Packers coach Mike McCarthy on Aaron Rodgers: ‘I feel good about our relationship’

Ryan Wood
Packers News
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Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy at Lambeau Field on Sunday, September 16, 2018 in Green Bay, Wis.
Adam Wesley/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

GREEN BAY - More telling than anything Mike McCarthy said Monday was how the Green Bay Packers coach addressed quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ open criticism after a 22-0 win against Buffalo.

McCarthy, doing his best not to make a potentially bad situation worse, kept his composure throughout a 15-minute news conference. No matter how many times he was asked about Rodgers’ comments, the coach who from time to time has been riled at the podium never flashed anger.

He was the picture of calm, dumping cold water on any notion there’s a problem between him and his two-time MVP quarterback.

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“I have good relationships, proper relationships, with all of our players,” McCarthy said. “Aaron and I, we have gone through a lot of years together. So I feel good about our relationship.”

Rodgers was clearly displeased with the offense’s performance Sunday, saying the Packers were “championship defensive level and non-playoff team offensive level.” He lamented not being able to target his top playmakers more. When asked how to accomplish that, Rodgers said “it’s by the plan.”

McCarthy has long been responsible for shaping the Packers' offensive game plan.

McCarthy allowed “there’s a little bit of a change” with how the Packers devise their offensive game plan after he adjusted the structure of his coaching staff this offseason. McCarthy is still the play caller, but he has more voices to pull from than in the past. Not only do the Packers have an offensive coordinator in Joe Philbin, but there’s also a pass-game coordinator in Jim Hostler and run-game coordinator in James Campen.

So while Rodgers still has the opportunity to provide his input on each weekly game plan, it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether the influx of other voices dilutes his own.

“There’s a reason why these new coaches are here,” McCarthy said. “They bring a level of experience and expertise in being in other systems and doing things a different way. At the end of the day, the way we function and put together a game plan is very similar. Like anything, our philosophy will never change as long as I’m standing up there and, on offense, it’s about making the quarterback successful.

“Aaron’s given a lot of responsibility, and rightfully so. He’s earned that, at the line of scrimmage and during the preparation process. That’ll continue as it’s been for quite some time.”

McCarthy didn’t disagree with Rodgers’ assessment of the offense’s poor performance. Despite the easy win, it was the type of game where Packers teams in the past might have been able to pick a score. They clearly outmatched the Bills, led by a rookie quarterback who looked unready to play and a weak supporting cast.

That the Packers finished with only 22 points was far from impressive.

Where McCarthy differed was on the source of Sunday’s sluggish production. More than the game plan, McCarthy suggested execution was not crisp.

“We weren’t clean,” he said. “I mean, five dropped balls, we put the ball on the ground five times. The two biggest negatives of the game were how we handled the football. I mean, that’s really the biggest red (mark) on my grade sheet, because at the end of the day it’s about the football. You’ve got to take care of it.”

Friction, it seems, has grown between Rodgers and McCarthy over the past eight months. The quarterback has taken veiled shots at his coach in the past, but they seem to be coming with increasing frequency.

Since the end of the 2017 season, Rodgers has complained about not being consulted on former quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt’s departure. Given several opportunities in the offseason, he never fully endorsed McCarthy’s decision to reorganize his offensive playbook. His comments Sunday were only the latest example of growing contention.

It wasn’t enough to rile McCarthy, at least publicly. Asked if he was disappointed in his quarterback’s comments, McCarthy almost seemed to excuse them.

“I’m not going to get into tone and things like that,” he said. “So, very passionate man. Very passionate, very competitive. Hey, I’m no different, too. I’ve called a lot of games in this league, and I’ve gone through a lot of game plans, and still represent the team as a head coach.

“But when I closed my door last night and watched the game, I felt like we left a lot out there.”


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