PACKERS HEAD COACH MIKE McCARTHY
Q: What are your thoughts on how your season has gone so far?
MM: Well, I mean it's been a little bit up and down. We've had some tough games. You go back and look at the first game where we had the injury to Aaron [Rodgers] and bounced back stronger against Minnesota and then have it unfortunately ending there with a tie. We've had challenges on the road. We haven't won a road game yet, so that's another aspect of this big challenge we have in front of us Sunday night in New England.
Q: Obviously two quarterbacks don't go directly up against each other, but can you appreciate the special matchup of having two Hall of Famers playing in the same game like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady this weekend?
MM: Well, I think you have to because how many times does it happen? I think it's stating the obvious, and not really having a chance to reflect on that as far as the opportunity to see these two play on the same field. I think for the fans and for everybody alike, you have to - if you truly love football, this is a fantastic opportunity to see two great players line up. As you've already stated, they don't compete against each other, but I think these games are always great for football.
Q: What do you see out of 41-year old Tom Brady this year?
MM: Well, you just see the consistency. He's had total command of the offense forever, it seems like 20 years - just their ability to get in and out of personnel groups and just the awareness of everything going on around him. He's competitive, he's obviously so competitive, but he just keeps rolling. We've been very impressed with the tape.
Q: What do you think are some of the underappreciated similarities between Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady?
MM: Well, I think it's really about what they do at the quarterback position. Obviously, what they've done from an accomplishment standpoint stands for itself, but if you just break down how they play the position, just the ability to be totally involved in every aspect of the offense, whether it's the runs, the protections and the pass game, that's not normal. I know Aaron is as dialed in to the run blocking schemes as he is with the passing game concepts. I think when you're at that level and their competitive nature is really a part of the greatest characteristic of both of those guys. They're just warriors and it's part of who they are as players.
Q: What challenges does the Patriots defense present?
MM: Well, they're always a challenge because you never know exactly what you're going to get, but you know you're going to be challenged based on what you put on film or based on plays you've struggled [with] in the past. This is the team that you spend more time on in the offseason - we play them once every four years, haven't played them since 2014. You know that you have to make sure you're on top of things, especially the things you feel that you haven't had success with in the past. We know we're going to be schematically challenged.
Q: Would you say you spend more time on them in the offseason than other teams?
MM: Well, no. We actually spend most of our time in the offseason on division opponents. When you play teams once every four years, I think you have to always go back to have a - we call it a pregame plan before it to - it's a good comparable to do on Monday mornings.
Q: Can you speak on Davante Adams and the level of play he's brought his game to?
MM: Well, he's big for us. I think he can do it all from the wide receiver position and we're expecting a lot of attention by the Patriots secondary on that. And the other thing I like about it is he's really taken the reigns here from a leadership standpoint. Davante's another special player for us.
Q: You made a couple of moves yesterday. Any thought that making moves like that can disrupt the chemistry you have in the locker room?
MM: I think like anything you do, at the end of the day you have to make decisions you feel overall are in the best interest of the Green Bay Packers. That's something that when you get to these spots, there's a lot of conversation that goes into it and we wish both those guys the best of luck. They were excellent players and excellent representatives of our organization while they were here. This is about opportunity and moving forward.
Q: How does Mike Pettine's familiarity with the Patriots offense best help you during this week of preparation and on Sunday?
MM: Well, I think if you look at both our coordinators, they've had a chance to compete in the AFC East - obviously, Mike being there with the Jets and then being there with Buffalo and Joe Philbin being with the Miami Dolphins. At the end of the day, there's some patterns that every team tends to follow, and I think the biggest thing with the Patriots is they do a tremendous job of playing with consistency. This is a team - they're not going to beat themselves. We have to go into New England and beat this team.
Q: What is it like going up against a Bill Belichick-coached team? What stands out to you about what makes him a good coach?
MM: Well, I mean stating the obvious, he's the best in football for a number of reasons. I think not only do they challenge you schematically week to week, how their research and development and game planning process is put together, they're going to challenge it. We like to feel we do the same. But the thing I've always admired is the consistency and the fundamentals, the techniques and their discipline in situational football. You don't ever see his teams beat themselves.
Q: Do you go back to that 2014 game at all just to revisit that this week?
MM: Well, we've watched it. It's not a part of what we're thinking about right now - obviously your football team changes so much in four years. We're more focused on the personnel that they have here now. It's just like anything. I think in today's game, you have so many resources as far as ability to integrate tape. It's definitely something that we look at.
Q: What's it been like having Jimmy Graham on your team this year?
MM: Jimmy's been an excellent addition for us. He's a heck of a football player. He's been a really good fit and just the ability to be in the multiple tight end positions, he can play them all. A big threat in situational football and more importantly, he's been a great guy for our locker room.
Q: What have you seen from Stephon Gilmore on tape?
MM: He's a hell of player. We competed against him a couple years back up in Buffalo and I thought he played really well against us then in that game. That's something we've gone back and looked at just from personnel evaluation. I think he's a great fit for their scheme and I'm sure he'll be matched up on one of our guys.
Q: Where have you seen him grow most from the last time you saw him?
MM: Shoot, I mean he's playing for a different team. He's obviously played in the league, he's a lot more experienced and he plays with really good length. I think he plays with a lot of discipline.
PACKERS QUARTERBACK AARON RODGERS
Q: Did you see the promo with Michael Jordan promoting this Sunday's game?
AR: Yes, I just saw that yesterday.
Q: What do you think of being included in the greatest of all time conversation with Tom Brady?
AR: It's humbling for sure. I've gotten to know Mike [Jordan] a little bit over the years playing golf in Tahoe, and obviously I've known Tom [Brady] for a long time. Michael's widely considered the greatest and so is Tom.
Q: Going off of that, whose side are you on, Michael Jordan or LeBron James as the greatest basketball player of all time?
AR: It's tough, different eras of basketball. I grew up born in the '80s watching great basketball, the late '80s and early '90s and that was Michael's time. Winning six championships, I think most people either loved him or rooted against him, and I was in the loved him category. Loved my local Sacramento Kings, but I was obviously a big Michael Jordan fan.
Q: So you're telling me Michael Jordan?
AR: I didn't say that, I definitely didn't say that. I'm a LeBron fan as well.
Q: This week Tom Brady said he was inspired by you. How do you feel about Tom Brady?
AR: The feeling's mutual. As a young player, I watched a ton of his film. I had a great guy to watch every single day in Brett Favre, but Tommy's been at the top of his game for a long, long time. So, I watched most of the snaps from the '07 season and I've always been a big fan of his. Just the stuff he does on the field is phenomenal and then to see him, as he's gotten older in his career, continue to reinvent himself year after year and play at a high level every single season, obviously winning the championships, he's a phenomenal player. But he's a pioneer as far as taking care of his body and rewriting the longevity books for players of his caliber. It's been really impressive to watch, and any time I get a chance when he's on Thursday night, Sunday night, Monday night, I'm for sure tuning in.
Q: With all the hype surrounding the battle between the two quarterbacks, how do you avoid making it an individual battle?
AR: That's never been. Obviously, I'm leading my offense, he's leading his offense, but my focus on my film study is on their defense and thinking about how their coaching staff is going to try to take away what we do best like they always do. So, that's kind of where the focus is. Obviously, the me and Tom stuff is for media fodder and it's to obviously get people to tune in. But it's Sunday Night Football - we know there's going to be a ton of people watching and tough place to play up there. Obviously, they're rolling. We're trying to get things going here.
Q: What stands out to you the most about this New England defense?
AR: It's typical. Bill [Belichick] is a phenomenal coach and he's always going to have his guys ready to play. They do a number of different things - they don't just always major in one specific thing. They're going to try to combat what you do best and take it away and get you off-schedule and lock down the guys they want to take away and make you beat them with your third and fourth options. It's what they do and obviously play really well in the back end. They've got smart, instinctive players all over the field and that's what they rely on. They rely on being able to adjust quickly to what you're doing and stay within the scheme and make plays inside the scheme, and that's what Bill's done his entire career. I have a ton of respect for him and obviously what they've done over the years. Every year they have different guys they're plugging in and they make it work.
Q: Bill Belichick mentioned you played golf together at Pebble Beach once and he was complimenting your golf game. What do you remember about playing golf with him?
AR: Well, I appreciate the compliments on the golf game. I'm usually not very good in Pebble. Any time I get a chance to be around Coach it's an honor, and I have a ton of respect for what he's done in the game. Not a lot of football talk, especially that time of year. They're usually coming off a deep run in the playoffs, and occasionally we are as well. It's fun to compete against him out on the field. We've done it once. One thing I do remember about that is him waiting after the game to give me some nice words and that's something that really stuck with me in 2014. Like I said, I have a ton of respect for Coach.
Q: What do you think would have happened if you and Tom Brady switched places?
AR: Obviously, that'll be some of the conversation this week. I don't really try to get into the "what if" game. I'm fortunate to have been drafted here and sit behind Brett [Favre] for three years. He was obviously drafted late there and he was 100 and what, 75 picks after me in the draft, so his chip might have been a little bit bigger than mine starting out his career. He's had a phenomenal career there and I've had a phenomenal start here and a great time being a Green Bay Packer. I don't think about anything different. The reason I resigned again was because I wanted to finish my career out here. And, you look at a guy like Tom, all the years he's been there, it's fun to be able to be in one spot through your entire career. There's a lot of pride in that legacy part of your career, and I think him and I both feel the same way about our organizations.
Q: I know Tom Brady has studied you and your offense. What are some of the things about Tom Brady's game that you've tried to incorporate into yours over the years?
AR: Well, the first was pocket movement. Just watching him in 2007 especially, his smooth nature in the pocket and he's able to make subtle movements and he has his entire career to create space through a throwing lane or a throwing platform. And that's one thing - not looking at the rush and being able to find that soft spot in the pocket is something he's just been incredible at. It's an innate sense but something you can really work on as well. That's one thing I definitely took from him, and just like Favre, Tom's always been great with his eyes - being able to manipulate defenders and move them out of zones that he wants to throw into and move safeties to be able to get to spots down the seams. Him and Brett are the best two I've seen on film.
Q: How do you feel your season's going so far?
AR: Well, we're 3-3-1. We're in a tough stretch right now. Obviously, just came off an undefeated team on the road, playing in a tough environment here where obviously Tommy and those guys have had a ton of success over the years playing at Gillette. It's a tough stretch but we have an opportunity to take a big chunk of confidence if we can go up there and play our best game.
Q: How tough was that loss last week? Do you take something positive away from it?
AR: Yes, every loss is difficult. You take the positive but you've got to be very critical of yourself and your own team. And, we had opportunities, especially late in that game up 27-26 with our last possession to get some first downs, move the ball and put that thing on ice, and we didn't do it. The way our defense played early in the game was fantastic, making them punt on four, five possessions to start the game. We've got to get more points in those situations to help those guys out and to make it more one-dimensional, especially when they have a dynamic back like they do. So, same thing, when you play on the road, you have to find a way to take the crowd out of it early and then keep the momentum going because you know there's always going to be that momentum swing and the rush of the crowd and the energy at some point when they start making plays.
Q: What kind of stability does having the same coach for a long time offer a quarterback? That's something both you and Tom Brady have had.
AR: Yes, the biggest thing is just the offense not really changing. Staying in the same system for me for 14 years has been really helpful. The terminology stays very similar. Obviously, we're changing subtle things every single year, but to have the same terminology for so many years allows you a great comfort within the scheme and the ability to continue to find ways to add your own creativity to the mix. It's allowed me to continue to grow my game year after year, and I'm sure Tom would say the same thing about being in the same system for a number of years.
Q: You're about to turn 35 in a few weeks -
AR: Month, yeah.
Q: You're welcome for that reminder. Has the way Tom Brady is playing at 41 reestablished expectations for how long quarterbacks can play?
AR: I think to some extent, definitely. But Tom's kind of - he's an outlier, he's a unicorn. There's not many like him. Obviously, what he's done in making it more public now with his diet and his workout regiment, that kind of sets a blueprint for how it's done for him. We all have our own ways of taking care of ourselves, but I think it's a great reminder about how important diet is to your overall performance. That's one thing that the player in 2018 I think understands a lot more than in 2005 when I got in the league and obviously when he got in years before that. There's a way to take care of yourself that allows you to be in position to play for as long as you want. Obviously, at quarterback, we're in a different situation than at running back or lineman where we have the natural opportunity to have longevity based on performance. Tommy's been able to do what he's done not just because he takes great care of himself but because he plays at a high level year after year.
Q: Would you like to play until your mid-40s like Tom has said he would like to?
AR: If I still love it the way I do now and my body feels good - I think all of us would love to be able to pick the time that we go out. It's obviously difficult in this day in age and not everybody can stay in the same spot and be able to kind of write their own final chapter. But that's definitely the goal.