Room For Improvement Part 2: Turnovers

We continue our series on the areas the Packers' coaching staff is emphasizing this offseason. The Packers are one of the best at limiting giveaways but had four turnovers against the Giants. Coach Mike McCarthy doesn't have the benefit of calling that an "anomaly."

What can the Green Bay Packers' offense do for an encore after a record-setting 2011, and how can new offensive coordinator Tom Clements put his stamp on that prolific unit?

"We're going to try to be as good as we can be, and whatever that puts us (statistically), that's where it'll put us. Our goal, we don't have many statistical goals as an offense, but our goal as a team is to win the championship. To do that, we're going to have to be efficient on offense and be productive, be explosive, take care of the ball."

When asked by Packer Report to name a few areas of improvement, Clements pinpointed four areas. We bring them to you in this four-part series. Statistics are from Football Outsiders, Pro Football Focus and the NFL.

Limit turnovers "consistently"

In a sport in which every possession is precious, the Packers are practically the gold standard at taking care of the football. In 2011, the Packers turned over the ball a franchise-record 14 times — the second-best figure in the NFL behind San Francisco (10) but well ahead of third-place New England (17).

Over the last three seasons, when the Packers have become a consistently elite team, they've had just 52 giveaways. That trails only New England's 49 turnovers.

However, in the playoff loss to the Giants, the Packers turned over the ball four times.

"We had a small number of turnovers last year but we had a lot at the wrong time at the end of the year," Clements said.

Three of those were lost fumbles — an appalling number considering they tied a franchise record by losing six fumbles all season, with three of those coming on special teams.

"When you view the way we played the last three years, it definitely is categorized as an ‘anomaly,' but I don't have the benefit of throwing the ‘anomaly' word around," coach Mike McCarthy said on Wednesday.

McCarthy's constant emphasis of giveaway-takeaway has worked wonders. Since he took over as coach in 2006, they're plus-69 in turnovers, behind only New England's plus-76 and a light-year ahead of third-place San Diego's plus-36. However, they were minus-3 against the Giants. How rare has that been? In 96 regular-season games, McCarthy's Packers finished minus-3 or worse just two times.

As an answer, McCarthy is putting an even larger emphasis on turnovers.

"One performance, I don't think it will change your core beliefs as far as how you teach fundamentals, and that is definitely the case here," McCarthy said. "The way we performed in the Giants playoff game was not chalked up as a bad day. That's a poor performance and you have to learn from it. You have to look at everything that led up to that game, which we have.

"We have adjusted some of our drill work, our emphasis in our training environment, but it doesn't change the way we teach how you handle the football. Our demonstrations of how we're going to take care of the football and how we take it away are the same as they were the first time we came together. I think it's like anything in the game of football: Fundamentals have to be constant within your training. They have to carry over to Sundays. When you're not getting it done in one particular area, the only thing that I know to do is to emphasize it more, and that's what we're doing."

Reason for hope: The numbers, plain and simple. For many teams, turnovers are a rollercoaster statistic — good one year, bad the next. But the Packers were plus-24 last season as well as in 2009 — the second-best figures in franchise history. Moreover, they've lost the turnover battle in just 20 regular-season games under McCarthy's watch. By contrast, they've been at least plus-2 in 30 games. In terms of giveaways, the two best seasons in franchise history came last year (14) and 2009 (16). Their 52 giveaways over the last three seasons also broke the franchise record of 59 (2008 through 2010). Oh, and Aaron Rodgers has the lowest interception percentage in NFL history.

Reason for pessimism: None, really, other than funny things can happen in a one-game playoff. How else do you explain Ryan Grant, with two lost fumbles in 468 touches over the previous three regular seasons, coughing it up against the Giants? Or John Kuhn, with one fumble and no lost fumbles in his entire career, giving it away against the Giants?

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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