this Dec. 27, 2015, file photo, Green Bay Packers head coach
Mike McCarthy watches his team during the first half of an NFL
football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz.
Winning the division is important in Green Bay, but the Packers
always have higher aspirations. Itís about getting to the
Super Bowl in Titletown. All the better for coach McCarthy if
his team reclaims the NFC North along the way.
GREEN BAY ó Winning
the division is always important in Green Bay.
But the Packers
usually have higher aspirations.
It's about getting to
the Super Bowl. All the better for coach Mike McCarthy if his team
reclaims the NFC North along the way.
are important, but I don't lose any sleep over it. Because we have a
bigger goal," McCarthy said on Thursday. "We don't hang
division title banners around here."
Days before the start
of his 11th season, McCarthy said one of the main goals each season is
to take the NFC North, a title that eluded the Packers in 2015 when
the Minnesota Vikings ended Green Bay's four-year run atop the
A division title
guarantees at least one home playoff game.
But there's a
constant reminder of the ultimate goal in the stadium's atrium, a
50-foot replica of the Lombardi Trophy.
The shiny top of the
trophy was visible from the window of the Lambeau conference room
where McCarthy talked to reporters.
once you cross the threshold into the playoffs, it's about getting to
the final game and winning," McCarthy said.
everybody to think that way, and I want everybody to behave that way
and train that way and aspire for that to be."
The Packers' roster
appears stocked with talent to make another deep run.
Receiver Jordy Nelson
has returned from a knee injury. Tailback Eddie Lacy looked
rejuvenated in training camp after a subpar 2015 season. Linebacker
Clay Matthews is playing from the edge again, eager to harass opposing
And the Packers have
a pretty good one of their own, too.
Two-time NFL MVP
Aaron Rodgers is in his prime, with the clock ticking. He turns 33 in
Green Bay last won
the Super Bowl in 2011, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25. Back
then, Rodgers was only in his third season as a starter. Some around
the NFL thought a new Packers dynasty was taking root.
"I've always had
a full understanding of how hard it is to get to the Super Bowl,"
McCarthy said. "There's just so many things that you have to
overcome, particularly in December and January ... to put yourself in
position, Number 1, to be part of that small group of playoff
There the Packers
were again this past January as a wild-card team in spite of their
uncharacteristic season-long struggles for an injury-battered offense.
The Packers were
eliminated from the playoffs when Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald scored on
a 5-yard touchdown pass just more than a minute into overtime in the
In 2014, Seattle
eliminated Green Bay in overtime on Jermaine Kearse's 35-yard
touchdown reception from Russell Wilson. They've lost five playoff
games overall on the final play under McCarthy.
Asked if those close
calls made him consider philosophical changes, McCarthy said, "I
think it's important to stay in touch with the reality of what
happened and why it happened, because if you lose sight of that then
you start making changes and decisions for the wrong reasons."
Against Arizona last
season, for instance, the Packers were decimated by injuries to their
receiving group. It severely limited the playbook for a potential
2-point conversion try after Jeff Janis' 41-yard touchdown on a
desperation pass from Rodgers as time expired in regulation. The
Packers settled for the tie with an extra point to send the game into
"But yes, it
would be nice if we had five of those where we won by one play. I'm
sure if you looked it up, they're out there," McCarthy said.
"You get in playoff football, there are plays every game, big
play opportunities that can swing the game."
Through the ups and
downs, the Packers stick with their draft-and-develop philosophy. Even
with Rodgers in his prime, general manager Ted Thompson tends to not
make moves to mortgage the future.
"But, hey, we
clearly understand the type of player Aaron is, and we have a path, we
have a vision to get to where we want to go," McCarthy said.
"There's no guarantee, either, if you go out and sign a bunch of
high-priced free agents ó I think history would tell you that that
process has failed a lot more than it's worked."