McCarthy: 'I'm not a conservative coach'
GREEN BAY - Think what you want of Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy, but there’s one thing he wants to make clear about his approach to the game.
“I’m not a conservative coach,” he said Thursday morning.
McCarthy has contained his aggressiveness at times during the playoffs. It’s not hard to find situations where a gamble here, or maybe a risk there, could have made a difference. McCarthy said there’s a reason — if not multiple reasons — for every decision he makes from the sidelines.
Take last season's NFC divisional playoff loss at Arizona, for example. McCarthy suggested he would've attempted a two-point conversion at the end of regulation in the Packers' loss to the Cardinals had receiver Jeff Janis not been injured catching a game-saving Hail Mary.
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Janis injured his back on the Hail Mary. As the touchdown was being reviewed, McCarthy said, head trainer Bryan Engel told him Janis wouldn’t be available for a two-point conversion. Earlier in the game, Randall Cobb exited when a mic battery for the television broadcast bruised his lung when he hit the ground.
Without Janis, the Packers were down to two healthy receivers: James Jones and Jared Abbrederis. It’s unusual for teams to have only two receivers available. McCarthy said the Packers hadn’t practiced any two-point conversion plays with fewer than three receivers.
“We had a play that I had great confidence in,” McCarthy said, “that I hadn’t run all year that we’d been working on in the three-wide receiver set. That would have been my call if I had gone for it. Now, when I mentioned going for two points to Aaron (Rodgers), he was exhausted from running, but there was plenty of time because they were reviewing the catch.
“My point is, you go through the thought process and make an educated decision, and then the result is what it is.”
It wasn’t the first time McCarthy’s perceived conservative approach came under criticism during the playoffs.
One year before Arizona, there was Seattle. In the first quarter, on the road, the Packers marched inside the Seahawks' 5-yard line twice. A pair of fourth-and-goals at the 1-yard line turned into two field goals. The Packers dominated the first quarter, but led only 6-0.
In a game that went to overtime, swapping a field goal with a touchdown would’ve made the difference.
“Why did you kick the field goal on the first drive in Seattle?” McCarthy asked rhetorically, repeating the same question many fans have asked the past 20 months. “Why don’t you go look at the first two plays before that when Michael Bennett is rippin’ through the line.”
McCarthy said the CenturyLink Field crowd drowned out field-level noise in the first quarter, making pre-snap communication difficult. Perhaps that’s why Bennett — as McCarthy said — ripped through the Packers' offensive line each of the two previous plays before the first field goal.
Both times, Bennett beat guard Lane Taylor, brought onto the end of the line as an extra blocker in the Packers’ goal-line offense. The Packers also ran away from Bennett on both plays, perhaps out of necessity. Their fourth-and-goal play could have been too predictable.
McCarthy said he often reflects on his in-game decisions. He follows the same process.
“When you go through the reasoning of why you did it,” McCarthy said, “was it sound? What was the assessment of what was going on? Take the emotion out of it. Those are good decisions, in my opinion. I’ve made bad decisions that turned out great, and I’ve made good decisions that didn’t turn out great. But that’s the beauty of the game of football. That’s the game we play.
“I think you have to stay in touch with that in the evaluation process. Because I don’t ever want to lose, but I don’t understand how the hell losing by three touchdowns is better than losing on the last play of the game. That tells you that my team was prepared, they were in it, they believed they were in it, but they were one play away. That’s how I coach, and that’s how I want my team to play.”