Packers get creative to defend read-option

INDIANAPOLIS -- Last month, a feisty Mike McCarthy made it clear he wouldn't fire defensive coordinator Dom Capers after an embarrassing performance in the Green Bay Packers' 45-31 divisional playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Instead, it appears McCarthy is planning a unique and proactive offseason to address the team's defensive shortcomings.

Speaking Friday at the NFL scouting combine, McCarthy revealed the Packers' defensive coaching staff will visit Texas A&M for what amounts to a clinic on how to defend the read-option scheme -- the first visit to a college in McCarthy's tenure. Several other college coaches will visit Green Bay during the offseason for similar purposes, McCarthy said, all in hopes of strengthening the Packers' response to a scheme that accounted for many of the 49ers' 579 offensive yards.

"Definitely, there is a lot of conversation about the read-option," McCarthy said. "Rightfully so, [because] 579, that's a number that will stick in our focus as a defense throughout the offseason."

McCarthy set up the visit to Texas A&M through special-teams coordinator Shawn Slocum, who played and coached there. The Packers have "great respect" for current Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin, McCarthy said, because of his experience using the spread option with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, as well as defending it.

"It's about getting better," McCarthy said. "It's about improvement. We need to do a better job in stopping the read-option. That's something we're focused on."

To which I say: Good for the Packers. First, McCarthy deserves credit for recognizing the obvious and seeking a substantive, if out-of-the-box, solution. It's also worth noting his willingness to reveal his plan publicly, a move that could be interpreted by cynics as a gimmick even as it demonstrates to others an earnest attempt to improve.

The approach isn't novel, of course. NFL coaches routinely consult -- formally or informally -- with their counterparts at the college level. And it should also be pointed out that the Packers need help against conventional running plays, as well. Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson torched them for 409 yards in two regular-season games, and even before the 49ers revealed their read-option, they piled up 186 rushing yards against the Packers in Week 1.

But you have to start somewhere, and even an amateur eye recognized the Packers were a few steps behind the read option in the playoffs. I suppose you could ask why they couldn't catch up during the regular season, but as McCarthy said: "Regret is something I think is an excuse."

Indeed. What's done is done. The Packers needed a response to the debacle we all witnessed. Rather than go the traditional route of firing coaches or overhauling the roster, they're reaching out to third-party experts. Seems fair to me.