GREEN BAY — Whenever Mike McCarthy has made changes to his coaching staff – whether they were wholesale changes, as he did on defense after the 2008 season, or minor tweaks, with a few position coach comings and goings in recent years — the Green Bay Packers coach has always held off on announcing new hires until the full staff had been completed.
So it’s no surprise while McCarthy has, according to multiple NFL sources, hired his offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and a host of position coaches, there still hasn’t been an official word out of 1265 Lombardi Avenue on any of those additions.
Regardless, McCarthy has made significant changes —something he felt was necessary after a 7-9 finish, the team’s first playoff-less season since 2008 and quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone having exposed a number of holes in the roster.
“You have to be honest, you have to evaluate — even if you win the NFC Championship Game or you win the Super Bowl. You have to be real honest,” McCarthy said during his Jan. 4 end-of-the-season press conference when asked about the extensive staff changes. “The fact of the matter (is), there’s always an area to improve. Nothing ever stays the same. That’s the National Football League.
“You have to look for the opportunities — the method, the education, the application — to have continued success. That’s the biggest challenge. So this is really a reflection of (that). This is the course that I’m taking that I feel gives us the chance to be successful.”
The staff is expected to be completed at some point next week, with several position coach spots yet to be filled. Until then, here’s a look at where the Packers’ staff stands based on league sources:
Joe Philbin, the team’s offensive coordinator from 2007 through 2011, is set to return after three-plus seasons as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach — he was fired four games into the 2015 season — and two years as the Indianapolis Colts’ assistant head coach/offensive line coach. In five seasons with Philbin in charge of the offense — with McCarthy calling plays on game day, of course — the Packers never finished out of the top 10 in the 32-team league in total offense or scoring offense.
“Obviously, I think the world of Mike — not just as a football coach but he’s just a class human being. He does a great job with the team,” Philbin said in 2014 before the Packers played the Dolphins. “I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without him. He’s a guy that we certainly still reference and I certainly call him about some questions that I’ve had over the course of a couple years. I just think the world of him and I think he’s done just a fantastic job up there.”
In Frank Cignetti, Rodgers will have fifth quarterbacks coach as he enters his 14th NFL season, having had Darrell Bevell (2005), Tom Clements (2006-2011), Ben McAdoo (2012-2013) and Alex Van Pelt (2014-2017). Cignetti spent the past two seasons as the New York Giants’ quarterbacks coach under McAdoo, but his connection with McCarthy dates back to 2000, when Cignetti was the New Orleans Saints’ quarterbacks coach when McCarthy was their offensive coordinator.
With impressive young receivers coach Luke Getsy having moved on to be Mississippi State’s offensive coordinator, the Packers are bringing in Jim Hostler, who was in Indianapolis with Philbin and worked with McCarthy in San Francisco in 2005 to coach wide receivers.
Five assistant coaches — offensive line coach James Campen, assistant offensive line coach Jeff Blasko, running backs coach Ben Sirmans, tight ends coach Brian Angelichio and offensive perimeter coach David Raih — are all expected to return, though McCarthy could shuffle some responsibilities, having hinted he might make changes to the structure of the offensive staff after offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett was dismissed and Van Pelt’s contract ran out.
Curiously, Bennett’s name remains on the team’s official website, while other departed coaches’ names do not. Bennett was reportedly seeking other opportunities after initially turning down the chance to stay on as receivers coach.
Mike Pettine, who was a defensive coordinator with the New York Jets (2009-2012) and Buffalo Bills (2013) before going 10-22 in two seasons as the Cleveland Browns head coach, is McCarthy’s pick to replace Dom Capers, who spent nine years as the team’s defensive coordinator before being fired following the Packers’ Dec. 31 season-ending loss at Detroit. Pettine’s defense in New York in 2009 finished No. 1 in scoring defense and total defense, and none of his five defenses finished outside the top 10 in yards allowed.
One NFL source said McCarthy was extremely impressed with cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt’s interview for the defensive coordinator job, but he wanted someone with previous experience as a coordinator. That would explain McCarthy’s decision to bring Whitt back and give him a promotion and new title. While he’s expected to still coach the cornerbacks, Whitt will have added responsibilities as the Packers look to improve on their 23rd-ranked pass defense and increase their interception numbers from 11 in 2017, tied for 20th in the league.
Whitt was one of three in-house candidates for the coordinator job, and it’s unclear what safeties coach Darren Perry will do after Pettine was the pick. A league source said McCarthy wants Perry to return.
The third internal candidate for the job was longtime assistant head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss, who one NFL source said was not expected to be retained. The NFL Network reported Wednesday that Jim O’Neil, the Browns’ defensive coordinator under Pettine and the 49ers’ defensive coordinator in 2016, was interviewing with McCarthy, and O’Neil would be a logical hire to help Pettine install his defense.
The Packers will have to hire at least one defensive line coach after McCarthy dismissed veteran line coach Mike Trgovac and assistant defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, who was highly regarded and seemed to be Trgovac’s heir apparent, left to become the defensive line coach at Texas A&M.
McCarthy and Pettine will also have to decide whether they want to divide the task of coaching linebackers, as McCarthy had Moss and Scott McCurley working with linebackers for the past several seasons. McCurley was let go along with Trgovac, and defensive quality control coach Tim McGarigle — a possible replacement for McCurley —left for Northwestern.
McCarthy said Ron Zook, the special teams coordinator the past three seasons, will remain in that role, McCarthy said last week. His assistant, Jason Simmons, also is expected to remain.