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Point of Veau: McCarthy Doesn't Regret Read-Option Preparation but Focuses on Fixing It

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Point of Veau: McCarthy Doesn't Regret Read-Option Preparation but Focuses on Fixing It

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. Photo by Brian Carriveau of Cheesehead TV.

INDIANAPOLIS––The fact that the Green Bay Packers got torn up by Colin Kaepernick in a playoff loss in the divisional round for a second consecutive season isn't lost on Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy.

"Definitely there’s a lot of conversation about the read-option, rightfully so," said McCarthy Friday at the NFL Combine. "579, that’s a number that will stick in our focus as a defense throughout the offseason."

The Packers defense allowed the San Francisco 49ers to rack up 579 yards of total offense, showing that despite improvement from the NFL's statistically worst defense in 2011, Green Bay still has a ways to go if they're to get back to the Super Bowl.

Reflecting on the season, the question needs to be asked, should the Packers have seen this coming? Should they have been better prepared for what blindsided them in postseason?

The read-option, a staple in college football for the past several seasons, became a growing trend in the NFL in 2012. The new breed of young, mobile quarterbacks led by Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson helped to popularize it.

As the old saying goes "hindsight is 20/20," but McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers might have been wise to realize the read-option was more than just a gimmick.

McCarthy all but admitted the Packers didn't spend any extra preparation for the read-option unless it posed an immediate threat.

"Our practice reps during the week are really focused on the individual (opponent)," said McCarthy.

Whether he's guilty of ignorance or being the consummate stoic leader that says whatever is in the best interest of his team is an individual opinion. Perception is reality.

For better or worse, McCarthy shows no remorse for his defense's preparation, or lack thereof, in regards to the read-option.

"I don’t regret anything about the last season," said McCarthy. "That’s really what this time of year is for. Regret is something I think is an excuse. I don’t really live in that mindset."

To his credit, McCarthy isn't adopting a woe-is-me attitude. He's being proactive in his approach to defending the read-option, albeit one game too late.

Thanks to a common acquaintance through special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum, McCarthy is sending his defensive coaching staff to read-option bootcamp led Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin.

"Just the fact with what they've done on offense and the ability to face it on defense all the time in the SEC, we thought this would be a great opportunity," said McCarthy. "We're very grateful for him to bring our staff in."

Sumlin is entering his second year at A&M after leading his team to 11-2 record in the school's first season in the SEC. National recognition comes in the form of Johnny Manziel's Heisman Trophy campaign, the first-ever freshman to win the award in 2012.

Before A&M, Sumlin directed a prolific offense as head coach at Houston and as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma before that.

So in the offseason, the Packers defensive assistants will go back to school, presumably not in the same fashion as Rodney Dangerfield. It's a business trip to become better acquainted with football latest innovation.

"It’s about getting better, it’s about improvement, and we need to do a better job stopping the read-option," said McCarthy. "That’s definitely something we’re focused on."

The plan sounds good, almost too good. In one press conference McCarthy has avoided public outrage for his squad's ill-preparedness and let it be known that the future is foremost is in his mind.

Coming full circle, it's perhaps appropriate that McCarthy's comments came at the NFL Combine, the meat market for future pro prospects. If you subscribe to the theory that football games are won with "Jimmys and Joes" instead of "Xs and Os," the Draft could be the cure to what ails the Packers defense.

It could be that the Packers defense is just one player away from rejoining the elite. Maybe they find a pass-rushing defensive lineman or a playmaking linebacker or a ballhawking safety in late April.

But in reality, it doesn't matter how the Packers improve. Whether it's the schemes the coaches devise or the players making the tackles, what matters is the final result.

Brian Carriveau is the author of "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].


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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (42) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Evan's picture

Didn't Harbaugh say that they shelved the read option in the two weeks leading up to the Green Bay game so that it wouldn't show up on any scout tape? And that's why/partially why the Packers didn't prepare for it? Do teams typically only scout the preceding two games for an opponent?

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

I didn't hear Harbaugh admit to it, but I did hear they intentionally went that route. Kudos to them.

“I don’t regret anything about the last season,” said McCarthy."

That quote bugs me. He should have regrets, especially when he admits:
"the Packers didn’t spend any extra preparation for the read-option".

Not only should he regret that, he should be beating himself up about not having his team prepared. He's not the D.C., doesn't matter, he should've made it a point to make sure Dom addressed it. The Niners had shown it enough to warrant some preparation. Just my opinion.

jeremy's picture

Pfff. Of course he regrets it. He just isn't going to say so on the podium cause if he does he'll be getting questions about it for the next year.

razor's picture

Might be true, but if you are heading for the playoffs, don't you pay attention to what the most likely playoff contenders are doing all season long - not just the last two weeks.

Baltimore played the QB aggressively so that the RO was more predictable - give to the running back.

Stroh's picture

Whats not well known is that the 9ers w/ Kapernick at QB were not at all a heavy read option team. I read that the 9ers only used the read option about 6 plays per game since Kapernick took over at QB. It was a pretty limited part of the playbook, until they broke it out in force vs the Pack. Really McCarthy had no reason to believe that it was going to be such a major factor in the 9ers game. If you only see a handfull of times being used by the offense, you really can't spend too much time preparing for it.

Whether Capers might have been more able to respond to it... Thats debatable. But you really can't spend alot of time on being prepared to stop something that wasn't a big part of there offense.

In the end, the read option will have a small role in the NFL, before going the way of the wildcat. Teams just aren't going to continue to put franchise QB's like RG3, Wilson and Kapernick in harms way. It will have a good impact the next year or 2, then fade away. Defenses will know that they can hit the QB in the read option, almost w/o consequence. Teams aren't going to let the Franchise QB's get hit that often and in end the read option, w/ the ball fakes, the defense will just go all out and start hitting the QB's and playing the RB 2nd. Soon the teams will get tired of seeing the Franchise dragging himself off the ground.

Point Packer's picture

I agree with the hit part of this comment. Next year you will see the read option being complimented with a swift "nail the QB approach" a la Baltimore Ravens and it will go the way of the Wildcat. A short term fad.

That being said, McCarthy and Capers were idiots for not fully preparing for the scheme. The Packers weaknesses on D were set up to be exploited by the read option (slow/weak OLB's, etc). The coaching staffs inability to recognize that fact is mind-boggling. I still don't get it and can only explain with a hunch i've had for years. That is "NFL coaches are just not really that smart." All of them, minus Belechick. That guy is legitimately astute and why he can plug different players into a scheme and win 11+ every single year.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Mmm'K... Let's say the R.O. caught them totally off guard (a fireable offense if that were indeed the case, which I can't believe it was), I didn't see any semblance of a half time adjustment. You? Bad coaching from top to bottom that game, M.M. didn't have his troops prepared in an elimination game ... And he "don’t regret anything about the last season"? I'm a M.M. fan, but that's not what I was looking to hear from him after that performance. Disappointed that he's not.

cow42's picture

the offense that the 49'ers ran didn't crush the Packers... the players running it did.

they were/are by far the more physically talented/dominant team.

they could have walked up to the line and announced exactly what play they were about to run... and it still would have worked.

also - i do not think the RO is going away anytime soon.
i feel that it's going to change the game. with player salaries going through the roof and salary cap issues constantly forcing teams to let go of good players,the teams that are going to thrive are the teams that can devalue the QB position.

the RO does just that.

it's much easier to find 2 or 3 fast/athletic players that you can run out to play QB than it is to find and pay a dominant pocket passer. especially considering how many college teams are running a variation of the RO.

if your starting QB goes down (due to all the hits)... jut throw in another athlete.

the pool of RO type QB's is A LOT bigger than the pool of star-level pocket QB's.

jeremy's picture

I don't think many RO QB's from that big pool throw the football the way Kaepernick does. He has a legitimate NFL arm, can run the RO and has a 2.63 20 yard split.

Stroh's picture

The NFL is a passing league. Teams want QB's that can be at the least effective passing QB's. If a running QB can't throw the ball really well, teams will load the box and the offense will stall. Gotta have a QB that can throw or it doesn't matter how good a runner the QB is.

Point Packer's picture

Cow wrong yet again. RO will be a thing of the past in two years. Mark my words.

Evan's picture

"Teams want QB’s that can be at the least effective passing QB’s. If a running QB can’t throw the ball really well, teams will load the box and the offense will stall."

Exactly. Which is why Tebow is a bust while Wilson/Kaepernick/RGIII are stars in the making. They can all run, but if you can't also pass, you won't last long.

Chad Toporski's picture

We also need to remember that it was Kaepernick's scrambling ability from the pocket that really gashed them. The read option was just icing on the cake.

Also, in response to half-time adjustments... There are things that can be done, but a team goes into a game with a plan, and that plan includes a certain number of plays. You can't necessarily start throwing new plays into the mix that they haven't practiced, or else you're asking for communication and assignment mistakes.

Stroh's picture

Exactly, thats a great point. Kapernick got alot of first downs on scambles when the Packers otherwise had them in 3rd and long situations and usually would have been able to get off the field. I know he scrambled on the 1st TD by SF and probably for about 4 other 1st downs that the coverage by the packers was good and Kapernick had to run for a long 1st down and with the Packer being a man coverage team primarily all the DB's had their backs to the QB focusing on staying w/ the WR allows the QB to run unhindered. Thats when Rodgers knows to scramble for 1st downs too.

cow42's picture

"...the Packers otherwise had them in 3rd and long situations and usually would have been able to get off the field."

which Packer team have you been watching the last couple years?

get off the field on 3rd down? not this squad.

Stroh's picture

If Kapernick hadn't been able to scramble as much then they don't score nearly as many points. Why do you think I want the Packers to get an ILB like Ogletree so much?

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

"There are things that can be done, but a team goes into a game with a plan, and that plan includes a certain number of plays. You can’t necessarily start throwing new plays into the mix that they haven’t practiced, or else you’re asking for communication and assignment mistakes."

Dude, nobody said they had to scrap the entire gameplan, but there's a reason we all know the term "halftime adjustments", and we do because they're often needed. Things pop up during a game that for one reason or another weren't anticipated, thus, an adjustment is needed.

"There are things that can be done".

Agreed. And McCarthy opted to do nothing. Not his finest outing. This can't be disputed with any sincerity. And that's not even getting into him forgetting about DuJuan after his great start. M.M. sucked that day.

razor's picture

This is a terrible, terrible reflection on McCarthy and Capers. Every NFL analyst talked about it prior to the game.

My opinion of McCarthy has dropped considerably.

Rocky70's picture

That's what's so incredible about this situation. Some of the "homers" here are giving MM (And DC) another 'free-pass'. ---- 3 out of 4 years GB has been utterly embarrassed in the play-offs (on the "D"). ---- Not a good trend at all.

razor's picture

Sending your coaches anywhere to learn is an embarrassment to them, the team and the fans.

Man, does this guy have a clue?

Any coach that says they go through their normal preparation for a big game is an idiot.

cow42's picture

coaches visit and learn from other teams all the time.

belicheat visited urban meyer when he was at UF.

zeke's picture

"Sending your coaches anywhere to learn is an embarrassment to them, the team and the fans."

Why is it embarrassing for coaches to learn things?

Stroh's picture

If its true that the 9ers only used the read option a few times a game it becomes a matter of how much time do you devote to preparing for it. The read option isn't an offense that you prepare for in a matter of a couple hours or even a day or 2. We only had 7 days and if the 9ers used it on such a limited basis it wasn't like the Packers were going to spend the week preparing for it.

I think this would have happened to what ever team SF happened to play first in the playoffs. They purposely didn't use it in the regular season so they could spring it on teams in the playoffs. The Packers just happened to be the unlucky team that had to play the 9ers first.

Chad Toporski's picture


razor's picture

Embarrassing because the RO is not a new thing. Lots of film available. Obvious to everyone but MM and DC that the 49ers were using it. No apparent adjustments at half time. Man, looks so bad in every possible way to say what he said.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

I guess I'm just not good playing the apologist. The coaching staff didn't have their team prepared for something their next opponent had put on tape multiple times. Fact. Carry on.

dawg's picture

In visiting A&M, might MM have something up his sleeve for Cobb in the future?
Doubt it?

cow42's picture

hopefully they're asking the A&M coaching staff a lot of questions about Christine Michael while they're there (and getting positive answers).

fingers crossed.

Nononsense's picture

Its a day late and a dollar short but at least he admits his mistake and looks to learn from it. Thats all we can really ask of the men running this team.

While they are at it, why not look for a run game coordinator and a new offensive line coach?

Rocky70's picture

45 points, 579 yards of offense with 323 on the ground.

Bring on all the excuses. ---- LOL.

cow42's picture

not a good picture.

CSS's picture

Interesting that everybody jumps on McCarthy and Capers for not adjusting to the pistol formation where the read option is so dangerous, yet John Harbaugh and the Ravens somehow stopped the offense with over 4 weeks to prepare for it.

But they didn't. Kaepernick and the 49er's had over 200 yards out of the same formation and averaged over 8 yards/play out of it. Why Jim Harbaugh decided to run out of the pistol to threaten the read-option so late in the game cost San Francisco the Lombardi.

So, to recap: McCarthy and co. must be a joke because they couldn't stop an unscouted look. Both Harbaugh's are brilliant despite that fact that John and co. completely failed to stop the same offense when Jim and co. decided to employ it. Jim and co. coached an awful game when they waited so long to run out of the pistol despite the fact that the Ravens run defense was worse than the Packers.

P.S. - Neither coach managed the Super Bowl well at all, they were mediocre at best. But now they're all of a sudden pantheon of coaching while McCarthy sucks? People are insane.

Rocky70's picture

45 points, 579 yards of offense with 323 on the ground.

Let's all stand up & applaud the great job MM & DC did in the 9'er game.

(Maybe you're the one who's insane.)

CSS's picture

I'm not applauding him you dope, learn how to read. Pointing out that opposition across the league haven't figured out how to limit Kaepernick in this formation.

Still can't read or process I see.

Rocky70's picture

Unscouted? or just ineptness on MM's part. --- Many think MM blew it. --- So do I.

Sorry, but, your opinion has never created fact. --- It doesn't this time either.

Stroh's picture

Much moreso than your opinion. Fact is SF Didnt use the RO much at all till the playoffs!

Rocky70's picture

This isn't HS or even college football.
The NFL is the very best of probably all sports ever.
You're just making excuses.

Stroh's picture

How do you expect them to prepare for something when the opponent rarely used it and they had never faced it?! Completely unrealistic!!

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

FTR - I never claimed McCarthy and Co. were a joke. I stated I was a fan of his in fact. That doesn't mean I won't express disappointment when he stinks the joint up.

I have no idea how you can classify that as an Unscouted Look? No way.

I couldn't care less about the ravens against the niners. Has no place in this conversation. This is about our coach, whom I personally hold to a higher standard than what he showed in S.F. (see getting away from DuJuan for another example of his suckiness that day ).

Stroh's picture


Rocky70's picture


Stroh's picture


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