Readers of this blog know that I have become an admirer and supporter of Mike McCarthy. I think he has done a remarkable job over the past two years in reshaping a team that Mike Sherman managed to damage significantly.
But these comments from his postseason press conference today, as reported by Greg Bedard at JS Online, are troubling. McCarthy “said he would not change anything they did game-plan wise.”
Later, asked about the defensive game plan, McCarthy was similarly intransigent. “You could talk about cover 2 but we were here for a reason, our man to man defense. I wouldn’t do anything different.”
A couple of points, specific first, then general. I understand the argument about not deviating from the schemes that brought the Packers to the NFC Championship game. But he would be much more persuasive on this point if his argument also applied to the offense. Rather than run the ball (McCarthy has said the ideal would be 50 rushes per game) and utilize the short passing game (slants, etc.) to augment the run game, McCarthy abandoned the run in favor of deep shots and flat screens. So, rather than adjust to account for matchups on defense, McCarthy stuck to an ineffective gameplan because it was what had worked all season. And, rather than adhere to the offensive scheming that had worked all year, McCarthy abandoned it in order to exploit matchups. Sorry, that doesn’t make sense.
But beyond the inconsistency, there is the problem of stubbornness. How can he possibly say, having watched the game and our utter inability to defend against the Giants’ passing attack, that he would do the same thing again? (Remember, too, that as effective as the Giants were in that passing attack, they could have been even moreso. Their receivers dropped several passes — including the Burress strike down the sideline just before halftime — that would have further embarrassed the Packer defense.)
Let me oversimplify. The best coaches in the NFL do two things. First, the gameplan better than their opponents. And second, they make better adjustments than their opponents. One reason Mike Holmgren was as successful as he was in Green Bay was that he was better than virtually anybody else at halftime adjustments. Even when the Packers were down midway through a game, players (and fans) could have confidence that Holmgren would make the right adjustments to keep them competitive in the second half.
I don’t know what accounts for McCarthy’s stubbornness on this, but I hope it is not a sign of things to come. He was outcoached in this game, plain and simple. That’s too bad, but it happens. The answer is not to say that you would do the same things again, but to learn from those mistakes to ensure that you don’t do the same things again.
UPDATE: Here is the transcript. McCarthy’s comments don’t sound quite as bad in context, but there is still a stubborn quality to his thoughts about the game that strikes me as potentially problematic.