McCarthy's play-calling decision wasn't easy
Mike McCarthy didn't hold any formal meetings to inform everyone in the Green Bay Packers' locker room that he was resuming the offensive play-calling responsibilities this week against Dallas.
As the week progressed, however, players just kind of sensed that change was coming.
Whether the 10th-year head coach's reinsertion was the catalyst, the Packers’ offense played with more consistency in a 28-7 win over the Cowboys before 78,369 at Lambeau Field. Aside from a third-quarter lull, the once-prolific offense showed glimpses of its old self in a 435-yard performance.
In recent weeks, McCarthy has been spending more time in meetings and suggesting things to Clements, who oversaw the NFL’s 22nd-ranked offense in the first 12 games. On Monday, the two finally agreed to switch places with Clements overseeing the offense from the coaches’ box and McCarthy calling the plays.
“The decision was made because I feel as the leader of this football team, I've got to make sure I maximize all the opportunities and resources to (save) and to give our team the chance to win,” McCarthy said. “Personally, it didn't feel very good, it didn’t feel good at all. That's a challenge with these types of decisions, but professionally it was what I felt I needed to do.”
It’s difficult to argue with the results. Running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks combined for as many carries (35) as quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ thrown passes. Along with a few Rodgers scrambles, the Packers rushed for their most yards in more than a decade (230) to control the tempo throughout.
Even after the Packers’ second offensive series stalled on the Dallas 1, McCarthy and Rodgers orchestrated back-to-back scoring drives in the second quarter to put Green Bay in control. They found success with pretty much the same offensive personnel outside of one change in the backfield.
Whether it was match-up based or pure coincidence, veteran fullback John Kuhn's snaps increased considerably on Sunday with McCarthy back in charge. With Dallas trying to take away Rodgers' outside options, receiver Randall Cobb was deployed more in the backfield, and the offense seemed to utilize more elaborate rollouts and screen calls to establish drives.
All told, the Packers ran 81 total plays with eight different players getting at least one reception. Players downplayed the change in the postgame locker room. Cobb said he didn't even notice until he saw McCarthy with a call sheet in the fourth quarter. Whatever the reason, the Packers' offense played with more balance with 42 designed runs (including kneel downs) and 39 drop-backs.
McCarthy originally conceded play-calling to Clements earlier this year to oversee all three phases. With special teams vastly improved and Dom Capers' defense operating at full capacity, McCarthy decided this was the week to make a change and said afterward that he'll continue to call plays for the rest of the season.
“Quite frankly, throughout the last few games, there’s been probably too much complaining going on from the players’ standpoint,” right guard T.J. Lang said. “It’s frustration. It’s frustration that we haven’t been playing up to our standards, we haven’t been executing the way that we should be. So it’s just something … obviously today, I don’t think it would’ve mattered who was calling the plays. If you don’t execute, it’s not going to work. But today, the energy was great, and everybody understood the urgency that we need to have to go out there and win that game."