GREEN BAY – The poster normally hangs inside the McCarthy house. As a father of five – a one in college, two in their ‘tween years and two preschoolers – well, Mike McCarthy occasionally needs the reminder amid the chaos and mayhem his little ones can create.
Keep Calm and Carry On.
So when the Green Bay Packers coach took the poster to work Wednesday to use as an object lesson for his players, his wife, Jessica, had only one stipulation.
“Don’t damage the frame,” she told him.
Given the way things are going around Lambeau Field these days – particularly in the training room – it’s 50/50 that Mrs. McCarthy gets her poster back intact. But this much is certain: Her husband couldn’t have picked a better motto entering Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field.
Each week, McCarthy spends his Monday evening researching a theme to present to his players that Wednesday as motivation for the work leading up to the next game. Last week, for example, it was True Grit, a reference to the 1969 John Wayne film (and 2010 Coen brothers remake with Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin).
And this week, with the team’s injury problems getting so bad that McCarthy seems to be getting unexpectedly bad news every few hours, he believes Keep Calm and Carry On fits his team to a T. He even had the background for the poster, which was part of a series of propaganda posters the British government … well, let’s let McCarthy show off.
“You historians (will) probably appreciate that,” McCarthy said during his post-practice press conference after sharing the theme with reporters. “In 1939 (the poster was) issued by the British government right before World War II in anticipation of the bombing of the major cities. So, that’s what we’re talking about.”
When WBAY-TV sports director Chris Roth told McCarthy that his citation was impressive, McCarthy replied with a laugh, “Thank you, I practiced it all night.”
While quarterback Aaron Rodgers teased McCarthy for telling the media – “He loves telling you guys his slogans,” Rodgers said – the message clearly got through when McCarthy stood up in front of the entire team, had staffer Matt Klein hold up the poster and explained how it applied to their situation in the wake of last Sunday’s adversity-laced victory over defending Super Bowl-champion Baltimore and with a host of key players sidelined.
“He was saying (how) you’ve got to remember that when you go home with some screaming kids and you got to get them to bed,” said inside linebacker A.J. Hawk, a father of two toddlers himself. “He got his point across.”
Added Rodgers: “It’s a good message, very good message. Don’t panic. … I don’t care what’s going on outside the facility; inside the facility we have to stay focused on the things that we can control. I’m excited about the guys that are going to be lining up with us, excited about the young guys and their opportunities, and I can’t wait to see how we play on Sunday.
“It’s during these tough times that your character is revealed.”
And times are tough. The Packers, who are 3-2 after winning back-to-back games for the first time this year, played last Sunday without four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Clay Matthews (broken thumb) andstarting inside linebacker Brad Jones (hamstring), then lost wide receiver James Jones (knee) and wide receiver Randall Cobb (broken leg) to injuries that left them unable to line up in a three-receiver set because only two true wideouts (Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin) remained.
While Jones hasn’t been ruled out for Sunday, Cobb – the team’s leading receiver – was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with the designation to return, meaning he will miss the next eight games and can’t play until Dec. 15 at Dallas at the earliest.
At least McCarthy knew about those injuries. When he arrived at work Monday, the medical staff surprised him by informing him that starting outside linebacker Nick Perry had suffered a broken foot. That afternoon, team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie told him tight end Ryan Taylor, a vital special teams player, was complaining of pain in his knee. Taylor underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Wednesday and, like Perry, will be out multiple weeks.
For good measure, outside linebacker/defensive end Mike Neal couldn’t practice Wednesday because of a bruised shoulder, leaving the Packers with only two outside linebackers for practice.
“I was in a meeting Monday, there were two players (injured) I didn’t even see it coming based on the information on the plane,” said McCarthy, whose team now has a league-high 14 rookies on its 53-man roster after promoting tight end Jake Stoneburner and wide receiver Myles White from the practice squad Tuesday. “In our staff meeting on Monday, I think 43 players on the board to get started playing again. Obviously, there’s been some adjustments – and we’ve made plenty of them. I think it’s clear-cut where we stand.
“It's been a busy 48 hours. Clearly, I know in my time in the league, just as far as the number of roster moves that we've had to go through the last two days, it's a lot of adjustment, a lot of planning for different scenarios and things like that. (But) we feel like we have a good plan and we'll be ready to go.”
While McCarthy made it clear that it will take more than a historic motto to beat the Browns, who are a surprising 3-3, his players clearly felt the speech was a good start.
“I think it’s great,” Hawk said. “I think great coaches find ways to motivate your team and ‘Coach’ is always finding creative ways for that. I think we all know how fiery he is and how he doesn’t seem like he wants to be calm very often. So we respect that and we love it. I love all of his messages. I eat those things up, man. I love it.
“It’s true, too. I think it has a little undertone of, just don’t ever panic. This league is crazy. Things happen week in and week out. You can’t ever panic. You just got to keep doing your thing.”
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.