Mike McCarthy is taking a different, and necessary, approach with the Green Bay Packers this preseason. McCarthy's goal is to turn the Packers around after a 4-12 season last year, so he is using the preseason as a springboard into the regular season opener on Sept. 10 against the Chicago Bears. Considering the Packers have a roster full of young players, including two rookie starters on the offensive line and a rookie linebacker, that's not a bad idea.
McCarthy wants to beat the San Diego Chargers this Saturday in San Diego as much as he would like to beat the Bears in Week 1 of the regular season opener. That doesn't mean that he'll play the starters all four quarters, but it does mean that he wants to establish a winning attitude that he hopes will carry into the regular season.
"Winning is the most important," McCarthy said. "That's what our business is all about. We say it over and over again: ‘No excuses.' If you put on our uniform, you have an accountability to produce, prepare and perform. That's a mindset that we must always have."
Last year, the Packers were 2-2 in the preseason, winning their first and fourth games against San Diego and Tennessee, and playing poorly in their second and third preseason games, losing 27-7 to Buffalo and 27-3 to New England. The Packers edged the Chargers in the preseason opener last year on Ryan Longwell's 53-yard field goal in the final seconds of the game.
McCarthy wants to kickoff the preseason on a winning note, like last year, but keep it going into the opener. He has relayed his thoughts to the other coaches and players, who are in favor of that approach.
"That's great to hear from a coach because you know that's the No. 1 priority," Wide receiver Greg Jennings said. "A lot of coaches act like winning is not the number-one attainable goal that you want to obtain. He expresses winning. Nobody wants to lose. When you have a leader that doesn't want to lose, there's a trickle down effect on the players."
The worst-case scenario for McCarthy, his staff, and young team is for the Packers to accept losing. It's one thing for a veteran team to coast through the exhibition schedule, but it's another for a young team. The more reps that the younger players can get in the preseason, the better. The more victories, the better, too.
"We're looking at it as a game," linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "It's the preseason, but we're going in there. The older guys, or whoever, are looking to win when they're in. We're going to make sure we hold up our deal. It's a game for us. Obviously, for a young guy like me, it's a big game and I'm excited for it."
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at email@example.com.