I’ll be honest. I usually find Mike McCarthy press conferences to be rather entertaining. Not because they’re any good, but more because I derive some sick pleasure in seeing how many ways McCarthy can say the same thing – usually nothing.
And then there are the flat out jaw-dropping comments, like after the Bears debacle when he claimed that he thought the run game had been productive.
But this week has been different. Never one to be too forthcoming in his comments to the media, especially regarding the psyche of his team, McCarthy talked about the Packers players and what could perhaps be a wave of unrealistic expectations in the locker room. It’s something I’m sure no Packers player would want to admit, but have they fallen prey to all the Super Bowl talk? Are they looking ahead and not focusing on being their best week to week?
In his post-game press conference on Sunday, when asked if he was happy with HOW his team played, McCarthy said the following:
I’m happy that we won the game because I knew we were going to be stressed in a couple areas going into this game. I think sometimes false expectations get built because of the past, because of numbers, and because of individuals.
I especially find the “individuals” comment telling. Is he referring to some of his players, like Nick Barnett and his “Super Bowl or Die” proclamation? Or is that a shot at many of the national media that seemingly anointed the Packers as Super Bowl champions in the preseason?
Fast forward to Monday’s press conference and McCarthy had this to say:
Frankly, the only team that really deserves to even talk about the Super Bowl is the New Orleans Saints. They’re the champion until someone takes it away from them.
This was in response to being asked whether it might be a positive for his team to be disappointed despite winning because they felt a Super Bowl caliber team should have won more easily. Clearly, like any coach, McCarthy wants his team thinking only about the upcoming game.
And then there was this gem:
Just because people think we are supposed to go out and win by two touchdowns, that’s not realistic, and for us to let that in our locker room is not what we are all about. So maybe this is a good shot of reality that we need. We have had a different week. We felt like we lost a game we had a lot of chances to win, and then we had to do some things at the end of the game to win another division game. These are all good experiences that we can learn from.
A good shot of reality is a fine way to describe the last 10 days. Struggling to beat the winless Lions and then watching the Bears, the team they handed a win to, implode on Sunday night should certainly tell the players they haven’t played to their abilities the last two weeks.
In this last comment, McCarthy also seems to be specifically referring to outside influences and the players buying into the hype created my media and fans. McCarthy said he would address this with the team and I couldn’t be happier about that.
Back in June, I wrote about how the Packers Super Bowl hype machine had gotten out of control – to the point where it would do more harm than good. Specifically, I was thinking of the effect on the players and what happens when they start to believe their press clippings. Rather predictably, the players started vocalizing their Super Bowl expectations.
I was told by many readers there was nothing wrong with it. Why shouldn’t the players express such public confidence? These guys are professionals and can distinguish between the hype and reality. Well, call me old school, but players are still human and I still don’t agree.
Personally, I never want to be considered a favorite before a game is even played, and I’m a big believer in laying low and shutting down the loudmouths with quiet, but deadly, efficiency. Kind of like the Mariano Rivera approach to playing baseball. You can be confident and KNOW you’re going to win, without shouting it to the world.
Too many players on this team fell into the trap of believing something would happen just because it’s expected to. This is the NFL. What team ultimately wears the champion’s crown is probably the most difficult to predict of any major sport. The somber mood in the locker room after a division win told McCarthy that these players may not truly realize how difficult a road it will be to make a Super Bowl run. Ugly or not, they should be grateful for any win within the division, and realize it’s just one more step towards the ultimate goal.
For his part, McCarthy promised to address this with the team in their Monday meetings. Unrealistic expectations of an easy route to the Super Bowl must be squashed quickly and thoroughly. Hopefully the last two games have accomplished that, but if it hasn’t, McCarthy should let them know it in no uncertain terms.——————
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.