Mike McCarthy used a joke to lighten the mood Monday evening, and it was smart. After three straight losses, the latest at home against arguably the worst team in the NFL, the mood needed to be lightened.
Whether he intended to or not, the Green Bay Packers head coach also offered a glimpse into what of what it's like to have his job. Three weeks ago, after the Packers blowout loss in Denver dropped his team to 6-1, McCarthy tried to pull into the loading dock where he parks at Lambeau Field.
Initially, his key card wouldn't open the gate.
"I thought, 'Holy schnikes,'" McCarthy said. "You know? I said, 'Screw it.' It's healthy. Because I thought for a minute, 'You lose one game and they're not going to let you back in Lambeau.'"
Of course, McCarthy's job is secure. He's won a Super Bowl. There's a street named after him. On top of that, the Packers are still 6-3 and in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt.
Regardless, that's how it can feel at times around 1265 Lombardi Avenue. McCarthy would never call 2015 a Super Bowl or bust season, but those are expectations. After three straight losses, there's plenty of pressure.
"I'll never panic," McCarthy said, "because that's not the way you play the game, and that's not the way you coach. I think to have a little bit of fear in losing your job is healthy. I think any young assistant coach that goes through the league has that, and should continue to have it.
"But you can't play cautious or panicked or whatever word you want to put on it. We're not going to coach that way, and our team won't play that way."
The way McCarthy would like his team to play can be summarized in one word: fundamentals. No, the cliché doesn't sound exciting. But fundamentals sure look good on a football field.
When fundamentals are lacking? It looks bad. Very bad. Three straight losses bad. Across the board, McCarthy said, the Packers' fundamentals have been inconsistent. Sometimes, they're great. Often, they're not.
McCarthy said it starts with a lack of big plays, especially on offense.
"Which we actually feel is a fundamental of professional football," McCarthy said. "Boy, we just left some big-play opportunities on the field. So we need to do a better job of hitting those when those opportunities are provided. Whether it's offensively getting the one-on-one matchups, we've got to win those. You can take the various one-on-one matchups throughout all three phases, and we've got to win those one-on-ones with a higher rate of efficiency than what we are.
"So I don't have some real exciting buzz word to get everybody to jump up and down, but we need to be better in our fundamentals. That's where we're lacking. We're inefficient at times, and we're excellent at times. We're not doing it enough to win games."
McCarthy said the team spent only half of Monday's meetings rehashing the issues that lingered from their loss to the Lions. They quickly "jumped ahead" to this week's matchup. There is no time to dwell on the past with a trip to the Minnesota Vikings on the horizon.
It's a showdown of the NFC North's best two teams, and the Vikings have a one-game lead.
"It's an opportunity to galvanize a group of men," McCarthy said of his team's struggles. "I have all the confidence in the world that this is what's going to galvanize us as we move forward. That's big-picture stuff. It's irrelevant, frankly. The most important thing is beating the Vikings on their home turf.
"We let one get away at home. Home victories are precious. You feel like you should win all your home games each and every year, especially with our great fans and the venue we have to play here. We feel it's an advantage — the Lambeau advantage — and we let one get away. so we need to make up for that and definitely get two on the road."