It's a little late to be experimenting

Credit first-year coach Mike McCarthy for making changes on the offensive line, but he made a big mistake by simply handing a starting job to rookie Daryn Colledge. Now, halfway through camp, the Packers are starting from scratch up front,'s Steve Lawrence says.

What did we learn about Packers coach Mike McCarthy during the offseason practices? He knows where to find his pen (in a handy little thing on his hat).

What did we learn about McCarthy on Saturday night? He knows where to find his red challenge flag.

What did we learn about McCarthy in the days after Saturday's preseason game? He knows where to find the panic button.

McCarthy has benched rookie second-round pick Daryn Colledge. Whether McCarthy made the move because he came to the startling realization Colledge isn't quite as NFL-ready as he assumed or if he wanted to send a message is almost irrelevant.

What is relevant is this: Coaches are foolish to anoint untested players — unless they are named A.J. Hawk, taken fifth overall and getting paid a zillion dollars up front — as starters.

Colledge had been the starting left guard since the first day of the first minicamp. What had Colledge done to deserve such a lofty standing? Well, he was a brick wall of a left tackle while playing mostly inferior competition at Boise State.

Colledge's benching should be a lesson to all NFL coaches in general and McCarthy in particular.

Someone has to be in the starting lineup on the first day of minicamp, and that Colledge was given that honor is fine. But just because Colledge looked great in shorts during the minicamps doesn't mean Colledge was going to look great when the pads were put on and heads started cracking in training camp.

That became evident on Saturday. Colledge spent entirely too much time in the backfield on running plays and let quarterback Brett Favre get hit a couple times on passing plays. While it's obviously too early to say Colledge is going to be a bust — heck, he could wind up being a fine starter this season — it's also obvious to say Colledge isn't ready to be an NFL starter. He's certainly not the next Mike Wahle, as he was hyped during the offseason.

Credit McCarthy for making the move now instead of giving Colledge one more week. Making the change a week from now would have given the new interior line combination of Jason Spitz, Tony Moll and Scott Wells only two weeks to work together, and coaches usually don't want their starters on the field for much of that final preseason game for fear a minor injury could mean a player misses the first week of the regular season. Thus, in essence, they would have had one preseason game to work together.

So, making a move now is a good thing.

What's not a good thing is McCarthy waiting this long to throw open the competition. The guard spots should have been open since Day 1. Is Moll, who just two years ago was playing tight end, good enough to protect Favre from right guard? Nobody has a clue, not even McCarthy.

"We're trying to find the exact right five guys that are going to fit this offense and help us win games, and honestly we don't know exactly who they are today," offensive line coach Joe Philbin said. "That's what the preseason is all about and what these practices are all about."

That's true, which is why the Packers should have been trying to find those "exact right five guys" long ago.

With training camp half over, it seems a little late to be experimenting if you have no idea what the results will be. Colledge, Moll, Junius Coston and since-injured veterans Adrian Klemm and Kevin Barry should have been in the fray since the first practice. Rotate them with the rest of the No. 1 offense, and let the best men win.

As a first-year head coach, McCarthy is learning a lot of stuff on the fly. Let's hope this is one valuable lesson he never forgets.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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