Packers coach McCarthy gives up play calling job on offense
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Admitting that he is "going to miss it," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday that he will give up his job calling plays for Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Green Bay offense.
The decision is part of a significant shake-up on that side of the ball, where the Packers led the NFL in scoring in 2014 and Rodgers won his second NFL MVP award.
McCarthy is handing off play-calling duties to Tom Clements, whom he promoted from offensive coordinator to associate head coach. Edgar Bennett was named offensive coordinator, while Bennett's responsibilities as the wide receivers coach were given to Alex Van Pelt, who will now coach both quarterbacks and receivers.
In addition, McCarthy promoted Ron Zook to special teams coordinator to replace Shawn Slocum, who was fired Jan. 30, and promoted Jason Simmons to Zook's former position as assistant special teams coach. Former Oklahoma defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Jerry Montgomery was hired to help coach the defensive front, and ex-San Francisco 49ers offensive line coach Mike Solari was added to help offensive line coach James Campen.
"It's going to make us better. I'm very confident in that. That's why I did it," said McCarthy, who is entering his 10th season as head coach and had called the plays on offense since he was hired in January 2006.
"It's fun to call plays on Sundays," he said. "Don't get me wrong. It's probably something I enjoyed it more than anything as far as the game. There's nothing like Sundays. ... To go out there and compete against the coordinator or who's across the field is something I've taken a lot of pride in, had success in, really enjoyed. But this change and the confidence I have in Tom and Aaron, I feel great about it and we'll be better for it."
The sweeping changes come less than a month after the Packers' 28-22 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game. Green Bay blew a 16-0 halftime lead and a 19-7 lead in the final five minutes.
"The reason to do this is about winning championships. That part never changes," McCarthy replied when asked if the changes are a response to that game. "This process that I go through is the same each and every year. This is not the first time I thought about this. I (just) think this is the time to do it. I think our staff's ready. I think it's an opportunity for guys to grow.
"I feel we'll be better offensively from that," he said. "I know I have a lot more to offer to our football team. We're going to get that. This is a decision that's made over the long haul. One game doesn't make decisions on how you run your program. Never has been, never will be here."
It was clear that the decision in part has to do with getting McCarthy more involved with special teams. Two of the game-changing plays against the Seahawks occurred on special teams: Seattle scored a touchdown on a fake field goal that McCarthy later acknowledged came with Packers in the wrong call defensively. The Seahawks also recovered an onside kick with 2 minutes to play when tight end Brandon Bostick tried to field the ball instead of blocking as he was supposed to do.
"I think special teams is always under the microscope because it's one play," said Zook, who was the Pittsburgh Steelers' special teams coach from 1996 through 1998. "You don't get second down or third down on special teams. It's one play and that's what people remember."
McCarthy didn't sound concerned about being less involved offensively and went so far as to say that the change should benefit Rodgers, whom he said has "an excellent working relationship" with Clements and Van Pelt.
"I think you know me well enough that big changes aren't anything I do in haste," McCarthy said. "I will split my time equally with offense, defense and special teams. Obviously, with my past duties I did not do that. I'm excited about the improvement we'll make with these changes."