Thursday, June 18, 2009

Collins Playing a Dangerous Game

There was certainly a lot of hubbub yesterday with the return of safety Nick Collins to the OTAs, as the contract holdout has eschewed participating in the voluntary workouts until this week. Of course, some of us felt somewhat relieved, and some of us felt a little more concerned when he was led off the field to work with the rehab group instead of fully watching the install of the 3-4.

For me, perhaps the most interesting quote of the day came from Mike McCarthy, who answered a couple questions about Collins tritely, then finished with this:

(He obviously has a lot to learn with the new defense. Has he been doing a lot on his own?)
I think these questions are more suited for Nick, exactly what he has been doing.

Now, I'm the first to call Mike McCarthy "gruff and ornery", but he typically goes to bat for his players, especially when the media appears to be going after them. This response was short, to the point, and ended any further questions from the gallery in regards to #36.

McCarthy has offered several times over the last few weeks that he understands that the OTAs are voluntary, and that whatever reasons that players have for missing them are up are accepted. His response to being asked about how much Collins is working towards learning the schemata of the new defense sends a message that someone is out of the loop.

I'm glad that the dual position of GM/HC that Mike Sherman held is no longer the structure in Green Bay. I could imagine Sherman up there in this situation, both responsible for the play on the field, and also responsible for negotiating salaries. I'm sure that the media would have gone into Sherman a little more than the guy who is only the head coach.

But McCarthy holding just the head coaching role means that he is only concerned about the play on the field. It's not his job to worry about whether Collins is happy with his contract or if he is deserving of an extension. It is his job to worry about getting all his players on the same page with the new defense. And Collins should be a key piece.

Having your starting free safety missing the install of a new defense is akin to having your quarterback miss the install of a new offense (not that McCarthy would have ever experienced that before, right?). The free safety has to play from behind the front nine and call out the adjustments that need to be made.

Which means, of course, the free safety has to know what it going on, perhaps more than any other defensive player on the field. Given Collins' slow development since his rookie year and McCarthy's own statements that this scheme has massive permutations and relies heavily on communication, it puts into perspective his reply to the question about Collins' efforts to learn the defense.

Clearly, McCarthy's response could mean one of two things:

A) There has been no communication between the coach and Collins, thus he is unaware of what efforts Collins has made on his own towards learning the new scheme; or

B) What communication there has been between the coach and Collins has not been palatable enough for McCarthy to go to bat for him in front of the media.

Given that McCarthy did go to bat for him earlier in the offseason by stated he was excused for a "family situation" (which ended up being his father dying of cancer), it makes option A seem unlikely.

Which would lead me to believe that there is reason to doubt that McCarthy is fully tolerant of not only Collins' lack of participation, but how much he is doing on his own to prepare. This does not bode well for Collins or the defense.

Now, I may be reading far too much into one comment, I admit. But I've commented before on how critical Collins may be to the success of the 3-4 implementation this year. McCarthy knows that his starting free safety needs to know this scheme backwards and forwards.

It is one thing for Collins to withhold his presence in order to finagle more money out of his employer. It is another thing completely for him to shirk his responsibilities and somehow think that he is gaining leverage by not working to learn the defense. Does he think that by not learning the defense that it will make the Packers rush to sign him he'll start learning it?

I've been critical of Collins' intelligence before. If he is not working on his own to be the best player he can be in such a critical time for the defense, it pretty much seals for me how dense he really is.

No comments: