Don't Take McCarthy's Word on "Running Back By Committee" Approach
Mike McCarthy recently spoke about his plans for the Packers running back group, and he used what’s become a dreaded phrase among some Packers fans: “running back by committee”
It used to be the sort of thing that you would say if you didn't have any good running backs. “We don't have a single guy who's going to carry the ball 300 times this year, so we're gonna go with a running back by committee approach.” But in 2018 it means something entirely different. Running back by committee represents an entirely different, entirely modern approach to the running game.
That doesn't mean that's how Mike McCarthy meant it. I think if McCarthy had his druthers, he’d prefer to just hand the ball to one guy 300 times a season and call it good. In that situation, you don't have to think about things a whole lot, you can run the same personnel groupings all the time, and it makes it a little bit easier on your head coach if you don’t have to worry about a bunch of moving parts.
What does McCarthy mean by when he says he wants a running back by committee?
But that's not really how the NFL works anymore. If you're giving the ball to one guy that much, your offense is probably not operating at peak capacity. There's really no reason to have one guy handling that much of the of the load anymore. Offenses are so diverse and they have so many different skilled players that it actually is much more beneficial to have different guys doing different things with different skill sets than it is to try to find one guy who can do everything.
When Mike McCarthy says he wants to have a running back by committee I'm hoping he means the more modern interpretation. The Packers have several different running backs with several very different skill sets. I think that's pretty obvious. If you just put Jamal Williams and Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery next to each other on the sideline and just looked at them, I think you’d probably conclude that they’re suited for different things just by their appearance. If the Packers use them all to do those different things that each of them does well at the appropriate times, I think this could be a pretty good group of running backs.
The thing is, when it comes to running backs, McCarthy has had a lot of opportunities to do more of an equal split among his backs. But outside of situations where injuries have forced his hand, there's never really been anything close to an equal split among his backs or anything that you could call a running back by committee approach. The only time things have been anything close to equal have been when there's been significant injuries to the Packers’ running backs. He has really just preferred to stick with one guy, game in and game out, drive in and drive out for the balance of his career in Green Bay.
We need to wait and see a little bit before we can really take Mike McCarthy at his word. He hasn't been good at splitting up touches among his backs in the past, and there's really no reason to assume that he's going to be good at doing it in the future. I'm not saying he can't change. I'm saying so far he's done things pretty much one way, and it would be a surprise to see him make a big departure from that this season.
This post is an adapted transcript of the most recent episode of Blue 58, a Packers podcast from The Power Sweep. Listen to the full episode below, and don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, CastBox and more to stay on top of the best in Packers news and analysis.