It has been two weeks since the Green Bay Packers named Matt LaFleur as their new head coach. Not only has LaFleur been busy trying to get accustomed to living in Green Bay, but he has been busy putting together his first coaching staff as the Packers head coach. His first decision, some would say his most important one, was retaining defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. With Pettine back in the fold, LaFleur can focus on filling the rest of his staff.
Green Bay Packers Coaching Staff Under Matt LaFleur Starting to Take Shape
Pettine isn’t the only coordinator that has been named to the Packers coaching staff. Last week it was officially announced that joining the Packers coaching staff as offensive coordinator will be Nathaniel Hackett.
Hackett has been an offensive coordinator for two teams in NFL. His first stint as an NFL offensive coordinator was with Buffalo Bills from 2013-2014 under then head coach Doug Marrone. After his stint in Buffalo, he was hired as the quarterbacks coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He took over as the offensive coordinator and play caller in week nine of the 2016 season for the Jaguars. He held that position until week 12 of last season when Jaguars head coach Marrone fired him.
In 2017, Hackett’s only full season as the Jaguars offensive coordinator, the Jaguars offense finished fifth in points per game. They also finished sixth in yards per game. That season, the Jaguars advanced to the AFC Championship game, where they were beaten in by the New England Patriots.
But last season, the Jaguars offense struggled. A lot of that had to do with the quarterback play of Blake Bortles. Bortles performed so poorly, he lost his starting job. Some have said that Marrone made Hackett the scapegoat for the Jaguars overall struggles.
LaFleur and Hackett share similarities. Both are 39 years old and both are coach’s sons. Hackett’s father, Paul Hackett, was a longtime NFL offensive coordinator. Although he and LaFleur have never worked together before, they are hoping that their past experiences can develop a high octane offense in Green Bay. Most importantly, the duo is hoping to get quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ play back to the high standards he had established before last season.
Hackett will be the Packers offensive coordinator but he won’t be responsible for play calling. In LaFleur’s introductory press conference, he announced that he would be responsible for calling the offensive plays. This is similar to what former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy did for most of his tenure as the Packers head coach. Taking this off Hackett’s plate will allow Hackett to focus on Rodgers and the weekly offensive game planning.
Longtime Packers Coach Departs
From 2004 until last season, James Campen had been a part of the Packers coaching staff. He was also a player for the Packers from 1989-1993. But next season, Campen will be on the sideline for a different NFL team.
After LaFleur allowed him to interview with other teams, Campen was hired by the Cleveland Browns as their new associate head coach/offensive line coach. Not only will the Packers be losing one of their longest-tenured assistant coaches, but they will also be losing one of their best.
As the Packers offensive line coach, and last season their run game coordinator, Campen got the most out of the Packers offensive line. He helped develop current Packers offensive linemen Bryan Bulaga, David Bakhtiari, and Corey Linsley, but also former Packers offensive linemen Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang.
Former general manager Ted Thompson never did Campen many favors. It was rare that Thompson would select an offensive lineman high in the NFL draft. Instead, Thompson expected Campen to develop middle round picks, something Campen frequently did.
Replacement for Campen
Now, the duty of coaching the men who will protect Rogers will fall on Adam Stenavich’s shoulders. Stenavich, a Marshfield, WI native, spent last season as the San Francisco 49ers assistant offensive line coach under head coach Kyle Shanahan. There is no doubt that LaFleur consulted with Shanahan before the Stenavich hire. LaFleur coached with Shanahan when both were assistants with the Atlanta Falcons. LaFleur was also an assistant with Kyle when both were assistants under Kyle’s father Mike Shanahan when he was the Washington Redskins head coach.
With the expectation that LaFleur will run a similar offense to the Shanahans, it isn’t a surprise that Stenavich would be hired. Stenavich spent just one season as the 49ers assistant offensive line coach. Before arriving in San Francisco, he was the offensive line coach for Northern Arizona and San Jose State.
While the Packers offensive line finished third in sacks given up, with 53, the 49ers offense wasn’t too far behind. Last season, the 49ers offense gave up 48 sacks, which was ninth in the NFL. While they struggled against the pass, they did help 49ers finish 13th in rushing yards with 1,902.
The hire of Stenavich comes with some major risk. The Packers chances of getting back to the playoffs falls on the shoulders of Aaron Rodgers. If he is hit or even worse, injured, their chances of winning all but goes out the door. That unit responsible for protecting Rodgers is now in the hands of a first-time offensive line coach. Stenavich has some big shoes to fill. If the unit he is responsible for falters, it will show poorly not only on Stenavich but LaFleur who hired him.
A New Face Joins Packers Coaching Staff
Another new face will be presumably joining the Packers coaching staff. It has been reported that Kirk Olivadotti will be hired as the Packers linebackers coach. While nothing is official, it is presumed that he will be the inside linebackers coach, a position formerly held by former longtime Packers assistant Winston Moss. Moss was fired during last season by interim head coach Joe Philbin.
Olivadotti comes over from the Redskins. He was with the Redskins for two stints, from 2000-2010 and from 2014-2018. In his latter stint, he was the Redskins linebackers coach. Just like with LaFleur, Pettine, and Hackett, he is the son of a coach. Tom Olivadotti was a longtime NFL assistant, most notably with the Miami Dolphins.
Familiar Faces Return
It has also been reported that some other familiar faces will be returning to Green Bay. Last season’s running backs coach Ben Sirmans will be returning to Green Bay. Sirmans was hired in 2016 as the Packers running backs coach. Under his guidance, he has helped develop current Packers running backs Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams.
While Jones and Williams have developed under Sirmans’ guidance, his best work might have been with Ty Montgomery. Sirmans helped with converting Montgomery from wide receiver to running back. While Montgomery never became an every-down running back, he did become a contributor to the Packers offense. Jones and Williams are still a work in progress, LaFleur is wagering that they can keep developing under Sirmans guidance.
Also reportedly being retained is secondary coach Jason Simmons. Simmons started with the Packers as an administrative assistant. He held that position from 2011-2014 before being named as a special teams assistant. He was promoted to the Packers secondary coach prior to the 2018 position.
In his first stint as the secondary coach, he worked with the Packers young cornerbacks. Last year’s first-round draft pick Jaire Alexander had a solid first season. Just like with Sirmans and the running backs, LaFleur is hoping that Simmons can keep up the work with Alexander, Kevin King, and Josh Jackson.
Although he wasn’t on the Packers coaching staff last season, Luke Getsy will be returning to the Packers coaching staff. Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com has reported that he will be the new quarterbacks coach.
Getsy worked under McCarthy from 2014-2017. He was the wide receivers coach from 2016-2017. Last season, he served as the offensive coordinator for Mississippi State. When he was with the Packers, it was reported that he had a close relationship with Rodgers. That relationship will help now that he will serve as Rodgers position coach.
The top three assistant positions LaFleur needed to name were defensive coordinator, offensive line coach, and special teams coordinator. So far, he has named two out of the three. But it looks like he swung and missed on naming a replacement for Ron Zook.
Under Zook’s guidance, the Packers special teams were downright horrible. Packers fans rejoiced when news broke that he wouldn’t return. It appeared that the Packers and LaFleur had their sights set on arguably the best available candidate on the market, Miami Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi.
Rizzi interviewed with the Packers for their open special teams coordinator position. However, he left without a contract. Now reports have surfaced that with the Packers refusing to pay top dollar for Rizzi’s services, the search will continue without him.
The lack of deal falls on the shoulders of vice president of football operations Russ Ball. Ball controls the contracts for players but also assistant coaches. If a deal couldn’t have been worked out, it isn’t hard to figure out who was behind the lack of a deal.
With presumably Ball refusing to meet Rizzi’s contract demands, the Packers now will have to scour the available special teams coaches market to find the coach to fix the Packers special teams woes.
A New Era Starts
It appears that the Packers and LaFleur are distancing themselves from longtime McCarthy assistants. Along with Campen not returning, the Packers parted ways with longtime Packers assistant Joe Whitt Jr.
Whitt oversaw the Packers cornerbacks for many seasons. Not only did he help develop young Packers cornerbacks but also helped veterans like Charles Woodson, Al Harris, and Tramon Williams become top veteran cornerbacks. Whitt wasn’t out of work for long. He was recently named the defensive passing coordinator for the Browns.
It is understandable that the Packers and LaFleur want to distance themselves from the McCarthy era, but he is taking a big risk in losing good assistants like Campen and Whitt. But just like with the hire of LaFleur, time will only tell if the moves he makes for the Packers coaching staff are the right ones. But time isn’t on LaFleur’s side. The Packers are a team that is built to win now, so LaFleur and his Packers coaching staff will need to get to work right away.