McCarthy delves into coach-QB connection

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
8:00
AM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Only three head coach-starting quarterback combinations have been together longer than Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers.

The 2014 season will be their seventh together in that capacity.

This could help explain why McCarthy keeps presenting Rodgers with new offensive concepts each season.

“Aaron needs that,” McCarthy said. “Of all the people, I mean he needs stimulation. And I like to think our offense stimulates him every year because there's new wrinkles. And I kind of take a lot of pride in it. He fights a lot of change because he always goes back to the foundation and core of things that he's had success [with].

“That's the sign of a guy that was developed the right way. Because he knows at the end of the day, when the [expletive] hits the fan, I'm going to call the thing that he has 1,000 reps in or 2,500 reps in, and he's going to get us in a good a play. It's going to be a clean play, and he's going to convert it.”

McCarthy -- or any other NFL head coach -- isn't going to let an outsider into his meeting rooms or his film-study sessions. But sitting in his downtown hotel room during a break from the NFL scouting combine, he provided a glimpse into what it's like to formulate an offense built around an MVP-caliber quarterback.

At his very core, McCarthy is one thing: a quarterbacks coach.

“That's the beauty of calling it the Green Bay Packer offense, and the offense in Green Bay is built around making the quarterback successful,” he said. “It's not about making the running back successful or the $50 million receiver successful. It's about the quarterback. So this is all part of the philosophy and with that comes big ego, and big ego gets your results in the arena that we compete in.”

If it wasn't obvious before, the 2013 season served as a reminder of the quarterback's role in the Packers' offense.

Not just any quarterback; their quarterback, Rodgers.

His fractured collarbone kept him out for nearly eight full games. It was supposed to be another double-digit victory season, but turned into an 8-7-1 struggle that nevertheless led to an NFC North title. It ended with a wild-card playoff loss at home to the San Francisco 49ers.

In the most simplistic terms, McCarthy has two offenses -- one for Rodgers and one for everyone else.

“I've created part of the monster, but the benefits definitely outweigh the negatives because I want him to be the most confident guy in the building,” McCarthy said. “I want him to be the most confident guy in the NFL, and I want him to feel like this is his offense and these are his deals.”

Coming off perhaps his most challenging season since 2008, Rodgers' first as the Packers starter, McCarthy hopes to get back to spending more time with the players and less time with the personnel department and medical staff trying to figure out how to field 53 healthy players. He made the comment last season that he spent too much time on the third floor of Lambeau Field, where the football offices are, and not enough time on the first floor with the players.

“If Aaron was sitting here, his complaint would be I'm not with him enough,” McCarthy said.

Yet McCarthy said he was not concerned that it impacted the important connection between him and his $100-million quarterback.

“It's not a high concern on my list,” McCarthy said.

Each year, Rodgers has gained more freedom at the line of scrimmage. While McCarthy still calls the plays from the sideline, Rodgers has multiple options built in to most plays. But that doesn't mean the bond between him and McCarthy is any less important.

“His reliance is not as high on the play-caller, but the connection has to be stronger than it's ever been,” McCarthy said. “That's how you can get sideways. I don't care what offense you're running, the play-caller and the quarterback have got to be on the same page.”

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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