His roots as a QB coach go back to the University of Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Green Bay and New Orleans. Soon after he was hired as the Packers' head coach in 2006, McCarthy installed a quarterbacks school to minutely break down the position's finest details to every QB on the roster. And McCarthy's OTA and mini-camp sessions are particularly designed for offensive timing and crisp fundamental growth from the QBs.
Green Bay's head coach no doubt will take a keen interest in grooming this group of quarterbacks in the post-Brett Favre era.
So it didn't come as a surprise that when the name of the Packers' third-stringer, Matt Flynn, came up at his post-practice press conference, McCarthy jumped at the question with enthusiasm.
"I've been waiting for you to ask about him," said McCarthy. "I think he's really improved. I think Matt Flynn has taken a big step here the last week and a half, two weeks."
Progress that McCarthy needed to see.
Green Bay met with veteran free agents Daunte Culpepper and Quinn Gray this offseason, but the Packers opted for the youth movement. Aaron Rodgers, Brian Brohm and Flynn and their combined zero starts will surely have critics humming as the season nears. Such criticism was warranted a few weeks ago. Brohm and Flynn struggled early during the Green Bay's OTA practices with Brohm finding his groove soon. But conversely, Flynn's struggles lingered. He has thrown screen passes at running backs' feet and routinely overthrown receivers on deep balls.
But over the last few OTAs and at Monday's mini-camp opener, Flynn's confidence reached an offseason high. He's moving in and out of the pocket more fluidly and appears to chipping away at the playbook – as daunting as that may be.
"I thought Brian picked it up quicker than Matt, initially," McCarthy said. "I think Matt has really done a very good job here, like I've said, the last two weeks, and he's starting to play with some rhythm."
Confidence shouldn't be a problem for Flynn moving forward. After all, the guy led LSU to a national championship last fall. Flynn busted out of JaMarcus Russell's shadow, and finished the season with 2,407 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions against the nation's best defenses in the SEC. In the national title game against Ohio State's vaulted defense, Flynn was 19-of-27 for 174 yards and four scores.
Flynn is the offspring of McCarthy's learn-on-the job system. Plenty of reps. Plenty of game situations. Plenty of experience early on, so the pressure wanes as you progress. Flynn says the system is working.
"At first, when you go to the line, you are worried about snap counts, where guys are, and all of that," Flynn said. "But it seems it is slowing down and now I can look forward to improving," Flynn said.
Unlike Rodgers and Brohm, Flynn didn't play within a pro-style, pass-first offense in college. The quick-hitting nature of the West Coast offense (and its hybrids) has an entirely different learning curve in itself.
"A lot of guys coming from West Coast-style offenses in college have similar terminology to what they do now," Flynn said. "For me, it's completely different. You have to re-learn how to call a play in the huddle and the different protections and everything like that."
While the speed of the NFL game does seem to rattle Flynn at times, he has shown much better poise lately. During Green Bay's blitz period in 11-on-11 work Tuesday morning, Flynn was 2-of-2, including one well-placed dart to wide receiver Jake Allen on the sideline. A simple out route, yes. But for someone who fluttered many passes early on against the blitz, the crisp drop-step-throw had to stretch a smile across McCarthy's face.
In the afternoon session, Flynn flashed atypical arm strength too, hitting rookie Brett Swain on a deep ‘go' route down the right sideline. The duo later hooked up again in 7-of-7 work on a precisely placed low ball across the middle against cornerback Jarrett Bush. This variety in passes is certainly encouraging.
"He's made some nice throws, another big-time throw today that he made," the coach said. "Very happy with the progress of both young quarterbacks, and particularly Matt. I think Matt's really made a step. With that, we have a ton of work left. But they're making progress."