McCarthy needs to take back play calling

Pete Dougherty
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Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy yells at an official after a play against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field November 26, 2015.

Maybe Mike McCarthy has to take back the play calling.

He certainly has to do something. The Green Bay Packers’ offense isn’t right, and with Eddie Lacy now running more like Eddie Lacy, there’s one fewer factor to blame for the Packers’ problems.

Lacy had plenty of touches (17 runs, four receptions) and yards (105 rushing, 34 receiving), the kind of numbers that almost by definition mean a good night for the Packers. Yet they put up only 13 points in their 17-13 loss to their NFC North rivals to the south, the Chicago Bears.

I don’t make the play-calling suggestion lightly or impulsively. McCarthy made a huge decision when he relinquished it to Tom Clements in the offseason, and during the Packers’ 6-0 start it looked like a good call.

McCarthy was more involved in the game planning for defense and special teams, and both those areas, especially special teams, were the better for it. The offense still seemed OK, and any struggles could be written off as adjusting to how to function without Jordy Nelson.

Frustration builds for passing game

But this offense more often than not has lacked rhythm all season, and in the last month it has been the reason the Packers have lost four of five games. It’s mind boggling that an offense with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and essentially everyone but the injured Nelson back from last season’s top-scoring unit in the league ranked No. 9 in the NFL in scoring and No. 23 in yards this week. But that’s where the Packers were going into Thursday night’s game.

“We’re not getting it done in the classroom,” McCarthy said after the defeat. “We have to demand more as coaches, and we have to make changes. So we’ll look hard at it. We’re not going to overreact to it. But there’s a pattern here in certain areas, and we need to adjust it or change it or emphasize. Whatever we need to do to play better.”

Making the change at play caller in midseason is the last thing a coach wants to do for many reasons, and the guess here is that McCarthy won’t. When he spoke of changes after the game, he likely was talking about personnel. He almost always takes his time on macro decisions, and I’d bet against him making this kind of disruptive move in the heat of the season.

And this would be disruptive. It would be a blow to the chemistry of the coaching staff, and it could send a bad message to the players if they interpret it as absolving them of the struggles. They’re neck deep in it, starting with a receiving corps that still has its troubles getting open and making plays, and that lately has been susceptible to bad drops.

“There’s no big something’s broke here,” McCarthy said. “We’ve got to do a better job on the little things. Particularly — if we make plays on the ball tonight, the outcome has a really good chance to change. That’s the difference between winning and losing in this league.”

Fourth loss in five games 'troubling' for Packers

On Sunday the main culprit on the field was receiver Davante Adams, the Packers’ second-round pick from last year. McCarthy and Rodgers raved about his talent and professional demeanor starting in the offseason and through training camp, but Adams hasn’t done much all season and had a bad night Thursday in admittedly difficult circumstances — it rained all game and temperatures were in the low 30s to high 20s. He had several key drops and finished with only two receptions on 11 targets for 14 yards.

Adams now has been back for five weeks from an ankle injury that cost him three games early in the season. So he should be in playing form. But his timing with Rodgers appears off, including on one of the game’s biggest plays, in the fourth quarter with the Packers driving for the potential go-ahead touchdown. On a slant route Adams ran into safety Chris Prosinski, which knocked Adams off his route and gave cornerback Tracy Porter an easy interception.

“(Adams) didn’t have a very good day today,” McCarthy said. “The practices, the preparation I don’t see an issue. But the carryover, the consistency we’re getting from certain areas need to pick up. Too many mental errors. We just have to keep working and get better as we go into Detroit.”

So yes, if McCarthy takes back the play calling, it will cut into the time he can work with the other areas. And yes, McCarthy might miss things in game management that he’s more attuned to now because he’s not preparing to call plays between offensive series. Those things are important, as we saw in the NFC championship game last season.

But this team has to win with offense, and this offense is underperforming in a big way. McCarthy’s history suggests he’s good at calling plays. There’s an element to it that’s simply knack and feel, and some people have more of it than others. McCarthy seems to have it.

So with a Super Bowl out there for the taking, I’d say McCarthy has to risk the disruption and make the move.

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