The Mike McCarthy era came to an end on Sunday. While the timing might have come as a surprise, the decision to part ways with McCarthy wasn’t. McCarthy was in charge of the Packers for 13 seasons. During that time, he accumulated a 122-77-2 regular season record. While the Green Bay Packers head coach, the McCarthy led Packers reached the playoffs nine different times and won one Super Bowl. McCarthy should be commended for what he did for the Packers. But like with most NFL head coaches, his time in charge expired.
As soon as news broke on Sunday evening, after an ugly 20-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, rumors on who would replace McCarthy for next season quickly swirled. Many of those rumors centered on candidates with offensive backgrounds. The belief being that a head coach with an offensive background would best benefit quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers once high-octane offense. But if you take a deeper look, an offensive head coach might not be essential for the Packers to succeed next season or for seasons to come. Instead, what Mark Murphy and Brian Gutekunst should be looking for is a person who can take charge of this once proud franchise. No matter if he has an offensive, defensive, or special teams background. We have identified that type of person and he happens to have a defensive background. Keep an eye on Kris Richard for Green Bay Packers head coaching position.
Kris Richard is currently the defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys. Richard joined the Cowboys before this season after being with Seattle Seahawks from 2010-2017. During his time with the Seahawks, he was the defensive backs coach and eventually took over as the defensive coordinator in 2015. During that time, he helped develop the “Legion of Boom”, the nickname given to the ultra-productive defensive backs for the Seahawks. Under Richard’s guidance, he helped develop cornerback Richard Sherman and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. In 2015, while the Seahawks defensive coordinator, the Seahawks defensive unit ranked first in points allowed.
Richard brought along his success as a defensive coach with him to Dallas this season. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was so impressed with Richard’s experience and coaching ability, he gave over defensive play calling duties to Richard. That was even with Richard not being with the Cowboys for even a full regular season month.
Richard hasn’t let Marinelli down with his decision. The Cowboys defense currently ranks fifth in total defense, seventh against the pass, and fourth against the run. Their defense has been the driving force for the Cowboys staying in the hunt for an NFC East division title.
The Packers offense needs a jump-start, there is no getting around that. But the Packers as a whole needs a new direction. It isn’t just the offense that is struggling for the Packers. While the defense has improved under first year defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, there is still work to be done on that side of the ball. The special teams under special teams coordinator Ron Zook is downright awful. The Packers franchise needs an entirely new direction.
It wouldn’t be the first time a young defensive coach without head coaching experience took over a storied franchise. In 2017, Mike Tomlin took over as the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach for long time head coach Bill Cowher. Tomlin has a very similar background to Richard. He was a former defensive backs coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2001-2005. After his time in Tampa, he spent a season as the Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator.
Just like if Richard is named the Packers head coach, Tomlin took over a storied franchise. He also had to take over for a long tenured head coach as well. Cowher was the Steelers head coach from 1992-2006. Cowher, like with McCarthy, won one Super Bowl as the Steelers head coach.
The similarities don’t end there. While Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t as old as Rodgers is right now when Tomlin took over, he was one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. Tomlin showed that he was capable of coaching an upper echelon quarterback. So it wouldn’t be out of the question that Richard could do the same thing with Rodgers if he were to take over.
Many fans are worried that if the Packers hire a defensive minded head coach, especially one who doesn’t run the same type of system, that they will lose Pettine. But that isn’t necessarily the case. When Tomlin arrived in Pittsburgh he arrived as a defensive coach who ran a 4-3 “Tampa 2” scheme. But he realized what the Steelers had in their “Blitzburgh” style defense. He kept Dick LeBeau as his defensive coordinator and the Steelers kept the 3-4 defense, something they continue to run today.
Richard and Pettine aren’t strangers as well. In 2017, while Richard was the Seahawks defensive coordinator, Pettine spent that season as a consultant for the Seahawks. The relationship between the two are unknown but there is a connection. Pettine has done a solid job as the Packers defensive coordinator this season. But a head coach like Richard might be able to bring some new wrinkles to Pettine’s scheme, which might be beneficial to the Packers.
There are going to be a lot of offensive minded coaches whose names are going to be linked to the Packers head coaching opening. Nothing against people like Josh McDaniels, John DeFilippo, or even Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, all are successful offensive play calling minds. But the Packers don’t just need a great offensive mind. They need a leader. They need a person who can turn around the Packers franchise. We don’t see that type of quality in these three candidates.
We do see it in Richard. He has a fiery demeanor, something that the Packers are sorely in need of. He has the pedigree. He learned under Pete Carroll who is a very successful NFL head coach. If Mark Murphy and Brian Gutekunst truly want to turn around this franchise, they will take a good look at Kris Richard.