Since the beginning of Ted Thompson’s tenure as general manager of the Green Bay Packers, the team has made headlines around the league for its incredible success through the “draft-and-develop” philosophy. While the players are a key reason for the success that the team has attained, there is another reason that is often over looked: the coaching staff.
It took Ted Thompson only one year into his reign within the Packers organization to find his head coach. Following the dismissal of Mike Sherman after a dismal 4-12 season in which former quarterback Brett Favre threw for a league-high 29 interceptions, Thompson knew a change was needed.
However, where it came from is what was most unexpected. During the 2005 season, Mike McCarthy led a San Francisco 49ers offense that ranked dead last (32nd) in the league. In addition, Favre campaigned publicly for the hiring of Steve Mariucci and vented to the press about his dissatisfaction about not being more involved in the hiring process.
After a rocky 4-8 start in his first season as head coach, McCarthy rallied the team to a four-game winning streak to end the season. Also, the following year, the team tied a franchise-record with 13 regular season wins before faltering in the NFC Championship Game to the eventual Super Bowl Champions. Even after the Brett Favre saga, McCarthy has been able to maintain success with his team, a fact that can only be obtained with great chemistry with his players, coaching staff, and the front office.
The Packer coach never quarrels with his assistants on the field or behind the scenes for that matter. He has had one assistant become a head coach at the collegiate level (Jeff Jagodzinski) and potentially has one current assistant campaigning to take over the Penn State coaching job (Tom Clements). Not only does he have excellent rapport with his coaches, but his star quarterback as well.
Aaron Rodgers is Mike McCarthy’s most prized football possession. Without the other, neither would have reached the success they have attained together. From a Super Bowl XLV victory, a potential MVP award for Rodgers this season, or the potential for a perfect season, the two are attached at the hip and have the utmost confidence in each other. Very few players are ever given the type of trust bestowed by McCarthy. This transference of trust is a major reason for McCarthy’s players always being willing to play their hearts out for him.
Following the departure of Jeff Jagodzinski in 2006, Aaron Rodgers was preparing to work with his third offensive coordinator in as many years. Thankfully, the Packers hired Joe Philbin to take the reigns, effectively providing stability to an intricate offense that desperately requires it.
Because of the work that Philbin has done and the success he has provided, the Packers have not had any reason to determine whether or not they need to go in a different direction offensively. In other words, Philbin is a major reason that we have a quarterback that works like Aaron Rodgers and not Alex Smith.
However, the offensive assistants also need to be commended for their work.
Tom Clements, the quarterbacks coach has helped tutor Aaron Rodgers into an MVP-caliber quarterback, former seventh-round draft pick Matt Flynn into a future NFL starter, and former collegiate system-quarterback and NFL castoff Graham Harrell into an MVP’s backup. He is demanding of perfection, a trait that fits in well with Aaron Rodgers’ attitude, which is that of, well, a perfectionist.
Edgar Bennett has helped shape the running back position as well as the receivers ever since former WR coach Jimmy Robinson left for the Dallas Cowboys. Neither position has missed a beat and have only become more successful as the players continue to develop under his watch. Jordy Nelson has managed to breakthrough, giving Greg Jennings some relief on the opposite side of the field. Not only that, but Bennett seems to have helped contain James Jones's dropped passes problem resulting in more big plays for the Packer offense. Randall Cobb has shown glimpses of the game-changing ability that has been talked about among the other wide receivers on the roster.
To get a better glimpse as to how good the coaching staff is, Tori Gurley, a wide receiver on the Packers’ practice squad, turned down the opportunity to be a member of the Minnesota Vikings’ active squad, instead remaining on the Packers.
Immediately following a disappointing 2008 season, McCarthy decided it was time for a radical change on the defensive side of the ball. In doing so, McCarthy likely changed the path of the franchise by hiring Dom Capers.
Capers has been able to convince a squad that had worked in a 4-3 defense for the majority of their careers and likely turned around several of the players’ careers. Before the switch, Tramon Williams was toiling in the depth chart behind Charles Woodson and company. Building of Woodson, the future Hall of Famer has already won one Defensive Player of the Year award and is fighting for a second this season. Clay Matthews III was the runner-up for the DPOY award last season and has been a defensive staple for the league since his rookie season.
The inside linebackers coach, Winston Moss, is also the assistant head coach and has been mentioned around the league for possible head coach openings. Secondary coach Darren Perry has been linked to openings for defensive coordinator positions following his work with Woodson, Williams, Nick Collins, and Morgan Burnett.
Kevin Greene, the outside linebacker coach, has made hiring former All-Star players as coaches popular again. Donning the “wildman” hairstyle that his star pupil, Clay Matthews, has himself, Greene has become one of the more popular coaches on the Green Bay staff.
Special Teams Coaches
Despite a terribly rough start to his first season as special teams coordinator, Shawn Slocum finally has the pieces necessary to build a competent squad. The kicking combination of Mason Crosby and Tim Masthay has allowed Slocum to be more aggressive with his coverage schemes. Both kickers have exceptional legs and accuracy, not to mention that they both excel in cold weather situations, an ideal trait for a Packer kicker.
In the past two years, Jarrett Bush has emerged as one of the better gunners in the league, assisting Masthay with his net average numbers. In addition to helping on punts, Bush helps cover kickoffs as well. While he may have been spurned his first few years on the team due to dumb penalties and blown assignments, Bush has solidified his game under Slocum, making the coordinator appear capable of handling the job for the long haul.