Why Packers QB Coach Ben McAdoo Is Such an Intriguing Name in Coaching Circles

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IJanuary 8, 2014

GREEN BAY, WI - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL,  Ben McAdoo of the Green Bay Packers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images

Back in 1999, then Philadelphia Eagles executive vice president Joe Banner teamed with owner Jeffrey Lurie and director of football operations Tom Modrak to choose Andy Reid—a relatively unknown quarterbacks coach for the Green Bay Packers—to be the new head coach of the Eagles. 

Fourteen years later, Banner is at least flirting with the idea of going down the same path, this time as CEO of the Cleveland Browns and with current Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo. 

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported Tuesday that McAdoo will interview with Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi for the Browns' head-coach opening this week, with Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel confirming that the meeting will take place Wednesday. 

But even if McAdoo doesn't yet become the second coming of Reid, McAdoo is likely to have opportunities elsewhere as an offensive coordinator. His current contract in Green Bay does not prohibit him from entertaining such offers. And McAdoo can likely see that with Tom Clements in place as the Packers offensive coordinator, opportunities to move up the coaching chain in Green Bay are close to none. 

His brief but familiar coaching profile should give teams every reason to think he could shine in a promoted role. 

The rise up the coaching ranks has been a swift one for McAdoo, a 36-year-old assistant who spent his first five seasons in Green Bay coaching the tight end position (2006-10) before transitioning to quarterbacks coach in 2011. He's held that position for head coach Mike McCarthy ever since. 

While McAdoo has never served in a coordinator capacity at any level, Reid also lacked that experience when Banner made the surprising decision to hire him in 1999. 

In fact, the resume Banner and his team saw 14 years ago is almost identical to the one McAdoo possesses now. 

Reid, who went on to coach the Eagles to seven division titles, five trips to the conference championship game and one Super Bowl appearance, also spent five years as the Packers tight ends coach (1992-96) and two years coaching quarterbacks (1997-98). He worked directly under Mike Holmgren. 

Reid and McAdoo share a similar coaching rise.
Reid and McAdoo share a similar coaching rise.Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Age wasn't an issue back then. The Eagles hired Reid at age 40, which at the time made him the second-youngest head coach in the NFL. McAdoo would assume that title if hired by the Browns now. 

However, what McAdoo has accomplished during his brief time in the NFL that will carry much more weight than any comparison to Reid.  

Since arriving as an offensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints in 2004, McAdoo has logged 10 years working directly under McCarthy, one of the game's more respected offensive coaches.

He spent one year in New Orleans and another in San Francisco (2005), where McCarthy tasked him with the role of assistant offensive line coach. When McCarthy made the jump from offensive coordinator of the 49ers to head of the Packers in 2006, McAdoo tagged along and was named tight ends coach. 

He held the post for five years, grooming the likes of Donald Lee, Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless along the way. 

Lee, a three-year veteran before McAdoo arrived in Green Bay, went on to post career highs in catches (48), receiving yards (575) and touchdowns (six) in 2007, McAdoo's second year on the job. The five-year stretch under McAdoo saw Lee catch 145 passes for 1,361 yards and 15 touchdowns. 

Finley was McAdoo's biggest and most important project. 

A raw but physically talented third-round pick in 2008, Finley spent a year learning the pro game from McAdoo and the offensive coaches before exploding onto the scene in 2009. 

In over 13 regular-season games during his sophomore season, Finley caught 55 passes for 676 yards and five touchdowns. He then went off in the Wild Card Round of the NFC playoffs, catching six passes for 159 yards and a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Tight end Jermichael Finley #88 of the Green Bay Packers carries the ball against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on September 8, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Under McAdoo's direction, Finley looked like a budding star at the tight end position. 

That feeling hadn't changed four games into the 2010 season, as Finley put himself on pace for a year with over 80 catches and 1,200 yards. The Packers featured the tight end prominently in an offense that included the likes of Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and James Jones. 

Then Finley suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 5, and McAdoo was forced to prepared Quarless, a 2010 rookie, to play a starting role on a championship club. 

The tight end position became less and less important in the Packers offense without Finley, but McAdoo helped guide Quarless, and the unit never suffered. Eventually, Green Bay won Super Bowl XLV with Lee, Quarless and Tom Crabtree as the contributing tight ends. 

McAdoo also coaxed production out of Spencer Havner, a former college linebacker who made the transition to tight end while with the Packers. In 2009, Havner caught just seven passes, but four went for touchdowns. 

That season, the Packers tight ends caught 99 passes for 1,048 yards, both franchise records. 

The diverse position group, of which Finley, Quarless and Havner were occasionally a handful, gave McAdoo on-the-job training for working with the many personalities of an NFL locker room. 

“Coaching in this league has probably changed a little bit,” McAdoo said, via Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “How young the guys are coming in, you have to help them transition into being a young man and being a productive human being. The better job you do there, it shows up on the field.”

It is McAdoo's work with quarterbacks that likely has teams most excited. 

Packers Quarterbacks Under Ben McAdoo
GCmp/AttYrdsTD/INTPasser Rating
Aaron Rodgers25564/842683156/14106.9
Matt Flynn5102/16611467/486.1
Scott Tolzien355/907171/566.8
Seneca Wallace316/241390/164.4
Graham Harrell42/4200/064.6
Source: Pro Football Reference

In just two years, McAdoo has received the game's most valuable survival guide on coaching the position, given in parts by working alongside McCarthy and Clements. Few could provide more insight on teaching the position. 

Before becoming an offensive coordinator in 2005, McCarthy spent nine years coaching quarterbacks in Kansas City and Green Bay. Those jobs put McCarthy in charge of Joe Montana and Brett Favre, two giants of the profession. 

Now a head coach, McCarthy still works directly with the quarterback position. And in the offseason, he conducts a quarterback school that has gained widespread recognition for its work with fundamentals and development of the position. 

At his season-ending press conference Wednesday, McCarthy appeared cognizant of the fact that McAdoo could leave his staff. 

"He’s prepared himself for opportunities that are out there," McCarthy said, via Wes Hodkiewicz of the Press-Gazette. "I think the world of Ben. I’ve seen him diligently prepare himself to move forward."

Clements' football history is even richer at quarterback.

SAN DIEGO - NOVEMBER 6:  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers and Head Coach Mike McCarthy speak during the against the San Diego Chargers on November 6, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Before entering the coaching ranks, Clemens won a National Championship at Notre Dame (1973) and a Grey Cup with Ottawa Rough Riders (1976). He then spent 12 years coaching quarterbacks, including eight in the NFL. 

A two-year stint as the offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills eventually led to Clements landing a job as Green Bay's quarterbacks coach, a title he held for six years. He was instrumental in Favre's late-career resurgence and the development of Rodgers. 

When Clements was promoted to offensive coordinator after Joe Philbin left the post to become the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, McAdoo's development as an offensive coach took its next step. 

For two years, McAdoo helped develop and prepare Rodgers, one of the game's elite quarterbacks. During that span, Rodgers threw 56 touchdowns against just 14 interceptions, good for a passer rating of 106.9. 

"He’s a guy who really puts the time in," Rodgers said Tuesday, via Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee. "He’s got an incredible work ethic, and I think he’s really worked hard to become a better coach in the time that we’ve spent together and a guy who I really trust."

This past season gave McAdoo a trial by fire for dealing with adversity. 

When Rodgers broke his collarbone in Week 9, McAdoo was called on to help prepare a trio of quarterbacks that included Seneca Wallace, a veteran who hadn't played since 2011, Scott Tolzien, a former undrafted free agent and Matt Flynn, who had been cut by both the Bills and Raiders in 2013. 

The Packers struggled at times at the position, but eventually Flynn helped right the ship long enough for Green Bay to win the NFC North title in Week 17. 

Using four different quarterbacks, the Packers threw for 4,538 yards, 25 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Their combined quarterback rating was 91.7. 

“I’m happy for Ben and the opportunities he gets, he deserves,” Rodgers said. “He’s a guy who works extremely hard." 

Rodgers also praised McAdoo for his improving ability to "control a room," a trait Rodgers feels is important for a head coach. 

While a Reid-like promotion might not be in McAdoo's immediate future, a move up the coaching chain almost certainly is. And it's easy to see why teams would want to give him that chance. 

A young coach educated in a number of offensive workings by some of the best in the business, McAdoo has a bright future. Expect his name to be one that sticks around the NFL's always-spinning coaching carousel.


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