“At times when you get on veteran teams, the veterans get coached a certain way and the younger guys sometimes get left behind a little bit and have to keep up on their own,” said running backs coach Alex Van Pelt, who played nine seasons in the NFL as a backup quarterback and coached in Buffalo and Tampa Bay before joining the Packers staff in 2012.
“But we’re such a young team here, so there’s so much teaching that goes on for our starters because a lot of our starters are young players. So, we do coach them all, coach them all the same, because you never know – especially with the way it’s gone in our room. It’s the-next-guy-up mentality, so we have to get everybody ready to play because you could be one or two games away from being the starter.”
While McCarthy credits the players – “They are the ones out there performing, putting the work in, doing the little things getting ready for the opportunity,” he said – the reason they are ready is the preparation the coaches provide. McCarthy says his philosophy on coaching 61 players dates back to his quarterback coaching days, when he had high-profile veterans like Joe Montana and Brett Favre in his QB rooms but young quarterbacks to develop simultaneously.
That said, it isn’t always easy, as Thompson acknowledged that not every young player he adds is the right fit.
“(The coaches) take them and coach them and get them ready, sometimes in a matter of days. (But) there’s no guarantee it’s going to work,” Thompson said. “We’ve had guys come in and it just doesn’t work out. But you have to remain positive and if you get somebody nicked up a little bit, you have to say, ‘OK, what do we do now?’”
More often than not, though, the Packers have the answer.
“This is a true compliment to Ted’s vision and our partnership and everybody else included,” McCarthy said. “There’s a structure and a plan that we stick to. Hey, trust me, it’s not always roses (where we just) say, ‘Don’t worry about it, we’re going to get through it.’ We’re trying to get better every single day, too.
“We have a free-agent board, if you can believe it or not. We talk about all of the different players out there. Our personnel department works endless hours always trying to get better; there’s so many conversations that go on. But at the end of the day, we believe in the people we have here and the opportunity, the resources, the facilities and everything that we’ve been given to get these guys better. And they respond, so it’s working.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.