McCarthy-isms

Mike McCarthy talks about joining the 49ers and bringing his version of the West Coast offense west to San Francisco.

Q: When Mike Nolan offered you the job as the 49ers' offensive coordinator, were you eager to accept despite the obvious challenges ahead in rebuilding San Francisco's offense?

McCarthy: Oh, absolutely. I think it is an outstanding opportunity, especially with the opportunity to start over in a sense. It's an organization with a tremendous tradition and Mike coming in there and hiring a whole new staff, I just think it's a phenomenal opportunity. It's very similar to the opportunity presented to us in New Orleans in 2000. So, it is something that I am a little familiar with. I'm excited to get back into building something special.

Q: Will you have a lot of autonomy on offensive side?

McCarthy: I don't know if autonomy would be the best way to say it. Mike is a very bright individual. You can obviously see that in your 15 minutes of a conversation with him. He's going to have some ideas. He's going to have some input. You know, we're going to do what is best for our football team and what puts us in the best position for us to be successful. If he has something obviously that contributes to that offensively, then I'm sure we are going to use it.

Q: Why come to the 49ers with the state the organization is in, when you can perhaps walk into a better situation elsewhere?

McCarthy: I'll say this. When you start a process like this, and this is the first time that I've ever gone through it, you have some preconceived notions of organizations and opportunities. As I say, the grass is always greener on the other side. You can't judge a book by its cover. I've been involved in some interviews and some perpetual opportunities that didn't work out and having the ability to sit down and talk to Mike about the direction and ability that he is going to have there, as far as building the structure of the organization completely over, I think this is an outstanding opportunity, and quite frankly, it wasn't an opportunity that I was fully informed about. It probably did not look as good initially, but once again I had a chance to sit down with Mike Nolan. This is an outstanding opportunity and I'm very excited to be a part of it.

Q: What is your philosophy for turning this offense around?

McCarthy: Well, number one, you have to build a system. I've been fortunate enough to be in the West Coast system my whole coaching career. So, we're going to use the West Coast system, what people like to call the West Coast offense. I think Coach Walsh when he looks around and sees all the different variations, he probably shakes his head because he obviously ran it in its purest stages and was obviously very successful with that. But, we're going to use the system, the terminology, the principles that obviously started there in the glory days. But we are definitely going to adhere those principles to our personnel. We're going to put our players in the best position to be successful and I always felt that it was the beauty of the West Coast system that it gave you great flexibility to operate in and out of personnel groups because whether you want to change by design, injury or whatever the need is, you have great flexibility to do that.

Q: Have you had much of a chance to look at the 49ers' personnel?

McCarthy: Yes, I have. I think we have some work to do. I have a lot of questions and those are some of the things that Mike and I got into a little bit. We didn't spend a whole lot of time on personnel in the interview process. I think you really got to see when you get in there and look at all the games and see what they were trying to do with certain individuals and so forth. Getting a better look at those individuals and decide which way to go schematically. I think the offensive line, obviously with Newberry getting hurt which didn't help, I think they struggled a little bit and we'll do what we need to do to get that fixed. You have a lot of players that definitely have their best days ahead of them.

Q: How much of the West Coast offense was influenced by your years with Joe Montana?

McCarthy: Joe Montana was a major impact on my coaching career. Obviously, I was the offensive quality control (coach) there in Kansas City during Joe's two years there in '93 and '94. I worked with the quarterbacks, but there wasn't a meeting that Joe was involved in that I was going to miss. The ability to sit down and ask him questions. We ran the West Coast offense at the University of Pittsburgh prior to that for four years, so I probably knew it pretty well at that point. Then to have the ability to sit down and discuss the different things that you see on film. Joe was pretty much the encyclopedia. He was playing the teacher and I was playing the pupil during those two years.

Q: How do you view the principles of the West Coast offense?

McCarthy: It's the scheme-design. What is your starting point? Is it the pass to set up the run or the run to set up the pass? That is why during my five years at New Orleans that I would never quote myself as running the West Coast offense because I think people like Andy Reid, Mike Holmgren and probably Coach Walsh in particular, when they watched the Saints play, they were probably saying, ‘Hell, that's not the West Coast offense.' We have different types of players than those offenses had. We don't have the big physical receivers. We have smaller receivers that can run real fast. When I talk about principles, I'm talking more about the philosophical starting points and how you attack. How you game-plan. How you systematically build your offense; the runs, protections and the pass principle schemes and things like that. The most important thing, like I said earlier, it is very important to have the flexibility with any system, especially in the era of free agency where you are playing with younger players. Of course, injuries are part of the game and you have to be able to implement a guy and get him ready early. Probably a lot faster than you had to in the old days. So, I've always loved the flexibility of the system and I'm a true believer in it. But, not to be redundant, you have to tailor it to the players you have.

Q: How have you developed your system of teaching quarterbacks?

McCarthy: I'm a product of the experiences that I've been around. We ran a quarterback school in Kansas City. It is something that I've always adhered to. Just all the base fundamental things. It's something like everybody, when you are able to learn a certain system or a certain way of doing things, you're kind of taking that and adding your own personal ideas. Once again, I've been very fortunate to be around some great quarterbacks and some outstanding coaches. I have truly benefited from that; to put together a good program to develop quarterbacks.

Q: Considering the offensive standards that have been set here in the past, are you at all concerned about what kind of impact you can make as offensive coordinator?

McCarthy: I'm not concerned at all. I welcome it. You're talking about a place that has incredible history. The tradition there is probably second to none in what they've accomplished in the past. That is something that we need to feed on and is something that our guys need to identify with. The West Coast offense was named after the San Francisco 49ers obviously for a very good reason. I think it is something that you embrace and something that our players need to identify with and feel the responsibility to get it back to where it should be.


Niners Digest Top Stories