Mike McCarthy puts stamp on entire team


GREEN BAY, Wis. -- He's giving up the play-calling duties, but this is still Mike McCarthy's offense -- one that has proven to be quite effective.

Now it will become Mike McCarthy's special teams and, at least in part, Mike McCarthy's defense.

Approaching his 10th season as the Green Bay Packers' coach, he is putting himself in position to have a greater impact on all areas of the game.

Will that be enough to get the Packers to a second Super Bowl under McCarthy?

"The reason to do this is about winning championships," McCarthy said Thursday when he announced significant changes to his coaching staff and structure. "That part never changes. This process that I go through is the same each and every year. This is not the first time I thought about this."

But it's the first time he has taken such a bold initiative.

There's little reason to think the offense will suffer. With longtime assistant Tom Clements, who now has the title of associate head coach for the offense and is newly in charge of play calling, and two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the prime of his career, the McCarthy blueprint for an offense that led the NFL in scoring in 2014 -- the second time in four years that has happened -- remains the same.

If anything, it might help to have a fresh voice in Rodgers' helmet on game days.

As for the defense, McCarthy already had one eye on it last season, when he decided at midseason to move outside linebacker Clay Matthews to the inside, while still tending to his duties as the offensive playcaller.

He still plans to spend his fair share of time with Clements, Rodgers and the rest of the offense, but his goal now is to be equal parts special teams assistant and defensive consultant.

"There's a vision each and every year that you give to your defense, your special teams and your offense," McCarthy said. "Now to be a lot more directly involved with the implementation of the defensive schemes, the evaluation of those schemes and then obviously the in-season coaching, I'm looking forward to that.

"And I will spend a lot of time with the special teams. Special teams needs to improve. It's an area definitely of concern in the past."

McCarthy referred to himself as "the third guy in the room now" when talking about the special teams coaching staff, which includes new coordinator Ron Zook and new assistant Jason Simmons. Zook, who was the assistant last season, replaces Shawn Slocum, who was fired Jan. 30.

"That culture's going to change in there," McCarthy said. "I promise you that."

That McCarthy said play calling was "something I enjoy more than anything as far as the game" and was still willing to give it up shows he wasn't blind to what prevented the Packers from getting to the Super Bowl this past season. Their special teams mistakes throughout the season made the breakdowns in the NFC Championship Game loss to the Seattle Seahawks almost easy to see coming. The Packers finished dead last in the Dallas Morning News' annual special teams rankings, which didn't even factor in the postseason.

"I think it's going to be good for the players," Zook said of McCarthy's involvement. "He's sitting in that [special teams] meeting, I think that's a great thing. I know when I was [special teams coordinator] at Pittsburgh [from 1996 to 1998], coach [Bill] Cowher was in every meeting. I think that just shows them the importance, the emphasis that's put on it. I think that's good for all us."