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McCarthy's Masterful Use Of Personnel

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McCarthy's Masterful Use Of Personnel

I spend a lot of time on this here blog writing about what I think the Packers and coach Mike McCarthy should be doing better. I'd like to take a moment to point out something McCarthy and the Packers do probably better than anyone else at the moment. Simply put, they use their offensive personnel in so many packages and formations that they make opposing defensive coordinators' heads spin.

It wasn't always like this. McCarthy started 2006 with about as basic a playbook and the most rudimentary personnel packages you can find in football. But as his offense has evolved, McCarthy has become a master at mixing and matching his personnel to his schemes. (In fairness, he did this to an extent when he was the offensive coordinator in New Orleans, though not as much as he does currently. I'm sure stops in San Francisco and then a talent-depleted Green Bay made him scale back a bit.)

One thing that most fans don't even think about is the effect that the personnel the offense sends in on any given play has on the defensive coordinator. The DC will get the information and then have seconds to decide how he wants to counter. For example, if the offense sends out three wide receivers, a tight end and a running back, depending on down and distance, he may chose to counter with an extra defensive back or he may try staying in his base set, especially if he thinks the offense might try to run the ball. (Yes, this is incredibly simplified, but you get the idea)

McCarthy does an amazing job in this area. (And an under-appreciated one if you ask me, especially by fans who like to blame "McCarthy's playcalling" for everything from a loss last season all the way up to the BP oil spill) Take a look below at two plays from last season's Monday night game against the Ravens for an example of what I'm talking about.

Both these plays occur during the same drive, the first on 2nd and short, the second on 1st and 10. What the videos don't show is the presnap motion but the idea is there - both huddles featured three tight ends, one wide receiver and a running back. The defense, on both plays, counters with their base set, playing man to man then zone.

Now, before you watch the first play, try not to pay attention to Ryan Grant completely missing the cutback lane (somewhere, Jersey Al just shed a tear) or Mark Tauscher's late execution on the cutblock.

Try instead to focus on the second play. It's first and ten. You have Donald Lee lined up in the traditional tight end spot. You have Spencer Havner split wide. And you have Jermichael Finley in the slot. If you're the defense, this is probably not what you were expecting when you broke the huddle. Advantage: Packers.

This is obviously just one very small example. There are literally dozens of examples in each game that I could point out. McCarthy, as stated above, does a better job than just about any other playcaller in the league at the moment of using his personnel in a dizzying array of formations, causing headaches for defensive staffs week in and week out.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (41) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Adaminengland's picture

Yes he is good at it, but "masterful"? Like you allude to, having the personnel plays a large part in what you can do, and aside from splitting Havner out, nothing in either of those two plays is very progressive...

packeraaron's picture

Yes he is good at it, but “masterful”?

Yes. Like I wrote above, this is an insanely small sample. The way he will set DCs up throughout games and even seasons is, yes, masterful. The 90 yard TD to Driver in the NFCC was set up all...year. The guy is the best.

PackersRS's picture

And, in a year, we could be really grateful TT took Quarless...

If this guy pans out, can you imagine the kind of confusion both him and Finley will do to DCs???

nerdmann's picture

Quarless and Starks have big futures, imo. We just keep getting more and more weapons.

nypacker's picture

Thinking about that gives me goosebumps already lol. Too bad there's no such thing as a 6 WR set in football (unless you factor in a wildcard package) otherwise there'd be extreme havoc.

Cuphound's picture

First, I'm pretty sure Lovie Smith is responsible for the BP oil spill. No, wait, Brent did it. Blame it all on Brent! Yeah, that's the ticket. Second, there was a point last season where you, Aaron Nagler, called for McCarthy's head. Just sayin'

And as always, thanks for the film.

packeraaron's picture

Not true. The direct quote was that he "deserved" to be fired. Do the work son.. ;)

Cuphound's picture

Your response here is cute, but not as cute as hiding the recorder on your daughter. My partner is reading development psych right now and it made me think of Piaget and the whole there/not there development issue.

You really love your kids. The older I get, the more beautiful that sort of thing is to see. Not sure why.

Cuphound's picture

By the way, son, I'm a pedantic academic. You said and I quote, "It’s official: Mike McCarthy needs to be fired"

You could even <a href="" rel="nofollow">look it up.</A>

nerdmann's picture

I was pretty disgusted when they pretty much bent over and let Favre spank their asses twice last year. They've done the minimum to make up for it now, and it looks like they'll get a couple more cracks at Favre.

nypacker's picture

Dude just relax, let's be glad that Mccarthy wasn't fired at all. We have the players to take us to the superbowl and a coach who can lead them there.

Cuphound's picture

By the by, the film with your daughters is really cute.

ZeroTolerence's picture

Good points, Aaron. The future holds only good things for the Pack as the 53 keeps improving. Here's hoping that Rodgers can continue to grow and stay healthy.

PackerMax's picture

I'm in agreement with you, Aaron. I think the Packers' offense is extremely dynamic and exciting to watch. Since Mike McCarthy is the head coach, he's going to take the criticism or the praise. With the hype and expectations already building for next season, it will be interesting to see how MM prepares his squad. I think we should be as good as any other team, provided we take care of our "pad level" issues. :)

NickGBP's picture

Love this post.

McCarthy is getting better and better each year. Don't forget this is his first HC job. Great stuff so far.

Rich Beckman's picture

"fans who like to blame “McCarthy’s playcalling” for everything from a loss last season all the way up to the BP oil spill"

That seems to imply that you do not believe MM's play calling is responsible for the oil spill.

After that, it is hard to take the rest of your analysis seriously.


Jersey Al's picture

My eyes are dry. I just can't blame Grant on this play. Wells, Colledge, Tauscher - none of them could hold a block on that play.

packeraaron's picture

You're kidding right? Lee executes a PERFECT hook block and the line crashes down beautifully. There's a gaping cut back hole to his right if Grant just takes a second to see it instead of barreling into the line.

ZeroTolerence's picture

To me Lee's block was as you say, and the cutback was indeed there for Grant. But the left DB (21) was there to make the play if Grant did cut back as Finley (88) did nothing to stop him.

packeraaron's picture

Well, to be fair, if you watch closely Finley is looking for the slant. May have been one of those 50/50 plays where Rodgers chose to stick with the run.

PackersRS's picture

Maybe, but Tauscher's cutblock is kinda terrible, and Corey Redding is able to extend. So even if Grant takes the right, which was the best decision in the play, there's a good chance he needs to at least juke Redding, and by then Jarrett Johnson would've catched up with him, making the tackle.

I don't think Finley did nothing on the CB. He's between him and Grant all the way. But when he sees that Grant won't go right, he moves forward to the next blocker...

I think there was a lane, but it wasn't an easy one, definitely. In reality, it all breaks down because Tauscher's block is terrible, and so is Wells'... Colledge's wasn't that bad, if both of the other guy's block doesn't fail, Grant would've been able to run, so Colledge wasn't the one responsible... He didn't help, though...

Do you see Sitton completely manning McKinney, though? Beautiful.

Anyway, that's my take from that play.

Jersey Al's picture

It's funny, actually. Looking at it again, I guess I didn't even consider the lane between Lee and Tauscher as one that Grant could find. I was focused on finding a lane within his reach on the left side, and didn't even consider that one. laughing at myself for that one... And let me just say that yes, the great Kregg Lumpkin finds that lane. :)

dilligaff's picture

I am not sure about Lumpkin, but Green or Sutton would have.

Alex's picture

I don't think Tausch was late, his pad level was just poor.

David's picture

Great dialogue. I give MM credit for creativity and TT credit for providing weapons. If we get consistent play on our OL, we have the best offense in the NFL. Btw, where do you watch the games in NYC?

packeraaron's picture

On my sofa. I have Sunday Ticket. ;)

PackersThad's picture

Jealous!! What's a recently graduated Packers fan with a brand new job and only Cablevision to do about watching Packers games!??? lol

Jersey Al's picture

there are places on the internet you can watch the games...

BubbaOne's picture

W/ all the tweeting/blogging some of the Packers do I'm worried that their iPad level will be too high.
Seriously, I echo what was said earlier re what Quarless and Starks can bring to the game plan. Also MM could include Shields in a few pckg's. Maybe MM stands for the Mad Manipulator. Ah, let the game within the game begin.

nypacker's picture

I think Sam Shields will be listed as a CB for the time being. But it'd be interesting to put him in a hybrid dual CB/WR role from time to time. He has experience playing both positions, he just excels better as a WR. I want him to make the permanent move there but the coaches see him better fit at CB.

bomdad's picture

A player with a history of behavior problems and another with an injury history, there's a slim chance either sees the field in a regular season game.

bomdad's picture

McCarthy's been outcoached by the Vikings the last two years. Who cares what he does against first year DCs like Baltimore's.

packeraaron's picture

You're right. McCarthy coached his offensive tackles to be hurt for both Viking games. (rollseyes)

bomdad's picture

He had no formation to stop a four man rush last season. And the season before that he continued to line up in empty backfield even backed up against his own goal line.

Brett Cristino's picture

Agree with this article so very much, and like you said, something that he never gets credit for. He's definately one of the best in the biz when it comes to confusing the Defense with different formations/looks. In fact, i'd say he and Sean Payton are THE best.

nypacker's picture

Happy memorial day everyone.

I don't get why people still ponder about what if Sean Payton had been coaching the pack. Maybe he isn't "packer people."

Dilligaff's picture

last year we went 4-4 to start. IMO due to MM's lack of understanding of the limits of the O-line, keeping field position and time of possession in our favor.

The second half of the year MM's play calling and offensive schemes where more spot on. IMO we watched a learning curve both from players and MM last year.

packeraaron's picture

He is stubborn as hell - I totally agree there. But that has nothing to do with this post. ;)

PackersRS's picture

Yeah, I completely agree.
I think MM was fooled by the preseason, as much of us were (I was). He thought that he had a good enough line to be able to hold for the consistant big plays to develop. Thought that Barbre would've been able to hold.

And thought that the first few errors were just a case of not being used to the spotlight.

It took him 8 games to realize what he had, and finally change... It also tremenduously helped that Tauscher and Wells came back, though... I'm not sure how much change in the playcalling would've helped with Spitz calling the blitzes and Barbre playing RT...

PackersRS's picture

*we were. Damn lack of edit button, doesn't allow us to be impulsive and stupid...

Oppy's picture

Especially now that we've added another potential weapon in Andrew Quarless, I hope McCarthy goes back to cross-training the TE's and FBs and making the positions interchangeable as he did during the 2007 season.

I've mentioned this before, but think of the havoc the Packers could cause DC's when trotting out 1 WR, 3 TE's (or 2 TE's and a FB) and a HB when you've got a TE- maybe two- that can shake DB's in their own right. Motion them into or out of the Backfield, and things get really interesting as the defense won't have any clear indication on pass/run.

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