Packers coach Mike McCarthy was on the "Jim Rome Show" on Thursday afternoon. Here's what he had to say.
Rome: Did you get what you want to get in the draft?
McCarthy: Well, no doubt about it. We feel very good about our draft and the way it came off the board. Ted Thompson and the personnel staff did an excellent job of stacking our board. They tried to take the highest-rated player, if possible. We feel like we started our first round with two excellent prospects in B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews.
Rome: It looks like you got bigger and stronger and more physical. You could have used those two days to sell tickets.
McCarthy: I think it's so important to improve your line play year in and year out. We feel very good starting with B.J. and what he brings to our defensive line. We feel we have some established veterans up there with Cullen Jenkins coming back at the end spot, Ryan Pickett at the nose spot and we have some younger guys around those two. We add B.J. to the mix alongside Jarius Wynn out of Georgia and (Ronald) Talley, the free agent out of Delaware, and so forth. We feel like we really added some talent to that group. We need to improve against the run. That's something that was very evident last year.
Rome: You've got a guy like Michael Crabtree on the board. He might not fill a primary need, but a young, athletic and exciting guy like that, how tempted were you and did you wonder how he'd look in your scheme?
McCarthy: No question. Michael Crabtree we felt was an outstanding prospect. It definitely generates conversation in your draft room when a player of that caliber is sitting on the board. As an offensive coach, you start thinking pass plays immediately. We think Michael's going to be an excellent pro, but we did what we think is best for our football team.
Rome: Did you expect either Raji or Crabtree to be available at No. 9?
McCarthy: As the day started to come together with the trade with the Jets and Cleveland, we felt at that point there was a very, very high percentage that both B.J. and Crabtree would be there at 9.
Rome: You get Clay Matthews with the 26th pick. Was that a case that he was still on board and you thought to yourself, ‘We have to go up there and get that guy?' Or, was that somebody you had thought about and talked about taking a shot at?
McCarthy: He was definitely a player who was targeted early. We had talked about moving up throughout the first round for Clay Matthews. I know Ted Thompson and Sam Seale, the West Coast scout out there, felt very strong about him. We feel he's an excellent addition to our group.
Rome: You look at his background. It's in his blood, it's in his family. But you're talking about a guy who walked on. Does that factor in and you say, ‘He's not one of those guys who's had a silver spoon. He had to grind and fight and battle for everything.' Is that attractive to you?
McCarthy: No question. That's all part of his make-up. You look at his resume about where he started and where he finished his career at USC, there's a lot of excitement because we feel he has a lot of excellent football in front of him. He's someone who had to fight for his opportunity. We were just very impressed with his instincts. You couldn't help but notice the productivity he had on special teams.
Rome: Kevin Greene is one of my all-time favorites. What is he like as a coach?
McCarthy: He's very focused, very passionate. No different than the way he was as a player. He's going through what we all went through the first year as a coach. You want to definitely do all the little things right. He's done a good job teaching his position. He's played in Dom Capers' scheme. Hard worker. He has a dynamic personality, so I think he's been an excellent addition to our staff.
Rome: Talking about scheme. You went from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Is that something you can do in an offseason, or does it take longer than that?
McCarthy: We feel very comfortable and confident with the players that we have here. We've had an opportunity to add a number of players through the draft and free agent selection. It's a process that takes some time, but we definitely feel like we had a lot of pieces in place. Dom has had an opportunity to spend a lot of time with his staff, and the staff has spent a lot of one-on-one time with the players, so we feel like we're off to an excellent start.
Rome: How many more problems does a 3-4 cause for an opposing offense?
McCarthy: Just from my offensive experience, competing against a 3-4 vs. a 4-3, there's definitely pros and cons to every scheme. If one scheme was the almighty scheme, they would have been running it a long time before you and I got here. The 3-4 to me has always kind of takes your offensive menu and it probably limits you more in the things that you'd do against a 4-3. I think schematically, the 3-4 challenges you more on first and second down than the 4-3, in my opinion.
Rome: Aaron Rodgers, talk about the job he did. I thought he kept his head, I thought he played very well. How do you grade his first year?
McCarthy: I think Aaron handled all of the off-the-field issues and situations very well. I don't know if he could have handled it any better. I think it directly carried over to the way he played on the field. I thought that was very evident, No. 1, by his consistency. He played very well in most of the major situations from Game 1 through Game 16. There's definitely room for improvement. He's here for the offseason program. Him and Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn have been going through the quarterback school. I'm very excited about that group, but I think Aaron has put together and excellent body of work for his first year and it's something we're definitely going to build on.
Rome: How did he evolve as a leader over the past year?
McCarthy: It's something that you continue to build. Going through the training camp, just being a standup individual throughout everything that went on. It's something that started to grow through the season. First of all, he has to take care of his productivity and his performance on the field, and he accomplished that. You can see him asserting himself more in a leadership role through the offseason program, and I look forward to watching Aaron take this over as his team.
Rome: Finally, Mike you were 6-10, but seven of those 10 losses were by four points or less. Can you look at those things and, ‘Say we should have done that and we can fix this and this is why it's not going to happen again?'
McCarthy: I'm not a big believer in the ‘should of, could of, would of's.' No. 1, we had opportunities to win those games, and we did not. The most important thing that we have to learn from those experiences is we need to carry them forward. The lessons of 2008 are something that we're applying to our offseason program (and) the way we train. The only thing you can ask for is opportunity. We created a number of opportunities, and from that, you break it down in all three phases of offense, defense and special teams. We've got to do a better job in the fourth quarter, two-minute situations on both sides of the ball. A little better job on first and second down will help the offense. Stopping the run is going to be our primary focus for the defense. Frankly, we've got to do a better job on all of the special teams. Those are the things that we've identified and we're working at them and we're excited about the 2009 season.
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