This exchange in particular caught my eye:
Q. Throw to score, run to win, or is it throw to score AND win these days?
I don’t really look at football that way, and maybe sometimes people think I’m being flippant when I get the questions about our run-pass ratio. I used to pay very close attention to it, but the defenses today play you differently than they did when I first started coordinating back in 2000. There’s a different approach out there, so with that, I feel you have to have a different approach for how you attack the defense. When a team is willing to overload or tilt their scheme to take away an aspect of your offense, I don’t believe in running uphill for four quarters of a game. I understand the toughness, the mentality of it, but I think you need to take that same toughness and mentality and apply it to clean runs. There’s going to be a point in the game where you’ll need to run uphill, whether it’s in four-minute offense, short-yardage or goal-line. You’ll always have to have that as part of the makeup of your football team, but I don’t count how many times we run and pass it. As a play-caller, it’s ingrained in me the importance of running the football. People may laugh at that when they look at the numbers, but it’s how I was raised in this business and I understand the importance of running the football and stopping the run on defense. Today is Tuesday, and the first meeting we’ll have as an offensive staff today will be the run game. It always has been and it always will be. Everything we do starts with running the football because everything else comes off of that.
I have to admit that on its face its hard not to be completely dismissive of his answer here. The Packers, to borrow a phrase from Lovie Smith, get off the bus throwing the football. It's their lifeblood - so much so that when the Packers faced brutally cold and windy conditions in Chicago in 2007, McCarthy still came out in his patented three and four wide receiver sets and tried throwing the football the majority of the time.
It's actually never really bothered me how stubborn McCarthy can seemingly be when it comes to his penchant for passing. If anything it marks him as a forward-thinker. His offenses back in his New Orleans days were a harbinger of things to come in the NFL - and that was with Aaron Brooks at quarterback.
So when McCarthy says Everything we do starts with running the football - well, it's hard not to be dismissive.
But upon closer inspection, it may just hold up. Think about the games where his team has been protecting a lead late and fans have lamented McCarthy's "conservative" approach when he starts calling his four minute drill. The opening game of the 2010 season leaps to mind here. where McCarthy was up late against the Eagles and content to run Brandon Jackson for 3 yards a pop while bleeding time off the clock. It can be frustrating to watch and fans always want the coach to "go for the kill" or "keep the pressure on" - but what McCarthy is doing is playing the percentages. As football coaches are fond of saying - a lot less can go wrong on a running play than on passing play. Not to mention that at the conclusion of each run you are guaranteed to see another 40 seconds come off the game clock.
Where McCarthy may suffer a bit in this perception as well is in the fact that he leaves so much in the hands of his quarterback. Aaron Rodgers, as we've talked about countless times, can change the course of the gameplan all on his own simply because of the freedom McCarthy gives him at the line to change plays. (For the exact opposite of this, see Jay Cutler down in Chicago, who is not allowed to audible - ever.) There have been several games where McCarthy has been asked about the imbalance in the run/pass ratio where he has said he had many more run plays called but that Rodgers had changed a good deal of them to passes at the line.
This, of course, is understandable. All passers, all passers worth a damn anyway, want the ball in their hands. Rodgers is no different. So when he sees a matchup he likes, he makes the change. A perfect example of this is Jordy Nelson's touchdown against Carolina. What was originally called to be a run, Rodgers saw a matchup he liked outside and made the switch. It's hard to argue with the results.
It's worth noting then that Rodgers and McCarthy both did a good job of staying with the run against the Rams on Sunday. The problem, of course, was that the team did such an abysmal job executing the runs that were called. From the offensive line to the running backs, there were mistakes galore. And with the new practice rules in place from the new CBA, its hard to see how much can get corrected. You can walk-it without pads and drill it until the cows come home. But allowed only one padded practice a week, it will be damn near impossible to instill the kind of toughness the running game needs. Continuous reps in pads is the best way to develop your running game - and that option now has been completely taken away from teams.
So back we come to the passing game and McCarthy's statement. Yes, the foundation may be in the running game. It may very well be where McCarthy starts each week. But he ends up in the passing game - and, usually, in the endzone. Such is today's game of football in the NFL.
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