Packers don't require staff overhaul
What would you do if you were Mike McCarthy?
Would you as Green Bay Packers coach fire an assistant coach or two after what ultimately was a highly disappointing 2015 season?
I doubt I would, unless there are issues among his assistants that haven’t surfaced publicly.
After all, the Packers’ key failings this season were on McCarthy’s side of the ball. His offense finished No. 23 in the NFL in yards and No. 15 in points. The passing game was tied for No. 25, which borders on the nearly impossible to believe.
The fact is, the Packers never found a way to play consistently good offense without receiver Jordy Nelson, and that’s why their season is over.
But McCarthy really can’t pin that on any of his assistants, because it’s his offense. What happens on that side of the ball is his call, especially after he took back play calling in December.
These were all the same assistants on hand for the 2014 season, when the Packers had the NFL’s highest-scoring offense.
It was McCarthy’s decision last year to shuffle the staff and hand over play calling to Tom Clements. It was his call to have the quarterbacks and receivers share one coach, rather than having a full-time coach for each position. Obviously, those were mistakes.
McCarthy tacitly acknowledged the play-calling error when he took back that role. He said at his season-ending news conference Monday that he’ll continue with those duties next year.
It's also a given he’ll rectify the other by naming a receivers coach this offseason. How can he not after the underachieving play at that position the final three months of the season?
Many might disagree, but I don’t blame McCarthy for making the changes. You’ve got to be willing to try new ideas and approaches in any business. They didn’t work, so be it. But none of the assistants should lose their job. It was McCarthy’s call, and he had not just the power but the expertise to change anything on that side of the ball any time he wanted.
So it all ultimately was his call.
“The obvious, we did not get it done on offense,” McCarthy said. “So the (coaching-staff) structure was obviously a part of the failure on offense. That’s something that will be closely evaluated.”
The best guess is that McCarthy will promote quality-control coach Luke Getsy to receivers coach. Getsy handled some of those duties this season.
McCarthy also could give the job back to Edgar Bennett with the dual title offensive coordinator/receivers coach. That’s not the same as coaching two positions, especially with McCarthy handling the heaviest lifting on offense by compiling the game plan and call sheet. A lot of NFL teams have coordinators who double as position coaches. But no other team had one coach handling two positions himself.
Maybe the biggest question is, what happens with Clements? It’s going to be tough for him to return after his demotion. That’s just human nature. Maybe former Packers assistant Ben McAdoo will want him as quarterbacks coach with the New York Giants. Or maybe another club will come calling. If so, McCarthy should let him go.
Not that they can’t make it work. But that will be entirely up to Clements.
“Tom is a valued assistant coach and has been my whole time here,” McCarthy said. “I fully anticipate him being back, but once again, we have a staff structure that’s under total evaluation. That process will start Wednesday.”
As for the defense and special teams, they were fine. No need for staff changes there.
So what else will be different in 2016?
McCarthy hinted at one thing Monday when talking about the loss of Nelson. He suggested that as much as the offense missed Nelson as a deep threat, it missed him making catches over the middle even more.
Davante Adams and James Jones didn’t help there. Neither did tight end Richard Rodgers. Jeff Janis never got a shot.
Based on how much McCarthy covets big receivers, it’s a pretty safe bet the Packers will be selecting a big pass catcher high in this year’s draft. The best bet is it will be a tight end.
Anybody out there hoping that general manager Ted Thompson might fire McCarthy, well, it’s safe to say that ain’t happening. That was clear from McCarthy’s news conference, where he talked as much about the team’s future as the season that just passed. Thompson just isn’t one to make that kind of rash move. And the thing the fire’em-all crowd has to remember is, if you’re going to fire the coach, you better be sure you can find someone else better.
But it’s also safe to say that McCarthy came up short this year with a team that should have been better, with or without Nelson.
In 2010, McCarthy found a way to win the Super Bowl even after losing the receiver his passing game was built around, tight end Jermichael Finley, to a season-ending knee injury in Week 5. This year, though, he failed to make up for the loss of Nelson.
McCarthy and his staff can be faulted for not giving Janis a shot earlier, whatever his shortcomings as a route runner. They can be faulted for not somehow, someway, getting Eddie Lacy back to his fighting weight. And they can be faulted for not fostering better chemistry between quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a receiving corps he never fully trusted.
So now they have another offseason to put together a championship team. It’s been five years since the Packers last won a Super Bowl, and Rodgers isn’t getting any younger. Another season like this, and nobody’s job will be safe.
"We take full responsibility for the expectations here," McCarthy said. "We’re not scared to talk about winning world championships and what you have to do to win world championships."