by Dan Roth, special to Breaking Burgundy
Sound bytes from Mike McCarthy’s Wednesday press conference paint a frustrated portrait of the Green Bay Packers’ head coach. In between utterances of tired clichés and answers downplaying the team’s flaws that underscored reporters’ questions, McCarthy sounded like a man on a mission.
“It’s the postseason,” McCarthy said. “We’ve had a chance to clean up our house and get it ready to showcase who the hell we are.”
Whether the Packers are the team that exploded to a 6-0 start to the regular season, or the atrophying bunch that went 4-6 in its final ten games, exactly who they are remains to be seen. Once the team takes the field Sunday against the Redskins, much of its success hinges on the offensive line’s ability to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers. In the meantime, the Packers’ collective mindset dictates how hard they work on the practice field and study in the film room.
For believers in positive energy begetting positive results, McCarthy issued an assurance that the team received constant reminders of what they are capable of with a statement saturated in salt-laced irony.
“I think it’s the generation that we’re in,” McCarthy said. “I look at the way we coach and the way meetings are done today and coming from the walk-through and the music that’s being played. I mean, we’ve got more damned highlight videos around here. They see it all the time. If you walk in the lobby, there’s highlights playing all the time. There’s highlights in the cafeteria. It’s all positive reinforcement. I don’t think that’s an issue.”
McCarthy may be a skeptic of the new-wave, all-encompassing belief in the power of positivity, but something appears to be working. According to a Thursday report from ESPN, Rodgers is in markedly improved spirits despite the team’s deflating Week 17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
“Especially when you’re not having a first-round bye, you’re coming off 16 games and going right into the wild card,” Rodgers said, according to ESPN. “I think I just need to make a concerted effort to bring that energy all week and even more on Sunday.”
Many questions still linger about how the Redskins will perform against the Packers in the NFC Wild Card game at FedEx Field Sunday, but there are no doubts about the team’s morale after clinching the NFC East in Week 16 and closing out the season on a four-game winning streak. The team’s faith in quarterback Kirk Cousins is higher than ever.
Rodgers is focused on bringing the right energy to the Packers’ practices this week. The Redskins, on the other hand, already have that energy in house thanks to inspired play down the stretch.
Although McCarthy was full of cane-waving rhetoric Wednesday, which may have been fueled by media speculation about the relative heat of his seat after the way his team finished the regular season, he wasn’t without a strategy to move past the Packers’ regular-season woes. As one might expect, McCarthy emphasized studying, hard work and the elimination of extraneous variables.
“This is about beating the Redskins. That’s all we’re worried about,” said McCarthy, who is 1-1 as head coach against the Redskins. “The hypotheticals and the shoulda-coulda-wouldas, those are things for other people to talk about. I want the team focused on the Redskins. This is a big challenge. They won their division, they’ve played very well, the games we’ve watched them in. And more importantly, we haven’t played these guys for a while.”
Dan Roth is a freelance sportswriter and Breaking Burgundy contributor. Follow Dan on Twitter @danrothdc.
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