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Point of Veau: Clements' Role in Offensive Gameplan Under Scrutiny

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Point of Veau: Clements' Role in Offensive Gameplan Under Scrutiny

The recent abysmal performance by the Green Bay Packers, a 28-point loss to the New York Giants, has called into question the offensive play calling this season.

While head coach Mike McCarthy gets the most heat for being the primary play caller on game days, it's time to similarly question the role of offensive coordinator Tom Clements in the offensive gameplan and his communication with McCarthy during the game.

McCarthy criticized himself and his play calling in the immediate aftermath of the game Sunday evening during his press conferences saying, "We had a plan and we didn’t execute it very well. We got away from it, went to some spread things, that wasn’t the answer. That was quite poor play selection on my part."

The decision to run too many passing plays out of the shotgun formation, the decision to not run enough against seven in coverage and the decision to attempt a long field goal with a struggling kicker were all head scratchers.

It wasn't the first time McCarthy criticized himself for his own play-calling efforts this season. In fact, it was the second week in a row.

Following the Detroit Lions game a week prior, a Packers win, McCarthy again put himself on notice, saying, "When you go back watching the game last night, there's calls that you don't like; there's a few too many, frankly. Didn't adjust as well or as quickly doing some things as we should've. It's about information that you're given… I probably would've went a different direction early in the game.”

In that game, it was the choice to run the ball 29 times compared to 27 passes (not including plays resulting in sacks) and not giving Alex Green a single carry that were the debatable selections.

The Packers converted only one of three red zone attempts and went scoreless on eight different drives. With the reigning NFL MVP as the quarterback, the condemnation was that the Packers didn't put the ball in his hands enough.

McCarthy is obviously trying to take the heat off his players, and that's certainly admirable. But consider the unfortunate trend of problematic play calling even earlier in the season...

  • Week 3 when the Packers ran a highly unbalanced three runs and 27 pass plays during the first half of the highly-publicized loss to the Seahawks that ended on a blown call in the end zone by replacement referees.
  • Week 5 when the Packers ran only nine out of 42 plays after Cedric Benson left the game with an injury, including seven straight passes to open the second half (one of which resulted in an interception) when Green Bay was trying to nurse a 21-3 halftime lead.
  • Week 8 when a fourth down pass play was called for punter Tim Masthay instead of Rodgers with the Packers leading only 14-12 in the third quarter, which elicited a "we will not be running that play again" response from McCarthy.

With the Packers owning a 7-4 record, a game out of first place in the NFC North and looking to be a long shot for a first-round bye in the playoffs, the Packers can't afford so many play-calling blunders during the stretch run of the season.

Back in mid-September, Cheesehead TV's own Max Ginsberg questioned whether the Packers miss former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. While Philbin didn't call the plays on game day, he was instrumental in putting together part of the gameplan that helped the Packers win a Super Bowl in 2010 and go 15-1 in 2011.

Considering the play-calling gaffes, the time is appropriate to examine Philbin's successor. Clements, likewise doesn't call the plays on game day, and he's different from Philbin in that Clements roams the sidelines instead of the coaches' box during games.

What's worthy of query is whether the game plan is appropriate heading into the contests and whether Clements has the temerity to critique McCarthy's choice of play calls while a game is in session.

McCarthy isn't off the hook either. Is he cultivating an environment where his assistants aren't simply "yes men" now that Philbin is gone? Or should Clements even be the play caller ahead of the head man?

It's not time for pitchforks and torches yet. At the very least, McCarthy and Clements have deserved the opportunity to adjust and turn things around.

But it's becoming clear that defenses are catching up to the Packers' offensive philosophy. Word is out that you should rarely blitz, rush only four and keep two safeties deep. Even though the Packers are three games over. 500, they're only 18th in the league in total offense, averaging 342.9 yards per game.

That's a stat that must improve lest the Packers suffer another early exit from the playoffs for a second-straight year or an even worse fate, not making the playoffs at all.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (34) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Derek's picture

"But it’s becoming clear that defenses are catching up to the Packers’ offensive philosophy."

It's already clear. Teams have film of the losses last year vs KC and NYG. And now they implement those schemes and teams are really shutting us down. The difference between last year's offense and this year's offense is incredible, with the same QB, same RBs, same WRs, same TEs, and 60% of the same Oline.

It's scheme MM, no matter what you say!!!

Beep's picture

I don't want to get too down on this team, but I agree with the notion that the Packers offensive system needs fixing.
MM=Mike McCarthy or Mike Martz? They're starting to look very similar in their unwillingness to adapt. Martz is now stuck in the booth commentating on games because he didn't adapt. Like POC said in the other post, the Packers have to start using the whole field.

Cole's picture

Just call shorter passes and it will fix the majority of our issues. I simply dont get how McCarthy keeps on with what doesn't work. The lions would've beat us if stafford hadn't overthrown CJ like three times where he would've walked in for a td. Our O line sucks, but we have the best offensive arsenal in the NFC and we are middle of the road in offense. McCarthy needs to wake up like the rest of the league has.

Big AL's picture

If we miss Philbin so much, maybe we should look up the man that he replaced in the first place. I'm not sure whatever happened to Jags after his stint at BC or Tampa [i think], but he was McCarthy's first choice in year 1, maybe he deserves another shot with the pack.

Derek's picture

you refer to Jagozinski (sp)

Oppy's picture

Yeah, "Jags" is his nickname. Any player who speaks of Jeff, every reporter, probably his own mother, calls him "Jags".

MarkinMadison's picture

Sorry, but this makes no sense to me. The fact that Jags came before Philbin means nothing. The whole BC thing was a debacle, and I seem to recall that his way out the door in Green Bay was not overly smooth. Jags would probably not be considered to be "Packer People" at this point.

keeley2's picture

Until the O-line can consistently stop a 4-man rush, you can expect to see more of the same from upcoming opponents. I expect to see increased snaps for Kuhn and Crabtree/Williams/Quarless in pass pro sets going forward.

pooch's picture

M.M. insists on 5-7 step dropbacks and throwing when A.R has a prayer 20 yard passes.Cannot believe when they sit and watch film the question is not asked?Why not run screens or slants until they move safties up then throw deep?Or stick with one running back and run what works until it doesnt work.Not go to oneside were we only average 1yard all season,then try otherside .Capers is just as bad,how in the hell do you limit your best ball hawk to 20 plays.They need to make adjustment s on the fly.Guys in pressbox slopping beers the whole time? Just unbelievable how inept M.M. can be,I stated last year lost playoffs cause of J.P son,now you know what they r missing on offense

SHODAN's picture

Just a small note, but I'd always thought screen passes and that sort of thing were more useful against blitzing teams. When the team can collapse the pocket with ease using only four down lineman, is the screen as effective with everyone else in coverage?

Ruppert's picture

Really good info, Brian. The world knows the O line can't block, and of course the obvious response is to tailor your offense around that fact.

I maintain that McCarthy tries way too hard to be unpredictable, at times seemingly doing very stupid things to that end. I can't help but wonder if this is why he won't just suck it up and add extra protection more, chip a DE with a back/TE more, run screens/slants/rollouts, or run draw plays out of the shotgun more.

At this point, we really have no choice but to adapt to our pathetic O line, even if it means teams know what's coming more often. Rodgers and the playmakers are good enough to still have success even if this is the case.

Walty's picture

They've been running more draw plays out of the shotgun than I've ever seen. I'll bet they ran that play 12 times against Detroit. So far it isn't working.

Nick perry's picture

Clements , Campy, all these coachs I kinda scratch my head at. We ha ex QB for a RB Coach, ex RB for a receivers coach and so on. The O-Line and D-line coachs have never been very good IMO. One thing for sure is Rodgers has been sacked a ton and not just this year. I hope it doesn't take him getting hurt to replace him. M.M. Offense is no longer feared. Maybe with Jennings they'll beat cover 2 but Rodgers still has to be upright!

some guy's picture

It is mindblowingly obvious that not having Bulaga and Wells (and Jennings) is a large part of the problem and nothing can really be done about that. Its also obvious that the pass rushes the team has faced this year are better than last year. it all adds up to problems for the offense

So the question becomes, what should the Packers be doing more given their deficiencies? The answer is also pretty obvious.

They should be utilizing play-action MUCH more than they are on first and second down - and PASSING more on those downs. Rodgers is deadly off play action because it buys him an extra half second by keeping the defense honest. Even in 4 wide receiver sets, you can literally see the time it buys him when he keeps the ball on the read option to the running back. DO THAT MORE.

They should be running more screens, more draws and counters in the run game to make the D think. More shovel passes and quick slants. Also, they really need to let Aaron throw those flare passes out at least 2 or 3 times a game to Nelson and Jennings - that stretches the D and gets the ball in the hands of their most dangerous players. these were all staple plays from last year that are inexplicably gone, especially given the O-line's issues. it is insane to me that they aren't running more of those plays.

They should be chipping MUCH more with Finley and Crabtree, if not outright keeping 6 back on the majority of plays. When Jennings comes back, no team will be able to defend this receiving corps even with 7 in coverage if Rodgers gets just a little time. give him that time with a tight end and running back in to block on most passing plays.

Rodgers needs to change up his snap count and cadence more. he was much better last year at it. teams have become wise to it but he should still do it more than he has. he used to get an offside penalty a game and usually a big play.

go uptempo more and do it randomly. don't let those rush DE's rotate and get a breather. slow them down by wearing them out over the course of a drive by not letting them sub.

what this offense cannot do is go 4 or 5 wide and hope the oline wins the 5 v 4 matchup on pass plays that take over 2 seconds. they will lose too often and it jeopardizes the health and effectiveness of their best asset. They may be able to do it next year with Bulaga and Sherrod back or with new blood. its simply not an option now and that alignment is killing this team.

Finally, 12 needs to get rid of the ball. his line is rough, but when nothing is there, drop it off to the RB or scramble and get what you can. there have been at least 7 sacks this year where he held the ball way too long, and as many instances where he just barely escaped but should have just thrown it away.

This is not rocket science. i hope the coaches figure it out because the talent is there except for the left side of the line. They just need to hide that weakness better and a lot of it can be done via playcalling and formation.

pooch's picture

I disagree ,started last year with Chief fame and concluded in playoffs against Giants and now its snowballing out of control unless offebsive blueprint does a major overhaul asap

Franklin Hillside's picture

You're being very Un-Dude.

Corporate cheesehead's picture

The pack have struggled the most against Tampa 2s with strong four man rushes. Getting Jennings back will help only if they use more of a balanced approach like 'some guy' details above. Personally, I grew disgusted by Sherman's shuttle pass. Now with MM, I fear seeing a naked backfield against strong pass rushing teams. One of these times, 12 is going to get seriously nailed. How about going with a double tight end set more .... Run with it And throw off the play action fake more. Use the tight ends more across the middle to bust the Tampa 2 ....

There is no quick fix on the o-line this year ... Scheme changes are needed by mm to go deep into the playoffs ... unless they face New Orleans three times in a row in the playoffs ....

fubared's picture

I agree more play action would stop the pass ruch but in MM's mind the run does the same thing. I'm going out on a limb and suggesting they tried this in practice and neither green nor starks are effective catching the ball. Could be why no one drafting them but us.
Many teams will only draft running backs who did play action in college and were ok at it so they fit into the teams scheme if you will.

MM has a scheme. Throw 30 and 40 yard passes and run once in a while. No screens, no over the middle passes to the open field.

ohenry78's picture

Remember in 2007 when the crossing route, and YAC, were the bread and butter of the offense? Let's try that again. Keeps the safeties honest, acts like an extended running game. Let's get a bit more horizontal with the passing game for a bit.

Walty's picture

Man, those crossing routes in '07 were unstoppable.

fubared's picture

Its the Vikes bread and butter and then they throw in Pederson to boot. Vikes by 12

Evan's picture

Doug Pederson plays for the Vikings now? That guy must be almost 50 years old.

fubared's picture

That would be nice. Why we stopped that is beyond me. Why the tight ends are heading to the sidelines routes and not going up the middle to the open areas for easy first downs is beyond me.
All I know in the Vikes game, Ponder will pass 8 yarders all day long to his tight ends and move the ball down field with screens, Pederson, and dunk passes. It works. I see them in the play-offs and not the Packers because we have to play them twice.
They win both their in, not us.

Pack Fan in ATL's picture

Yea, it seems like MM has all but ignored the middle of the field and just wants to take deep shots. I don't know why we got away from it, but I look forward to its return. I just wish the Giants loss had come before the bye so they could have had more time to look and see what they are doing wrong and spent the bye week fixing it.

fubared's picture

I never thought, as many other like me, that the Pack would get through the playoffs and win the SB. My reasoning was MM seemed stubborn as hell when it came time to manage the game. I questioned back then a lot of his play calling and think the Packers themselves as a team made up for his ignorance, stubborness if you will.
I mean we had a lot of interceptions that put the ball back in the hands of the offense. Otherwise, we would have not survived his play calling.
I totally agree that the KC game changed the face of the packers fortune on offense at least. Yes, teams saw that film and realized, Rogers was eating up single coverage and that Jones, and Nelson were speed demons who were hard to cover.
KC actually gave the Giants the formula to win big the last three times. Go to double coverage, play up on the line, rush like crazy, play two deep safeties and it has worked.

So my question like others, why has MM not changed the offense. It's not working. It hasn't worked. What does it take for him to get it.

We don't know if he his overiding Clemens decisions and beating his own drum or not. I for one just don't get all those 30 and 40 yard pass plays we try over and over again and they aren't working.

redlights's picture

I know little about football.

There is no way to know if MM's play-calling is his own, or just parroting TC. No way to know if Arodg runs the plays that MM wants, or if he changes it to what he thinks. No way to know if the OLine is executing the protections as designed.

I did see the offense take a time-out due to disorganization, and that's BS.

The reality is that there is probably blame to spread in all directions. It is MM's job to fix it.

Am I wrong to be the only one to notice TT not being quoted AT ALL? I know he usually stays quiet, but I haven't heard a peep. Maybe too quiet?

packeraaron's picture

He was quoted in McGinn's game piece, as he is every week.

fubared's picture

The only reason were not using Finley like we used to is his speed is like half what it was before his injury. He is not getting any separation from linebackers. They are step for step with him.
When he was tearing it up, he was often uncovered. Now every time he catches a ball, and that aint often, he has someone draped over him or figthing him for the ball.

Starks may be thee slowest running back the first three steps than anyone in the league. By the time he gets to the line, the D men are there too. Green isn't a lot better.

Newhouse could not make second string on any other team. Period. He would be an emergency back up only. Yet he is in charge of protecting an MVP quarterback.

Worthy, Zombo, Walden, Neal, Daniels and Raji are just collecting checks this year. They have been manhandled all year long by every team. Perhaps its because they aren't any good to begin with and were expecting way too much from them?

You add all the above not to mention a host of other mediocre players Ted picked up on the cheap and this team is very lucky to be 7-4.

If I'm right, the luck runs out against the tougher NFC teams coming up with pass rushing and running backs.

Derek's picture

Time to draft Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M, and cousin of the bloodline.

redlights's picture

Are you cow?

Worthy is doing comparable to Devon Still, who was thought to be on par as a pick in the draft. Daniels was a lower round draft choice. I could go on. My point is that its still a team game, and any weak links (plenty) will diminish the sum total.

I highly doubt that more than a handful of players, if any, are "collecting paychecks". Between God-given talent; coaching, injuries, scheme, and either mother's love or some good home-cooking, it isn't working as well as it should be. Unless you're privy to inside information, in which case you're part of the problem, personal attacks on men who are doing far better than we, is inappropriate. Quit watching, quit buying, switch to a different team, or whatever; but parity is what is driving the profits of the teams, and allowing 75% of the teams to have a fighting chance to make the playoffs, where any team can make a run. I'm no socialist, but the lack of domination is what drives the league.

CSS's picture

Normally not a fan of trolling, but there's some quality concern trolling going on at CheeseheadTV.

Chad Toporski's picture

Some... I was going to write a response on an earlier comment but figured it wouldn't be worth it.

I grow weary of people saying "MM needs to do A, B, and C, and our problems will be solved." Do they really think it's that simple? Maybe it's just not my personality to be that arrogant...

It's one thing to scrutinize, it's another thing to say you have all the answers.

cow42's picture

i'm not telling them what they should be doing... just pointing out that what they have been doing is broken.

you get paid millions.

fix it.

Chad Toporski's picture

I actually wasn't talking about you, Cow...

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