GREEN BAY, Wis. – Even with his once-potent offense struggling like it seldom has during his 10-year tenure, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy does not plan on taking back the team’s offensive play-calling.
And quarterback Aaron Rodgers made it clear that he doesn’t see the need for a change, either – even after Sunday’s 18-16 loss to the lowly Detroit Lions, the Lions’ first victory in the state of Wisconsin since 1991.
McCarthy, who turned the play-calling over to longtime offensive assistant Tom Clements this season in the wake of the team’s collapse in the NFC Championship Game in January, indicated the team’s offensive issues aren’t the result of him not calling the plays.
“I don’t think it’s that simple,” McCarthy replied when asked directly whether he was considering reclaiming the job. “I don’t think the game of football is ever that simple. I think the way you play, it is about the simplistic nature you go about – fundamentals and so forth. There’s a lot of time [and] energy that’s put into the process of preparing for each and every game, let alone the season. I like the way our staff works, and I like the way they work with our players.”
McCarthy, who before this season had called the plays for the New Orleans Saints (2000 through 2004) and San Francisco 49ers (2005) as an offensive coordinator and the Packers’ plays from the moment he arrived as head coach in 2006, shuffled his offensive staff during the offseason to accommodate the change. He elevated Clements from offensive coordinator to associate head coach, made Edgar Bennett the offensive coordinator and put Alex Van Pelt in charge of both the quarterbacks and wide receivers.
McCarthy made a slight change in the set-up last week when he had Van Pelt come down from the coaches box to coach from the sideline. Van Pelt was again on the sideline on Sunday.
Asked if he’s comfortable with the play-calling operation, Rodgers replied, “I am, yeah. I think it’s been really good. I think it’s been a good flow during the week. We’ve had good preparation, Tom’s in every meeting and there’s not a time where I say something about something I like or dislike in the plan that he’s not within earshot to hear that.”
Rodgers, who set career highs for completions (35) and attempts (61) Sunday, was later asked if he thought McCarthy should get more involved.
“I think the way things are going are just fine,” Rodgers replied.
There’s no denying that there’s something amiss with the Packers offense, and it goes beyond the absence of Pro Bowl wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who was lost to a knee injury in preseason. Green Bay, which led the league in scoring last season (486 points, or 30.4 per game) as Rodgers won his second NFL MVP award, have scored 219 points in nine games (24.3 per game), including just 55 points in the last three games (18.3 per game).
Facing the Lions’ 26th-ranked defense, the Packers managed a field goal on their opening possession Sunday, then punted on their next nine full possessions, not including a kneel-down at the end of the first half.
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter, when Rodgers found backup tight end Justin Perillo for a 24-yard gain on third-and-15, improvised on a 20-yard completion to Randall Cobb on third-and-12 and hit little-used second-year receiver Jared Abbrederis on a 32-yard scramble throw, that the offense showed some life. The latter two plays set up the Packers’ first touchdown of the day with 5:55 left in the game.
The Packers rallied in last week’s loss at Carolina when Rodgers and the offense resorted to what he called “schoolyard ball” when trailing by 23 points in the fourth quarter.
“I think it’s just about getting your best guys on the field and trying to find a way to get them the ball,” Rodgers said. “Jared has earned some opportunities, he’s done a nice job for us, and Justin did a nice job for us as well, made some plays. It’s just about getting those guys in good positions and trying to be effective. Teams are going to continue to load the box up and dare us to throw the ball with some one-high [safety], press [coverage]. We’ve got to convert.”