In spite of the emotional toll the death of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin’s son, Michael, has taken on the Green Bay Packers organization, coaches and players got back to work on Wednesday in preparation for their upcoming game in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs against the New York Giants.
And even though Philbin may not be present either this week during practice or Sunday for the game, he’s still been a integral part of the gameplan the Packers devised, according to head coach Mike McCarthy.
It goes back to the bye the Packers earned in the wild card round of the playoffs, and the game planning they did for one of three possible opponents: the Giants, the Falcons and the Lions.
“We feel like we have an excellent plan,” said McCarthy during an emotional press conference. “The open week really helped us going into this game. We actually worked more on the Giants than the other two teams last week as far as what was presented to the players, as far as the concepts we worked on Wednesday and Thursday. And Joe was part of that planning. We feel very strong about our plan, the way it was installed.”
The Packers didn’t know they’d be facing the Giants until Sunday when the Giants defeated the Falcons in the first round of the playoffs, and the Lions lost to the Saints the day before.
Maybe they spent more time prepping for the Giants because of how well they ended the regular season. Or maybe it’s because New York pushed Green Bay to the brink in their first meeting earlier this season, a game the Packers won on a game-winning field goal, 38-35, with just seconds remaining back in Week 13.
Either way, Philbin was part of the plan coming into the week, and now the Packers are rallying around their offensive coordinator.
McCarthy acknowledged that the adversity the team must overcome might make them even more focused than usual.
“I think it can,” said McCarthy. “It would be premature for me to comment on it, but the energy was outstanding today, the focus was outstanding. And like I tried to say earlier, it hits you, it hits you hard how fortunate and blessed we are to have this opportunity professionally. And we need to take full advantage of it, and that’s our mindset.”
It hasn’t been business as usual for the Packers this week, and the offensive coaching staff has had to shuffle some of their responsibilities with the absence of Philbin.
Originally McCarthy was just going to assume Philbin’s job duties, but upon meeting with his assistant coaches, they were divvied up the additional tasks.
“Frankly, it was the idea of the other offensive assistants,” said McCarthy. “They need me to be in the same routine that I’m in too. So we basically just broke it up amongst ourselves. Everybody has taken on more than their normal responsibilities.”
All week long, McCarthy has stressed the family-first aspect of the Packers. He says he has not even discussed Philbin’s responsibilities with the offensive coordinator and will not, in deference to the needs of his family.
At one point during Wednesday’s press conference, McCarthy paused and needed a moment to compose himself before continuing to address questions pertaining to Philbin.
But all along, McCarthy has attempted to keep the ship on course. Earlier in the day he spoke to the team about the challenge that faces them.
“The topic was the ability to separate,” said McCarthy. “It’s part of our program. It’s nothing that we haven’t spoke on before. We talk about the importance of having the ability to separate personal challenges and your professional challenges. And it really goes in line with your family-first philosophy.
“Everybody’s feeling it. There’s no question on what level, that’s really for the individual to speak on. Professionally, I’ve been very pleased about what we’ve been able to accomplish.”