Mac back with the Pack

Mike McCarthy directed the worst offense in 49ers history last year in his one season as San Francisco's offensive coordinator. His reward? He was hired as head coach of the Green Bay Packers. McCarthy comes back to San Francisco on Sunday to face his former team, and here he talks Packers and 49ers and gives his takes on several subjects, including his surprising ascent up the NFL coaching ranks.

On if being a head coach is all that it's cracked up to be: "Yeah, there are pros and cons in everything in life. I'm very fortunate for the opportunity, and I am enjoying it."

On if being with the 49ers last year helped him get into his current position: "I think my opportunity with the 49ers helped me a lot for this particular opportunity. If you look at the ball clubs as far as where they were coming into each situation, and having the opportunity to go into a first year situation with Mike Nolan, who was very forthcoming with advice about situations that he had dealt with going through it the first time. I'm just very thankful on a personal level for the friendship of Mike and Kathy Nolan, and the opportunity to be a part of the 49ers organization. It has definitely been something that I have been able to draw from this season."

On if he is surprised that he got hired as head coach after the 49ers offensive production in 2005: "I think it's safe to say that I didn't get the job based on what we were ranked in offense last year. I think when you have the opportunity to be a head coach in this league it is more about what you have done throughout your career. Once again, having the opportunity to be around a staff going into your first year, particularly when we went into San Francisco last year is something that I am very thankful for. It's something that I am able to apply to my job everyday."

On how much he has followed Alex Smith this year: "I've had the opportunity to see the 49ers on offense a few times in breakdowns. I've seen them against the Eagles and the Rams, and I think he's doing an excellent job. I think he's progressing and he's on track to being the quarterback that we thought he would be when we drafted him last year."

On how early in the drafting process he was sold that Alex was the guy to draft No. 1: "When going through the process with Alex, Aaron Rodgers, and the other quarterbacks involved, as far as the direction that we were going on offense and what we were trying to build there, I don't know the exact date but we just thought Alex was the better choice at that time. I'll say this about Aaron Rodgers having him here he's much more athletic than I thought he was when going through that drafting process with him being out at Cal-Berkeley. As far as the time or date, I don't recall exactly when."

On how it is working with and coaching Brett Favre: "He's has a unique personality, so you get to deal with that on a daily basis. That's fun at times to say the least. He gives us the flexibility to do more on offense, but you have to do what's best on offense. He's a guy I've worked with in the past, and I'm enjoying it again."

On if he enjoys being around Favre: "Absolutely, he's a Hall of Fame quarterback and a player who is still capable of playing at a very high level. He's a very good leader of our football team, and he is someone that I have a lot of respect for both personally and professionally."

On if he expects Favre to return next season: "We can talk about Brett's situation at the end of the season because I'm not going to open the door on that circus."

On if Aaron Rodgers is the Packers quarterback of the future: "As far as Aaron Rodgers, I'm very happy about what he has done so far. I'm very happy with his ability, his knowledge of the offense and his mental capabilities. He just needs the opportunity like every young quarterback."

On game-planning to defend Alex Smith after helping to develop him: "We're going to have to find out Sunday, that's why they play the game."

On Alex Smith's overall development in the offense: "He's clearly the brightest, or one of the brightest athletes that I've had the opportunity to work with, no disrespect to the other guys. He has a unique, sponge-like mental make up, so I don't think that was a tough transition for him. He looks comfortable with what they are asking him to do. He's definitely improving and I think he is on his way to a very bright career."

On if the West Coast offense is a difficult offense for a young quarterback to pick up: "I don't think so. When you talk about offenses, people want to categorize systems so much. Frankly, the West Coast offense is a system of languages. Whether one language is easier to learn than the other, I would be the wrong guy to ask. I've been coaching this offensive system since 1989. It's basically what you ask the quarterback in this system to do as far as the volume. That's really where the difficulty comes in. It's what you are asking him to do within that language."

On the last time he spoke with Alex Smith: "Probably in the spring sometime."

On if he considered drafting Vernon Davis in the 2006 draft: "We really liked Vernon Davis and we had him high on our board. He's a special player, but A.J. Hawk is obviously the young man we drafted."

On rookie linebacker A.J. Hawk: WWe feel great about drafting him as far as the type of person, the blue collar approach he brings, and how he fits on our football team. We are very happy with that selection. He's playing very well, he's had his rookie days, but he's also had some very big days for us. He's a young, improving player, and we're glad we have him."

On rookie offensive lineman Tony Moll: "We're very pleased with Tony. If you would have told me Tony Moll would be starting for us in the spring, after the first mini-camp, frankly I think I would have taken the bet. Tony, you know his history being out there on the west coast. He played tight end, tackle, and we got into training camp and he kept getting better and better with every opportunity he was given. Frankly, when we went down to San Diego for our first preseason game he played very well. During his time against our first defense, that gave him the opportunity to be our starting right guard as we started the season. He had a number of starts at right guard, and then we went back to Daryn Colledge, and then Tony really benefited from staying at one position. He became the guy who was rotating and now he's back at right tackle, which I think, is more his natural position and he is improving every week."

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