GREEN BAY — Mike McCarthy, coach of the Green Bay Packers, is often heard repeating a handful of mantras that he believes reinforce the credos of his football program. The more frequently they are used, the more likely they are to be ingrained in the minds of his players and assistant coaches.
Among the more popular slogans is the following: You get what you emphasize. In other words, a football team should see results in the areas where more time has been allotted.
This week, the Packers dedicated extra time to reanimating their passing attack.
“Just right now, we’re in a little bit of a lull, we’re trying to get out of it,” quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said. “Our passing game is a point of emphasis. We put (an emphasis) on it this week, and Coach is a big believer in ‘we get what we emphasize,’ and we’ve put a point of emphasis on that and we’re expecting results. But to say there’s anything wrong with Aaron, I don’t think there’s anything wrong.”
Aaron, of course, is Aaron Rodgers, the presently anomalous quarterback for the Packers.
Through four games, Rodgers ranks last in completion percentage (56.1) among qualified players. He ranks 28th in yards per attempt at 6.30. His passer rating — the stat for which he holds the highest mark in NFL history — is nearly 16 points below his career average of 103.6.
The Packers are one of six teams that already have had their bye, and as a byproduct they've played one fewer game than the majority of the league. Among those six, the Packers still rank last in total passing yards as of Thursday afternoon.
“We’ll reassess this halfway through and keep an eye on it but yeah, I don’t see any reason to hit the panic button,” Van Pelt said. “We’ll work through these things. Wherever I’ve been when you hit lulls, you come out the other side of them. It just might be something you’re six inches off here, and in the passing game that’s a lot. You look at the interceptions, I mean, probably a total of 13 inches of not being where it should be resulted in two interceptions. So I have no problem with those. Those are going to happen. You’re going to miss throws here or there. I have no concern.
“I don’t know what’s wrong. I don’t know if there is anything wrong. It’s the game of football. (Rodgers) is not going to roll it out there every day and be perfect, be Superman. I mean, I think the standards have been set — and he set them. I mean, he’s played some fantastic football, and he will play fantastic football moving forward.”
The added emphasis means the Packers have spent more time than normal on their passing game. They’ve carved out extra portions of their day to construct a game plan, outline the applicable fundamentals and transfer those things to the practice field. From McCarthy on down, they are optimistic about the work they've accomplished this week.
On Sunday, we’ll find out if anything really worked.
“Every season is a new season, and you start with a clean palette and you work with that,” Van Pelt said. “You know, we’ll get this thing turned around. There’s no question.”