Why a defensive-minded coach would be best for Rodgers, Packers

B

Bob McGinn

Guest
BY ROB REISCHEL

Hire a defensive-oriented head coach.

Give Aaron Rodgers control of the offense.

Get out of the way.

That’s the message being conveyed by two of Rodgers’ close friends these days.

Linebacker Brady Poppinga, who was part of Rodgers’ draft class in 2005 and played in Green Bay for six seasons, said he talks to Rodgers “all the time.” And Poppinga believes Green Bay’s offense will be most effective if Rodgers is put in charge of it.

“You’ve got to basically treat Aaron as he’s the guy that’s going to call the plays,” Poppinga said. “He is the offensive coordinator and we’re going to let him go. And if a coach comes in there and does that, they’re going to have tremendous success. If they don’t, if they try to make Aaron, ‘fall in line’, then there’s going to be friction, there’s going to be conflict and things are not going to go well.

“You’ve got to get a guy who will coach Aaron to where he is right now and that’s something Mike (McCarthy) was unwilling to do. And where he’s at right now is you have to give him full autonomy. You’ve got to let him go and you’ve got to let him run the show, which he’s more than capable of.

“If you try to tell him what to do right now, he’s going to be like, ‘I believe I can figure this out myself.’ It’s like somebody telling you what you should write about. It’s frustrating. You don’t need that. You get to a certain level and you don’t need that anymore. You develop to a certain point where you feel like you should be unleashed and Aaron doesn’t want to be leashed anymore. That’s what it really comes down to. Mike didn’t want to unleash him. So Aaron wasn’t a coach killer. You’ve just got to get the right coach.”

James Jones, who played in Green Bay from 2007-’13 and again in 2015, is one of Rodgers’ closest confidants. Jones, who now works for the NFL Network, also believes the Packers should hire a defensive coach and give Rodgers far more freedom than he’s ever had.

“I talked to Aaron when they fired coach Mike and I said, ‘Who do you want as the head coach?’ ” Jones said on ‘The Herd With Colin Cowherd’ last week. “And he was like, ‘JJ, you know me. Like what kind of coach do you think I need?’ And I said that I would love to see you with a defensive-minded coach. He has the defense. He’ll get you a top-10 defense. You communicate with your offensive coordinator and you guys put up points.

“And I think that right there is what Aaron Rodgers needs. I think a defensive-minded coach will be great for Aaron. Everyone’s saying offensive coordinator, an offensive-minded coach. Aaron’s a two-time MVP, Super Bowl MVP. You’re not going to come in here and make Aaron look like, that much better. He’s already special. Get him a defensive coach.”

NFL rules stipulate that teams can only interview unemployed and collegiate coaches while its season is still going. Since the Packers fired Mike McCarthy on Dec. 2, they’ve interviewed former Detroit and Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell and former Colts coach Chuck Pagano.

Caldwell, who attended Beloit Memorial High School, coached offensive skill groups his entire career before going 62-50 during seven seasons as the head coach in Indianapolis and then Detroit. He also led the Colts to Super Bowl XLIV, where they lost to New Orleans.

Pagano was a lifelong defensive coach who went 53-43 in six seasons with the Colts.

Greg Jennings, a Packers receiver from 2006-’12 and now an analyst for FOX Sports, believes that whoever is the Packers’ next coach will have their hands full with Rodgers.

“In this situation, it is a job you think of in great detail, meaning not only am I taking on the Green Bay Packer organization, but I’m taking on Aaron Rodgers,” Jennings told Colin Cowherd. “I’m taking on one of the faces of the National Football League at 35 years old, and I have to overcome … we all saw what Mike McCarthy was unable to do, which was get the best out of an Aaron Rodgers talent that he possibly could.

“You’re going to be coming in, starting from scratch (with) a guy who has one of the highest IQs in football, who believes he knows just about everything, if not all of everything. Can you be thick-skinned enough, strong willed and strong minded enough to butt heads with that at times and tell him, ‘No. This is how we’re going to do it. This is what you need to know and this is how I can help you grow.’ That’s going to be the challenge for the Green Bay Packers.”

Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila played in Green Bay from 2000-’08 and held the Packers’ all-time sack record (74.5) until Clay Matthews broke it in 2017. KGB watched as the torch was passed from Brett Favre to Rodgers after the 2007 campaign, then saw Rodgers become more difficult to coach and to play with.

“When Aaron became ‘The Man,’ he was ‘The Man’, especially in his own eyes,” Gbaja-Biamila said. “Let’s just put it that way. Things just changed. I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to lie to you. It’s hard for me to say this without causing drama.

“But I will say that between Brett and Aaron — and I’m just being honest here so do what you want with this — with everything that Brett accomplished, you would think he’d be a little more arrogant, but he was actually more humble. And I felt that Aaron was a little bit more on the arrogant side.

“Maybe he felt that was the best way to command the respect of his teammates. I don’t know. Maybe that was just his leadership style. I don’t know. But I would say from the time he arrived to the time he became a starter, I felt that he changed, and it wasn’t for the better.”

Rodgers has continued to change over the last decade, and along the way, he’s won a Super Bowl, two NFL MVPs and a Super Bowl MVP. Rodgers has never been shy about flaunting his intelligence, and former teammates tell stories of how he would be the first one to have his hand up to answer questions in most team meetings.

Rodgers won’t be involved in the interviewing process for the next head coach. But if he wants to express his opinions, president Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst will listen.

“My door is open. Brian’s is open,” Murphy said earlier this month. “We have good relationships with Aaron, tremendous respect for him. He’s not going to be making the decision on who our next coach is, but we’d welcome any input.”

With Poppinga and Jones at the forefront, Rodgers is clearly sending a message that he’d like a defensive coach. And in the process, he would love control of the offense.

“Aaron has been in the league 13 years (actually 14),” Poppinga said. “He’s seen every defense. He’s been attacked in every single way. He knows how to read defenses, he knows how to call games.

“He looks over at the Los Angeles Rams sideline and sees Sean McVay who’s four years younger than him, Aaron has far more experience calling games and knowing how to call games than someone like that and he’s saying, ‘Why shouldn’t I do that? Why shouldn’t I be able to do that?

“You’ve got to trust that he’s good enough of a quarterback and player to handle that and to get you where you want to go. I think that will eventually be the case and the Packers will give him the offense.”

Peyton Manning had almost complete control of the offense in Indianapolis and later Denver. Prior to that, Buffalo’s Jim Kelly was the last NFL quarterback to largely call his own plays.

Rodgers clearly would like that type of responsibility in future seasons. Whether or not the Packers feel that’s best remains to be seen.

“If they don’t give him that responsibility, then they won’t get the best out of him, which means you won’t get the most out of your team and you’ll have wasted years away,” Poppinga said. “Somebody needs to step in there and let Aaron be Aaron and be supportive instead of being kind of the hierarchical patriarch of the team. Just be on equal levels with him, work together and side by side instead of having anything go through the ranks like it was with McCarthy. No, you can’t do that anymore. Aaron’s been around too long for that.

“I’m telling you, it really comes down to unleashing Aaron and letting him do what he’s always wanted to do which is take the full brunt and the full responsibility of the offense and put it right on him. Put it right on his own shoulders. I know he’s willing to accept the responsibility of it, he’s willing to accept the consequences if it fails, so put it on him. And my money says that is going to take Aaron to a level that he hasn’t been to in a long, long time.”

Philbin’s message: Interim head coach Joe Philbin had an interesting message for his team heading into their Week 17 matchup against Detroit.

“The reality of it is some of these guys may never see each other the rest of their natural lives on Earth, right, because things change in the National Football League regardless of the win-loss record you had that particular year,” Philbin said. “So just basically, let’s enjoy the week. This is an opportunity for us to put together one final game.

“And really, they’ll never regret finishing the season strong. I said guys, ‘you’ll probably, five years from now you’re not probably going to remember the score of the Jets game, you know. Buy you’ll remember the feelings you had in the locker room. It didn’t matter what the teams’ record was. It’s still an awesome opportunity to go out there and compete and play in the National Football League. And to do it for the Green Bay Packers is, it’s about as good as it gets.”

Uncertainty everywhere: Green Bay’s assistant coaches are in limbo about their future. It’s also unclear whether the assistants will be allowed to interview with other teams before the Packers hire their next head coach.

“It’s the elephant in the room,” Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said of the staff. “We’re not in the business, in any aspect of our job, to sweep stuff under the carpet. That’s been something from day 1, hey if there’s an issue, let’s talk about it, and let’s air it out. This is no different.

“We’ve had discussions about it, brief, but I think a lot of it is the anxiety of not knowing. But as far how they’ve handled it — as I would have expected them to handle it. They’ve all been very professional, it hasn’t affect their work. They have a job to get their players prepared to go and they’ve done that.”

No sugarcoating it: Green Bay’s special teams were legendarily bad on Sunday against the Jets.

The Packers allowed a 99-yard touchdown return by New York’s Andre Roberts and a 51-yard return by Roberts late in regulation that helped force overtime. Green Bay’s J’Mon Moore lost a fumble on a kick return and the Jets converted a fake punt.

“That’s about as bad a game as we’ve had since I’ve been here and sometimes they happen,” Packers special teams coordinator Ron Zook said. “But if you go back and look, one or two guys doing what they need to be doing, then obviously those things don’t happen.”

From the infirmary: Wideout Davante Adams (knee), cornerback Jaire Alexander (groin) and wideout Equanimeous St. Brown (concussion) did not participate in practice Wednesday or Thursday.

Left tackle David Bakhtiari (hip), safety Kentrell Brice (ankle), defensive lineman Fadol Brown (toe), right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee), wideout Randall Cobb (concussion), tight end Jimmy Graham (knee/thumb), linebacker Clay Matthews (back), guard Lucas Patrick (abdomen), tackle Jason Spriggs (concussion) and guard Lane Taylor (knee) were all limited.

Cobb is out of the concussion protocol, but Spriggs is not.



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Mark87

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Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila played in Green Bay from 2000-’08 and held the Packers’ all-time sack record (74.5) until Clay Matthews broke it in 2017. KGB watched as the torch was passed from Brett Favre to Rodgers after the 2007 campaign, then saw Rodgers become more difficult to coach and to play with.

“When Aaron became ‘The Man,’ he was ‘The Man’, especially in his own eyes,” Gbaja-Biamila said. “Let’s just put it that way. Things just changed. I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to lie to you. It’s hard for me to say this without causing drama.

“But I will say that between Brett and Aaron — and I’m just being honest here so do what you want with this — with everything that Brett accomplished, you would think he’d be a little more arrogant, but he was actually more humble. And I felt that Aaron was a little bit more on the arrogant side.

“Maybe he felt that was the best way to command the respect of his teammates. I don’t know. Maybe that was just his leadership style. I don’t know. But I would say from the time he arrived to the time he became a starter, I felt that he changed, and it wasn’t for the better.”
Now that's the first guy who has come out an said what many folks speculated on. Interesting
 

GBP4EVER

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Heard Brett on Radio pimping for Darrell Bevell. Really? He sucks guy is not even in the NFL he got fired as a OC. He will be lucky if he can get a job as a QB coach much less a NFL HC job.
 

Mark87

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Heard Brett on Radio pimping for Darrell Bevell. Really? He sucks guy is not even in the NFL he got fired as a OC. He will be lucky if he can get a job as a QB coach much less a NFL HC job.
I would hire Bevell before Philbin or the 2 Colts retreads. He does have a history of working with QB and his short passing game is more pure WC then what MM ran.
 

Packinatl

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Let’s be honest the pool to choose from is not deep or causes much excitement. Even the hot coordinations like LaFleur don’t have a large sample size.
 
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I personally think Poppinga is a moron. Why would you put him in an article like this? I trust James Jones and think he knows AR very well. Seeing that we are stuck with AR for the next 2-3 years, letting him run most of the O may be the right way to go. Hire a D coach that can get this defense to the next level and stay out of the O.

But then I am not an expert so we will see what happens and which route they go.
 

Packinatl

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Rodgers is here 2-3 more years unless you think he ends his career in Green Bay. At some point you have to develop his replacement so do you want a guy to appease Rodgers or what’s best for the franchise long term. Sure you could hire a hot OC but if he produces he’s not a long term hire either.
 
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I agree, Pack but if we want to win another SB with AR maybe this would be the best way to go.

I want the Packers to hire the best coach for long-term but also want to get another SB with AR as well.

Perfect world. :)
 

TW

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The next Packer HC will orchestrate the end of the Rodgers era, and be the guy who get fired, along with Gutey, for the fact the team has tanked. A new group will come in and rebuild from scratch. No matter how much things change, this happens all the time in the NFL.

During this off season, with a new coach, decisions will be made on jettisoning a lot of salary along with marginal players, to start what is kind of a "farewell tour of three years" for Rodgers, where the offense sparkles, and hopefully the defense can be a little like the old Miami "no name" crew. We might see some of those 45-42 games like we have often expected from the Saints, and Falcons, at times.
 

rpiotr01

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I like this, because it offers actual insight. If those are real quotes from Poppinga and James Jones, then you know that's what Aaron is telling people. So that's some pretty close confirmation of Aaron's mindset - coaches are holding me back, I know better than them. What I need is a pushover like Philbin, or a defensive head coach who is going to give me a pushover OC.

And if his friends are saying this in the media, then you know that everyone associated with this coaching search is aware of it as well, from Murphy and Gute to their coaching list targets. I gotta say, it's not a good look. It doesn't mean they can't get someone good for the job, but specifically coaching the Green Bay Packers has to mean something to them because you're walking into a real challenging situation. If you want Josh McDaniels or Matt LaFleur, they are going to need some strong guarantees from Murphy and Gute that management has their back in sorting things out with Rodgers, even if that means moving on from him when the cap allows it. The big thing is, performance wise it's not like Rodgers has been kicking ass and taking names. You can't be a ~60% completion guy, throwing for fewer than 30TD, throwing the ball away at an alarming rate and then turn around and say that the problem is someone else. I know it's just one down season, but he's lost some clout to make demands like that.

Anyway, the more data you have, the better you can try to predict, so this is helpful.
 
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