This is Disturbing

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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.”

Huh?

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.

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3 Responses to “This is Disturbing”

  1. Josh B Says:

    SFH, great post. I still can’t believe they threw that flat screen on third down in the 4th quarter. I think it was 3rd and 5 and they lost 7 yards on the dumb play (Mason drilled the ensuing FG, which was nice). I bet if McCarthy would ask any of the Packers DB’s, they would voted for adjustments to be made.

  2. sfhayes Says:

    JB, I remember that play. It was awful. I remember thinking it was an inexplicable call…except that it was one in a long line of such playcalls.

    You question is a good one: I wonder if Al Harris would have wanted an adjustment. He’s good but he strikes me as a little too confident in his abilities. I’m guessing he might have opted to stay one-on-one covering Burress, if just to make up for being so badly beaten in the first half. I could be wrong. McCarthy says they switched to a “cloud” cover in the second half and brought some help for Harris. It wasn’t obvious and I’d argue that the relative lack of production in the second half had more to do with the fact that the Giants coaches understood their advantage in time of possession and sought to keep it going.

    I don’t mind the initial mistake so much as I mind the unwillingness to fix it.

  3. howieroark Says:

    McCarthy is still a fairly young man. Admitting one’s mistakes, especially a few days after a major loss, I think will come with maturity. He seems to me to be pretty “quick study” on things he doesn’t know. Hopefully he uses this game to propel the team next year. The misty eyes in the press conference Sunday night, if they are indeed a window to the soul, showed me a guy who hates to lose.

    But damn, they get the ball on their own 20 or so with 6 minutes to go, come on…..at LEAST get it to the 50 for a good punt in the field possession game. That was inexcusable.

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