In a sport where managing expectations has a direct connection to job security, Packers coach Mike McCarthy isn’t doing a very good job — which gives him no choice but to do a great job of coaching.
In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, McCarthy made it clear he has high hopes for the 2012 season, making it reasonable for the fans to do the same. And making the fall even more painful, if there is one.
“I just feel with all returning players, our fourth year in the system defensively . . . we have a lot of experience with the players in this system,” McCarthy said regarding his recent description of the team as the most talented and experienced he’s had during his time in Green Bay. “I just feel as a whole, it was a very athletic offseason program and I’ve been impressed with the quality of depth and the competition we’re going to have.”
Asked to explain where his confidence places the bar, McCarthy initially equivocated before embracing the import of his words. ” I think we’re probably putting too much into the statement because we’ve been fortunate enough to have quality depth and competitive training camps,” McCarthy said. “But this one, on paper, looks like it’s going to live up to those standards.”
It’s a bold, shot-calling claim from McCarthy, which could come back to haunt him if the Packers for some reason fall apart in 2012. Though it won’t put him on the hot seat, it’ll undoubtedly force him to be a little more circumspect come 2013.
McCarthy’s optimism arises in part from a belief that improved tackling will result in an improved defense, and that the offense has “set the standard” at 35 points per game.
To maintain that standard, McCarthy said that quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the league’s MVP in 2012, needs to keep pushing himself to improve. “You have to go about it that way,” McCarthy said. “If you just watch him in practice, he still does the fundamental drills. He’s always working to get better. But to me, when players reach that pinnacle they have to really work and prepare against themselves more than they do their opponent. Because his biggest challenge is maintaining his discipline and trying not to do too much. He does such a great job of running the offense, distributing the football, playing fast. He just needs to continue to do that.”
If Rodgers can continue to do that, the Packers should continue to excel. Chances are that both will happen, and that Titletown will be in the mix for another title run come January.
But if it doesn’t happen, look for McCarthy to be much more careful about what he says as the team prepares the next NFL season.