McCarthy Stops Scripting The First 15

Mike McCarthy confirmed that the Packers have indeed stopped participating in a long-time West Coast Offense tradition.

During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, when answering a question about keeping his nerves in check and whether scripting the first 15 plays would help in that regard, Rodgers threw out the following:

We don’t script our first 15 plays anymore. You have to account for nerves with every player. Deep breaths and getting over first few plays of the Super Bowl is necessary. I’m sure there will be a lot of excitement.

I found this shocking when I read it (I remember someone Tweeting it) especially as Rodgers apparently said it in such a matter of fact manner, as though the Packers weren't thumbing their noses at 20+ years of West Coast Offense tradition.

Ever since reading it, I had wanted to ask Mike McCarthy about it and I finally got the chance to do so yesterday. I asked him when they stopped and here is what he said:

I would say sometime last year. The first 15, it has a strong history that goes along with the West Coast Offense, I know it’s something that I’ve been a part of since 1989. Frankly, I got away from the first 15 because I thought there was too much emphasis on the initial first couple calls of the game. I didn’t like the result of some of the conversations that had taken place. We do spend a lot of time on the first situational call, we do the first 15 different than different staffs that I’ve been on. We’ve never scripted the first 15 as you’ve seen coming into the game. We’d always script what you’d call the first 15 ‘thoughts’ as far as how we feel the game is going to be played versus what we’re trying to accomplish in the early stages of the game, how the defense reacts to us and so forth. The philosophy’s still there, we just don’t spend the time of putting the first 15 and the major emphasis on it the day before the game like has been done before.

Of course, I took note of this in light of what I wrote about back in May of 2009:

Mike McCarthy, like Sherman, Lewis and Holmgren before him, has a set of 15 to 20 scripted plays, otherwise known as 'Openers', that he uses at the beginning of each game in order to test the defense to see how they will react to various formations, personnel groups, etc.  Both McCarthy and Rodgers' need to do a better job with the openers, but Rodgers in particular needs to get a handle on whatever it is that puts him out-of-sorts at the beginning of each contest.

What is interesting, at least to me, is the struggles the Packers had in 2008 and 2009 on their opening drives seemed to at least lessen with the switch in philosophy (I love the idea of the first 15 "thoughts"). The offense, and Rodgers in particular, certainly seemed to move the ball with a bit more efficiency this season. I'll obviously need to go and watch the opening of all 16 games plus playoffs and Super Bowl. I'm very interested to see what I find.

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Comments (5)

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BubbaOne's picture

February 26, 2011 at 04:06 pm

I like that MM is always looking to get better and said the O needs to improve.

I wonder what he could do w/ a slot receiver like Jerrel Jernigan; who could also contribute at KR.

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Josh's picture

February 26, 2011 at 04:49 pm

Fuck tradition, win games

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SpiderPack's picture

February 27, 2011 at 01:16 am

Isn't it great how Aaron & MM have developed to this point? I love thinking about how this effects the historical WC Offense, but it's Aaron & Mike I'd say. They r reinventing the wheel.

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Chris's picture

February 27, 2011 at 03:18 am

I always wondered if those first plays were really ever set "in stone", so to speak, in the WCO. I always thought that they were about the game plan and if the opponent acted differently and your plan is not working you had to change things up, even in those first plays. Hell, 15 play could mean 5 offensive series, and you don't want to stick with stuff which by that point obiously is not working.

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Erikgj's picture

February 27, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Rogers strength is his ability to diagnose defenses and changing things up at the line of scrimmage. The "openers" to be effective in sizing up the defense, need to be run pretty cleanly. If each play is changed at the line do they really show defensive tendencies or your ability to read defenses.

Plus with only 60 offensive plays per game do you want to spend 25% testing a defense. In the Holmgren era the first fifteen the plays were typically pretty effective. They also help Favre settle down.

With the working relationship that Rodgers and McCarthy have let them do what they are good at push, adjust and adapt.

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