league-leading unit, will have a much bigger impact on the production than the play calling.
Although Rodgers recently acknowledged that he does not call his own plays, he will still have roughly the same amount of freedom when it comes to changing plays at the line of scrimmage. So if McCarthy’s coaching changes will not drastically impact the offense, how will the Green Bay Packers benefit from McCarthy giving up play-calling duties?
McCarthy has said that he will now be able to develop into a true all-around head coach. When he called plays, his primary focus was on offense. He had to develop plays and schemes and figure out how best to implement them. Now, McCarthy can dedicate time to the defense and, perhaps more importantly, the special teams.
The Packers are coming off a season where their special teams was ranked dead last in the NFL. Green Bay fired special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum and promoted Ron Zook to that position. The abysmal play from 2014 combined with the overhaul on the special teams’ coaching staff mean that McCarthy’s leadership and input will be valuable to the unit.
Green Bay’s defense has been steadily improving over the last few seasons, and the offense looks to be even better than last year. But the special teams unit has struggled immensely. McCarthy can now dedicate more of his time to identifying and correcting the issues that plagued the special teams last season.
Football can often come down to field position, and games can be decided by just a few points. Blocked field goals, poor punting, and underachieving coverage units can have major effects on the outcome of any given game. The Packers need their special teams unit to be vastly better than it was in 2014.
The Packers offense will not regress because of McCarthy relinquishing play-calling duties. But Green Bay will benefit immensely from his decision to pass that torch to Clements. McCarthy is an excellent coach, and he will be sure to improve all aspects of the team in 2015. The offense will remain largely the same, and the Packers’ league-worst special teams will improve because of McCarthy’s dedication to becoming a more complete head coach.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .