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Mailbag: Mike McCarthy's Biggest Strength?


It seems that in every sport, the truly elite coaches are able to develop and field a scheme best suited for their personnel, and that takes advantage of league rules and trends. Do you think that Mike McCarthy has this ability? — LES HOFFMAN / PELL CITY, AL

Nick: I not only believe he has it, I think he's one of the best at doing that. There are many ways you can analyze your question but first of all, his teams have found a way to win. That's the most important aspect of all. But what I like is that he adapts players to fit his system. Look at some of the skill players that have shined there but really nowhere else. Nelson, Jones, Lacy ... those guys are a product of his system. So yes, I think he's that guy.

Jonny: Your premise is correct, but to be fair, the personnel for the coaches we usually call elite is typically pretty great. Andy Reid and Bill Belichick do an excellent job of building a scheme for Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady. Mike McCarthy also did that for Aaron Rodgers. I think those three quarterbacks are probably more important than those three coaches, but nothing happens in a vacuum. Those coaches got the best out of great players. So, if Dak Prescott makes another big leap forward this year, it will mostly be because he's talented, but it will also be because McCarthy helped enable him to be great.

Given the challenges of training and practicing due to COVID-19, is it realistic to think that any rookie will actually start? How will the "new normal" impact roster selection? — JACK KERFOOT / PORTLAND, OR

Nick: I think it's one of the most pressing questions we've got. Yes, it will have a major impact on roster decisions, especially if the preseason is shortened or even canceled. That's when rookies and younger players get the chance to shine. But in terms of starting, I think it'll be tough for a low-round pick to get enough reps to start. Maybe a higher pick with higher expectations will get enough chances to start and contribute right away.

Jonny: You very well could be right about that. I was all but ready to make a case that Bradlee Anae would make a run at becoming the starting right defensive end at some point sooner than later, but the transition to trying to get past NFL offensive linemen is already so difficult. They typically come with some harsh reality checks, and every bit of preparation helps. That said, CeeDee Lamb might ultimately see the field plenty just because of his pure athleticism. That's not to say that he won't be affected by these challenges, but at the end of the day, he seems like someone who can run fast and go catch a football.

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