There’s a new sheriff in town. Last week, Matt LaFleur was named the new head coach of the Green Bay Packers. LaFleur, who spent last season as the Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator, replaces Mike McCarthy who was let go during this past season. McCarthy had been in charge of the Packers since 2006. Packers president Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst are putting all their money on LaFleur’s ability to turn around the once dominant franchise. LaFleur isn’t the only new face that will be on the Packers sideline next season. The changes to the Packers staff doesn’t stop at the top. Green Bay Packers coaching staff getting a major overhaul.
Some would say the biggest decision for LaFleur in regards to the Packers coaching staff was at defensive coordinator. With being an offensive minded head coach, having a strong veteran defensive coordinator seemed essential for LaFleur. That is why he decided to retain Mike Pettine as the Packers defensive coordinator.
Pettine just finished his first season as the Packers defensive coordinator. He did an admirable job with the defense that struggled with injuries to key players this past season. After the failures under former coordinator Dom Capers, the Packers showed some improvements on the defensive side under Pettine.
Still, the Packers defense has a long ways to go. They finished 21st against the pass and 22nd against the run. Injuries were an issue, but like with most NFL teams, injuries always are something to deal with. But even with the struggles, by retaining Pettine LaFleur has to believe the Packers defense is improving. To go along with his experience as a defensive coordinator, Pettine brings head coaching experience as well. That head coaching experience, Pettine is a former Cleveland Browns head coach, will come in handy for LaFleur, who is a first time head coach at any level.
While Pettine is returning, Joe Whitt Jr. is not. The Packers terminated Whitt this past week. Whitt was the Packers defensive passing game coordinator last season. He was given that title, after McCarthy passed him over for the defensive coordinator position, which went to Pettine.
Many former Packers players, including former defensive player of the year winner Charles Woodson, have praised Whitt and his coaching ability. Before being “promoted”, Whitt was the Packers cornerbacks coach. He worked with players like Woodson, Al Harris, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields & Casey Hayward, and helped them all become contributors for the Packers.
For some, it seems like a curious decision to part ways with Whitt. He did an excellent job at a very crucial position. But his long history with McCarthy, he joined McCarthy’s staff in 2008, might have pushed him out the door. LaFleur, most likely with the guidance of the front office, are looking to turn the page from the former Packers coaching staff. With that mindset, assistants who have a long history with McCarthy, most likely won’t be retained.
That, and downright awful production, played a part in LaFleur firing special teams coordinator Ron Zook. You never want to see somebody lose their job. But with Zook, it was necessary and overdue. Under Zook’s guidance, the Packers special teams gave up big returns, touchdowns on fakes, and never developed a long term returner.
Packers fans should be accustomed to poor special teams play. They had the same issue with Shawn Slocum as their special teams coordinator. With LaFleur removing Zook from the Packers coaching staff, it at least gives the Packers special teams an opportunity to improve. Zook was brought in by McCarthy in 2014 as a special teams assistant. He was promoted the following season to special teams coordinator. One name to keep an eye on for that position is former Miami Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi. Rizzi had been the Dolphins special teams coordinator since 2010.
On the offensive side, the Packers will be looking for a new wide receivers coach. David Raih was allowed to interview for the Arizona Cardinals wide receivers position after LaFleur was hired. He interviewed and was hired by new Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Raih, another McCarthy assistant, had been with the Packers since 2014. Rumors have already started on who might replace him. Former UCLA head coach, and most recently New York Jets wide receivers coach, Karl Dorrell has been linked to that position. Dorrell is a very experienced receivers coach and would be a nice addition to the Packers coaching staff.
The biggest example of LaFleur and the Packers front office wanting to distance themselves from the McCarthy era comes with the departure of James Campen. News broke on Sunday that the longtime offensive line coach and last season’s run game coordinator had accepted a position with the Cleveland Browns.
Campen had made a name for himself with his work as the Packers offensive line. He has helped develop David Bakhtiari become one of the best offensive tackles in the league. He also took undrafted free agent offensive lineman that Ted Thompson had dumped on him and made them into serviceable NFL offensive lineman. While it is understandable that LaFleur would want his own coach, losing Campen is a big loss for the Packers coaching staff.
Interim head coach/offensive coordinator Joe Philbin has also been permitted to interview with other teams. He is scheduled to interview for the Minnesota Vikings offensive line coaching position. Philbin stepped in as the interim head coach when the Packers fired McCarthy this past season. He is a long time Packers assistant. He was actually a holdover from Mike Sherman’s staff. Because Philbin was passed over for the Packers head coaching position, it seemed like the Packers and Philbin would part ways. But with the recent news of Campen departing, there is a chance, albeit slim, that Philbin might return. Philbin’s background is in coaching offensive line. It is possible he is kept to oversee that unit.
LaFleur and the Packers have started to interview possible candidates to join the Packers coaching staff. Along with Dorrell, it has been reported that former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathanial Hackett has interviewed for an unspecified position on the Packers coaching staff.
The Packers also interviewed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken. It was reported that Monken was the runner up to LaFleur for the Packers head coaching job. Unfortunately, Monken is now off the market. He too will be joining the Cleveland Browns, presumably as the Browns offensive coordinator. If LaFleur had an interest in Monken as his offense coordinator, he will now have to go back to the drawing board.
A lot of changes will be occurring at 1265 Lombardi Avenue. The assistant coaches that were brought on by McCarthy seem to be on their way out. Right or wrong, change is necessary. Under McCarthy, the program became outdated and stale. The time to move on has arrived and it will be up to LaFleur to change things up. All indications are pointing to LaFleur putting his own stamp on this team. For Packers fans, they are hoping LaFleur’s stamp will bring the franchise more victories.