There is a lot of blame to go around for the Green Bay Packers disappointing 2017-2018 season. General manager Ted Thompson should shoulder some of the blame for not providing the Packers enough quality depth behind their starters. Head coach Mike McCarthy should take some blame for failing to have third year quarterback Brett Hundley ready to hold down the fort while starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers recuperated from a broken collarbone.
Unfortunately, for Packers fans that are calling for both Thompson and McCarthy to lose their jobs, it appears neither of them are going anywhere and both returning next season. So that leaves defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who has drawn the ire of Packers fans for many seasons. Thompson hasn’t done Capers any favors by lack of free agent moves and providing Capers and the Packers defense with quality depth, still, it is hard to overlook the lack of production by the Packers defense. As Elisha Twerski of CheeseheadTV.com pointed out in a recent post, the Capers led Packers defense hasn’t had a top 10 finish since 2011. The time has come for McCarthy to part with Capers, a coordinator whom McCarthy has shown too much loyalty to throughout his tenure as Packers defensive coordinator. So in this installment, take a look at possible candidates to be the next Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator.
Possible Candidates to be the Next Green Bay Packers Defensive Coordinator
Now, the way McCarthy has been so loyal to Capers it still is up in the air if he actually will part ways with the long time NFL defensive coordinator. But there seems to be blood in the water and all signs point to Capers not returning next season. So it looks like it is a good time to look at who might be the next person in charge of the Packers defense. The list is broken down into several different categories, former head coaches, current NFL assistant coaches, internal candidates, and wild cards. Here is the list LWOS has come up with:
Former Head Coaches Who Were Defensive Coordinators
There are some intriguing candidates to choose from that have been head coaches in the NFL. However, it doesn’t mean they are interested in becoming a defensive coordinator. Two of these coaches might be more interested in becoming a head coach again or rather work in the front office of an NFL team. Interesting enough, all three of these candidates have a background in the 3-4 defense, a defense that the Packers currently run and might not want to get away from because of the personnel they currently have.
Rex Ryan isn’t the type of assistant you would expect Mike McCarthy to hire. While head coach of the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills, Ryan made a name for himself for being outspoken and bold, a personality the Packers haven’t had on their coaching staff.
Ryan wasn’t very successful as a head coach; his total regular season record as a head coach is 61-67. Despite that record, Ryan’s Jets and Bills defenses were the leaders of those teams. Before becoming a head coach, he was an assistant with the and helped make the Baltimore Ravens one of the best defenses in the league. Although hiring Ryan would be a major coupe for the Packers, it is very doubtful it will happen. Ryan seems like he rather wait to get another head coaching job and while doing so, is continuing his work with his current employee ESPN.
Marvin Lewis is currently the Cincinnati Bengals head coach, but all signs point to Lewis not returning. Lewis had some regular season success with the Bengals, with posting a 123-112-3 regular season record during his 15 seasons with the Bengals. However, his Bengals teams struggled in the playoffs, with never winning a playoff game and going 0-7.
While in charge of the Bengals, their defenses had some success, but some of that can be credited to their former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who is the Minnesota Vikings current head coach. Still, Lewis has made a name for himself running a defense. He was the defensive coordinator for the Ravens and was in charge when they won the Super Bowl in 2000 with one of the best defenses of all time.
However, like Ryan, there is some doubt that Lewis would take a step down and become a defensive coordinator again, instead waiting for another head coaching job or from what has been rumored working in a team’s front office.
Mike Nolan is currently the New Orleans Saints linebackers coach. Nolan is part of a staff that has helped turn around the Saints defense this season. He has been a defensive coordinator seven different times in the NFL, highlighted by his work with the Ravens from 2002-2004. He was the head coach for the San Francisco 49ers from 2005-2008, posting an 18-37 record, with the 49ers never reaching the playoffs in his tenure.
Nolan has a connection with McCarthy; it was Nolan that hired McCarthy as the 49ers offensive coordinator, a position that McCarthy held for just one season before becoming the Packers head coach. McCarthy might be willing to hire Nolan, like Nolan did for McCarthy back in 2005.
Current NFL Assistant Coaches
The NFL is a copycat league. If a current team is having success, another team that is struggling might want to have some of that success rub off on their franchise. This list of current assistant coaches includes two coaches that their current teams are having success and one candidate whose team is struggling but has a history of being in charge of successful defenses.
Vic Fangio is currently the Chicago Bears defensive coordinator. The Bears have struggled, but the lone bright spot has been the defense, currently ranking eighth in total defense. Before Fangio arrived in Chicago, he was the 49ers defensive coordinator from 2011-2014 and oversaw saw a defense that was one of the best in the NFL during that time. Interesting enough, Fangio is a disciple of Capers and has spent time on some of the same staffs that Capers has been on. It appears the Bears will be parting ways with current head coach John Fox after the season, which might allow Fangio to be a free agent and top target for some staffs.
Adam Zimmer is the current linebackers coach for the Vikings and is the son of Vikings head coach Mike. Zimmer doesn’t have the same type of experiences as some of the other candidates on this list, but he has the pedigree to possibly be ready to take the next step. His father has been one of the best defensive minds in the NFL and there is no doubt that Adam has learned a lot from his father. Although only 33 years of age, Zimmer has been an assistant since 2006, spending time on the Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Bengals, and Vikings staff. Currently the Vikings are ranked first in total defense. However, it might be difficult for the Packers, who are the arch rivals of the Vikings, to pry the younger Zimmer away from his father’s staff.
Perry Fewell is the defensive backs coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars who currently have the number three ranked total defense. Fewell has helped the Jaguars become the top ranked defense against the pass and helped develop Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Fewell has experience as a defensive coordinator, serving two tenures with the Bills and the New York Giants.
With Capers being the Packers defensive coordinator as long as he has, it illustrates how loyal McCarthy is to his own people. There is a very strong chance if McCarthy does make a change, he will promote from within – a decision simultaneously the most probable and likely the wrong decision. The Packers defense has struggled and the names listed have helped with those struggles. But still, with it being a high probability, here are the list of current assistants who might get the promotion.
Winston Moss came with McCarthy to the Packers in 2006. He has served as the assistant head coach in charge of the inside linebackers and currently overseeing all of the linebackers for the Packers. Moss has never been a defensive coordinator at any level and while in charge of just inside linebackers for the Packers that position has struggled. Still, McCarthy trusts Moss, hence, why he named Moss the assistant head coach. Moss might be looking to add more responsibility, but not sure he has earned it.
Joe Whitt Jr.
Joe Whitt started with the Packers back in 2009 and has accomplished a very strong job as their cornerbacks coach. Whitt help turn former undrafted cornerback Sam Shields into a number one cornerback but also earned the respect of veteran cornerback Charles Woodson. Woodson was the NFL defensive player of the year while Whitt was his position coach. Like Moss, Whitt has never been a defensive coordinator at any level. If McCarthy does promote within, the dark horse might be Whitt.
Like with Whitt, Mike Trgovac has been with the Packers since 2009 in charge of the Packers defensive line. Unlike Moss and Whitt, Trgovac has been a defensive coordinator in the NFL, successfully coordinating the Carolina Panthers from 2003-2008. If the Packers do promote Trgovac, the Packers most likely would promote assistant Jerry Montgomery to the defensive line coach position. Trgovac chose to leave the Panthers and move from a defensive coordinator position to a position coach, which might mean that he doesn’t have any interest in being a defensive coordinator again.
Wild Card Candidates
For the Packers, there isn’t a candidate that is off limits. The Packers defense needs to have some new energy pumped into it and that might come from an unknown candidate. Although there might be names that aren’t listed in this article, here are a couple of wild cards that might surprise some Packers fans.
Dave Aranda is well known to the state of Wisconsin. Aranda was the Wisconsin Badgers defensive coordinator from 2013-2015 and helped oversee one of the best defenses, not just in the Big Ten but in the nation. After the 2015 season, Aranda left to become LSU’s defensive coordinator, the position he currently holds. This past season, running a 3-4 defense, LSU finished with the 11th total defense in the nation. Aranda has never worked in the NFL, but in 2015 it was reported that Aranda interviewed for a position with the Packers, so McCarthy must have liked something he saw in Aranda to interview him for a position.
Recently on Twitter, KFAN’s Packer Preview host Dave Sinykin was asked if current Wisconsin Badgers defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard should be considered a candidate for the Packers defensive coordinator position. Surprisingly, Sinykin responded that he would rather see a defensive coordinator with experience in the NFL.
Well, they had that with Capers and it hasn’t gone too well as of late; the Packers could do a lot worse than Leonhard. Leonhard has been on the Badgers staff for two seasons, this last season being his first as the defensive coordinator. The Wisconsin native coordinated a defense that finished first in total defense in the nation. You want NFL experience? Leonhard was a defensive back in the NFL from 2005-2014, spending time with seven different teams. He might be short on experience as a defensive coordinator, but he has NFL experience.
This might be McCarthy’s biggest hire, if again he does let Capers go. The probability is high that Capers will not return, but it will be interesting to see if the rest of the defensive staff or part of it will return. The Packers need a change, unfortunately for Capers it looks like it will be him leaving.