Doug Farrar has an excellent three part series on how offensive scheming — with a lot of help from favorable rules, of course — has outpaced defensive scheming in the NFL. The first details the issue, the second is a really fascinating look at how Nick Saban has kept ahead of the game, and the third looks at how Saban’s philosophy could make NFL defenses more effective. Really good stuff if you’re into that kind of thing, and Farrar’s new book looks great too; will hopefully have more on it when I’ve had a chance to get to it.
Thursday night’s 27-24 loss to the Seahawks brought many of McCarthy’s serial issues to the forefront. The Packers had a 14-3 first-quarter lead, but there were apparently no answers for a Seattle comeback, and Green Bay had just three first downs in the second half. That’s profoundly inexcusable for an offense that has a relatively healthy Aaron Rodgers under center, second-year running back Aaron Jones in the backfield, a more than component group of receivers, and one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
McCarthy’s offenses have long underperformed to their talent, primarily because the coach’s playbook has been shrinking over the last decade. When he got the job in 2008, McCarthy’s offense was actually among the most multiple and versatile in the league—everything from West Coast Offense concepts to full-house backfields. But over the years, McCarthy has decided to go old-school (read: be schematically lazy) with his route concepts, and Rodgers above all has suffered for it.
And while McCarthy has opened things up a bit this season with offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, Green Bay’s offense–which should resemble St. Louis’s and Kansas City’s with the talent on the field–are still stuck in the mud at the worst possible times. Still, McCarthy refuses to bend–refuses to expand the passing game, refuses to take Jones out of rotational purgatory, refuses to create beyond his own limitations.
The Seahawks loss saw a number of McCarthy blunders, but the biggest killer came with 4:20 remaining in the game, and the Packers at their own 33-yard line, facing a fourth-and-2. Rodgers had just missed on an easy quick pass to receiver Marquez Valdez-Scantling, but McCarthy squared that mistake with his own–he decided to punt the ball away with a depleted defensive line against the NFL’s best rushing team.
The result was predictable. Seattle ground down the clock, and the Packers never saw the ball again.
The only possible reason to keep McCarthy is if Rodgers insists on it, and given Rodgers’s frequent passive-aggressive grumbling about McCarthy’s shitty game plans this seems pretty implausible.
*Speaking of people the game has passed by, the first intermission of yesterday’s Battle of Alberta featured an inadvertently hilarious example of someone high on his own supply of old-school bullshit. Deposed Flames president Brian Burke, who’s now doing a highbrow Coach’s Corner in the late game, went on a lengthy rant about how the Flames didn’t have enough goons in their lineup for this kind of game. Leaving aside the outcome, 1)if Edmonton wants to take dumb penalties and use Milan Lucic’s cement-encased corpse as an anvil to tie around McDavid and Draisaitl to prove some kind of point about TRUCULENCE…walk away from the table! You’re a winner! 2)When Burke was president of the team the previous three years, the Flames made a point of dressing various random sub-replacement-level tough guys when playing the Oilers, and the result was…Edmonton beating them like John Bonham doing “Moby Dick” after being told the booze supply was gone. Asking Burke for advice about how to pick personnel to beat Edmonton is like asking Mark Penn to put together your delegate allocation strategy.