LANDOVER, Md. -- Mike McCarthy’s track record suggests that there’s a chance the Green Bay Packers will figure out some way to get their offense to resemble what it’s been for most of his tenure -- and not what it has looked like this season -- in time for Sunday’s playoff game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.
Unless, of course, past success does not indicate future results, as they say in the investment commercials.
"Not only is each season so specific, each time of year is so specific, and it's as specific as what this week in front of you looks like," McCarthy said this past week. "Today, I'm not thinking about what's going on in the past at all.
"I understand why we keep having to answer these questions, but you improve regardless, even if you're playing at a high level, you still try to improve. It's all about getting better and being prepared for the next contest. So we're just focused on the things that we feel we do very well and how they apply to attacking Washington's defense."
For an offense that finished 23rd overall and 25th in passing yards -- the lowest by far in McCarthy’s 10 seasons as head coach -- it’s been a season-long struggle to find an identity.
That’s evident in the differing opinions in the locker room as to the best formula for success. For example, Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang and other members of the offensive line have pined for more opportunities in the running game, while quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after Sunday’s loss to Minnesota that they were at their best when they "threw caution to the wind" and started throwing the ball down the field.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it applies to this game.
"You can’t take momentum into the next game," said Rodgers, who has gone 10 straight games without posting a passer rating in the 100s. "It’s about establishing your identity in that game. We’ve obviously been up and down throughout the year on offense, the defense has been playing really well lately, we’ve got a great kicker and punter and we’ve been covering kicks really well, we’ve got a kick returner who can take it the distance now. We’ve just got to take care of our part. We’re a balanced football team this year. We have the opportunity to start the run now. We’ve got to put it all together."
Sitton isn’t the Packers’ offensive coordinator or playcaller, as McCarthy reminded everyone Thursday in some sharply worded comments, but the Pro Bowl left guard has been around long enough to know something has been off for most of the season.
Like just about everyone else in the locker room, however, Sitton can’t explain exactly why that has been the case this season.
"I don’t know man," Sitton said. "At the end of the day, it just comes down to executing. We just haven’t. It just feels like on any given play there might be one guy that’s not on the right page. On offense, you’ve got to have all 11. It’s cliché, but we can’t play good offensive football if one guy is not on the same page, so I don’t know what it is. I don’t know why it’s been that way. It’s been just been a little off."
It’s possible that McCarthy took some players' expressed desire to run the ball as a criticism of his play calling. That could explain why he got snippy during one of his news conferences this week when Sitton's comments were brought up and why Sitton snapped at reporters in the locker room Friday.
But Sitton insisted that when he speaks of running the ball more, he isn’t being critical of the play calling.
"It doesn’t have anything to do with the play calling; it’s not a question of play calling," Sitton said. "When we’re able to be successful on the ground, that’s when we’re at our best. If we’re down two scores in the fourth quarter, we can’t sit there and run the ball, we know that. It doesn’t have to do with that. We have to be successful and not necessarily have a lead in the game, but be right in the game to be at our best. The game just dictates that."