Wow, it's late August already, and the regular season is just over three weeks away. The Chicago Bears are coming to Lambeau Field on Sunday, Sept. 13 to kick things off in high fashion.
Chicago coach Lovie Smith has said in the past that he's built teams almost exclusively around the idea of beating the Packers. It's the NFL's oldest rivalry, and these two teams just plain old don't like each other.
Historically, when Chicago has a successful season it seems to be predicated by their defense, while exactly the opposite can be said about the Packers.
In Green Bay, general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy have decided to address this situation by the hiring of 3-4 defensive guru Dom Capers; trying to bring new life to a group of players that cost the Packers far too many games last season.
Let's take a look at McCarthy, Capers, and the rest of the coaches offering advice to Green Bay personnel this season.
Oh, and for the record, I'm a big Douglas Adams fan. He's not football; he wrote the Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, which ended up being five parts. His initial intention was for a trilogy; so parts four and five had phrases on the cover like: "Part Four of the Increasingly Inaccurately Named Hitch-Hikers Trilogy."
This is Part Four of the increasingly inaccurately named Three Part Green Bay Packers Preseason Preview!
Make sure to look for Part Five, coming soon, in which I will wax philosophic about Ted Thompson and cover a few things I said I would cover in part three. Are you having fun yet? I certainly am! Here we go!
Just who is this Mike McCarthy guy anyway?
Michael John McCarthy is the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, a position he has held since Jan. 12, 2006. He is also the possesor of one of the coldest stares I have ever seen on a human being.
When I heard the news of McCarthy's hiring, replacing Mike Sherman at the Packers' helm, I can only say my immediate reaction was relief. As a fan far away from the Wisconsin heartland, I had certain unresolvable fears when it came to Mike Sherman.
As the coach and GM of the Packers, who had the responsibility of firing that man? He certainly wasn't going to fire himself. Something tells me it was Bob Harlan, director of football operations. Or maybe he gave the task to Thompson as his first thing to do upon taking over.
Either way, in my darkest moments I felt that Sherman would never leave, and the Packers would sink back into NFC obscurity as the leagues laughing stock yet again.
McCarthy could have been anybody really, as long as Sherman was gone.
As I looked into McCarthy's resume I discovered a few things. First and foremost was that he'd spent the last five years as the offensive coordinator for the New Orleans' Saints (2000-2005).
The Saints posted some interesting numbers in those years, not in the win column of course, but it can hardly be said that their biggest problems were on offense.
Digging a bit deeper showed a familiarity between McCarthy and the Packers, as he spent the 1999 season in Lambeau Field as quarterbacks' coach.
McCarthy has worked with many notable quarterbacks in the league, especially in his early days in Kansas City as offensive quality control coach and later as the QB coach. Names like Montana, Bono, Gannon, and Grbac all ring out to NFL fans.
Now, heading into his fourth year as Green Bay head coach McCarthy has had some success, with an NFC Championship game berth and three straight top-three offensive finishes.
Unfortunately for McCarthy, there are plenty of Packers' fans upset about last year's 6-10 record, and he certainly needs to find the playoffs this season to avoid calls for his job. This might not be the biggest deal elsewhere, but remember, this is Green Bay. These people are his bosses!
So what's your take on Mike McCarthy, overall?
I really like him as head coach of the Green Bay Packers.
Compared to the woeful Mike Sherman, McCarthy appears to have a definite plan that he is implementing and developing. He is an offensive-minded coach, but seems to be taking steps to improve his defense in the vicious NFC.
There will come a day when his young, inexperienced team will suddenly be a cohesive, veteran unit that instills the proper fear into their opponents on a weekly basis.
What about Winston Moss?
In brief, Moss is an interesting name in Packerland. His current title is Assistant Head Coach/Inside Linebackers, which is a switch from last year, where he oversaw all linebackers along with his assistant head coaching duties.
At only 43-years-old, with 22 years of NFL experience split evenly between playing and coaching, Moss seems to be on the fast track to success. A strong showing by the Packers this year, especially defensively, could mean a potential head coaching opportunity for him in the future.
Is it time to talk about Dom Capers and the 3-4?
It's here! Oh glory, faith and beggorah, hallelujah, it's here! I didn't think this day would ever come!
Dom Capers has been brought in, and the Green Bay Packers will no longer line up in the four defensive lineman, three linebacker position we as fans are oh so familiar with.
This is a great time for the Packers to make this change for several reasons.
The first and most obvious one is that 3-4 defenses win games, and Green Bay needs to start winning once in a while with their defense.
Capers brings some fantastic numbers to his new position. As defensive coordinator of the 2007 Dolphins, his squad allowed a superb 188.7 yards per game through the air. This is the 2007 Dolphins we're talking about here folks; not an elite squad.
In his first year (1999) as Jacksonville's defensive coordinator, the Jaguars led the league in fewest points allowed, 217, and were fourth in total defense.
They'd been 25th the previous year! Dom Capers fixes defenses!
Another good reason for the 3-4 in Green Bay has to do with the aging secondary. Al Harris and Charles Woodson still have a lot of football left in them, but may be ready to switch positions to safety in the next several years. A 3-4 scheme allows more opportunity for multiple defensive back sets.
With a lack of depth at the defensive line, the Packers should also benefit from only having three linemen out on the field at any given time.
Who's coaching the offense?
Joe Philbin is the returning offensive coordinator. He had a successful 2008 with two 1000-yard receivers, a 1,200-yard rusher, and the emergence of Aaron Rodgers as one of the most talented young quarterbacks in the league.
I hesitated to put the 1,200-yard rusher down as a success, due to the fact that Ryan Grant only averaged 3.7 yards per carry in 2008, which is pathetic.
Philbin's big job in 2009 is to work with running backs' coach Edgar Bennett and line coaches' James Campen and Jerry Fontenot (asst.) to improve the YPC.
Receivers' coach Jimmy Williams probably has a smile on his face so big the top of his head is about to fall off. Jimmy is blessed with one of the deepest, most talented receiving corps in the NFL, and his job is to keep them on track and producing at a high level.
Tom Clements has done fantastic work as the quarterbacks' coach with both Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn.
Maybe he can call Bobby Petrino for some advice on Brian Brohm.
Are all the defensive coaches new in 2009?
Not really, but there are a few new faces, some people have changed their jobs and there's one old face that's new again.
Defensive line coach Mike Trgovac is replacing someone but actually just got his old job back. He was defensive line coach in 1999 in Green Bay, the same year McCarthy was QB coach. Coincidence? Probably not.
Last year's defensive quality control coach Joe Whitt Jr. has been promoted to cornerbacks' coach. An interesting dimension to this is that Joe is 31-years-old. His starting corners are Charles Woodson, 32, and Al Harris, 34, which makes one hope Joe Whitt Jr. is well versed in respect and talking politely to his elders.
Scott McCurley, Joe Jr.'s replacement at quality control, was last year's coaching administrator and is in his fourth year with the Packers. This is his first stint as an actual coach.
Darren Perry comes to Green Bay from Oakland and will coach the safeties. He and outside linebackers' coach Kevin Greene are both in their first season with the Packers.
Wait a minute, did you say Kevin Greene?
I did indeed. Isn't that awesome? I think this is an inspired choice for a Green Bay Packers' squad looking to convert to the three-four.
Looking back to his playing days in Pittsburgh, he practically reinvented the concept of an outside linebacker, which should make his transition to coaching the position a nice fit.
Who is Shawn Slocum?
A very important man to the Green Bay Packers. Slocum is the Packers' new special teams coordinator, and his squad's play could make or break the Packers' season.
He's in his fourth year as a Packer, with the first three spent as the assistant to his current position.
His replacement at his old position is someone the Packers' nation will be a little familiar with. Curtis Fuller spent the 2003 season with the Packers as a back-up defensive back, and it's good to see him again.
Here's hoping some youth and fresh eyes can get the Packers' special teams on the right track.
How strong is Dave Redding?
I don't know, but for an older guy he looks tough! For those of you who don't know, Redding is the new Packers' strength and conditioning coach.
His resume is very impressive, and like I said, physically he looks like a very tough man. So that's good; the Packers are a team that is looking to shed a bit of a "soft" label, especially on defense, and the weight room is where that begins.
If the Packers have a hope of competing in the NFC they will have to be one of the league's healthier, better conditioned teams.
So what's the final analysis?
I have a lot of faith in Mike McCarthy; I like his passion, his enthusiasm, and his decision making.
I have already stated in a previous article that I don't believe the Packers will win the Super Bowl this year. If Dom Capers can work his magic a third time with this defense and the special teams mature rapidly under Slocum and Fuller, I may be forced to eat my words.
Which I will do. Happily.
Alright, Packers' fans, that wraps it up. I hope you had as much fun reading as I did writing, and we'll see you for part five, the Ted Thompson Chronicles!
Hey wait a minute! Wasn't this supposed to be a trilogy?
Yeah, I covered that in the intro. I'm sorry, and I'll try to be more careful in the future.
All right then. See that you do.