The seemingly inevitable happened in Green Bay on Sunday.
Fed up with a stagnant offense, a stale message and dramatic drop-off from the level of excellence that the storied franchise has long upheld, the Packers fired head coach Mike McCarthy.
Now team president Mark Murphy faces the challenge of finding a coach who will reinvigorate the organization and capitalize on Aaron Rodgers’ remaining years of peak play by giving him a potent offense, while also helping resolve longstanding inconsistencies on defense.
If he’s able to accomplish these key goals, the next Packers coach has a very good chance of quickly restoring this team to the ranks of the league’s contenders.
The Packers find themselves in a unique position. They aren’t in complete rebuild mode, although they need help with their pass rush and at safety, among other places . But because of the presence of Rodgers, the Packers have both a head start on many teams and a smaller window of opportunity than much of their competition. A long and painful rebuild would waste precious time in the 35-year-old passer's career.
In teaming with Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst and executive vice president/director of football operations Russ Ball, the new coach must help position the Packers for a quick rebound. It’s certainly possible. Just look to the Rams.
In two aggressive offseasons, new coach Sean McVay worked with general manager Les Snead and team president Kevin Demoff to reverse the damage from the Jeff Fisher’s outdated approach. The Rams now have won the NFC West in back-to-back years and rank among the league’s fiercest competitors.
It’s easier said than done, as Jon Gruden's Raiders and Pat Shurmur's Giants could attest. But with an attention to detail, strong communication and leadership skills, and an ability to connect with his players, the next Green Bay coach can turn things around in a year’s time.
The Packers can’t make the mistake of trying to find the next McVay, though, as it’s rare that a 30-something-year-old coach with limited coordinator experience possesses the vision, maturity and leadership skills to thrive instantly.
Because of the necessary win-now mode in which the franchise finds itself, Green Bay would do well to pursue a more seasoned coach.
Lincoln Riley will undoubtedly be a popular name due to his success with Oklahoma. NFL offensive coordinators such as the Vikings’ John DeFilippo and the Chiefs' Eric Bieniemy also have generated buzz this season. But the Packers should avoid the hype,. College coaches rarely make smooth transitions to the NFL. Meanwhile, DeFilippo is in his second year as a play-caller (he served the same role for the Browns in 2015), while Bienemy hasn't held the responsibility for Kansas City.
Rodgers doesn’t have time to wait for his next boss to grow into the job. And after clashing with McCarthy, it’s important that the quarterback has a coach he deeply respects.
Two candidates in particular give the Packers their best chance to win now: Josh McDaniels and Jim Caldwell.
McDaniels is arguably one of the top four offensive minds in the league (McVay, Andy Reid and Sean Payton being the others). He already has demonstrated an ability to take advantage of an all-time talent at quarterback in Tom Brady by providing him with a versatile attack.
McDaniels no doubt will generate some sideways looks given how he backed out on the the Colts' top job last offseason. But the appeal of remaining in New England in hopes of embarking on one more championship run with Brady and Bill Belichick is indeed strong.
However, with Green Bay offering similar perks – a stable franchise, Hall of Fame quarterback, loyal fan base – McDaniels could be inclined to make the jump.
But McDaniels might not even be the Packers’ best option. That distinction could belong to Caldwell, who isn't a marquee name but certainly has the body of work and temperament for this job.
Unlike McDaniels, Caldwell has a proven track record guiding franchises. In seven seasons as a head coach, Caldwell went 62-50 with four playoff appearances. His Colts reached the AFC Championship in 2009. He also has two Super Bowl rings from his time as an offensive coordinator in Indianapolis and Baltimore.
The fact that Caldwell is without an NFL job is perplexing. He took the Lions to the playoffs twice in four years and was fired in 2017 after narrowly missing the postseason with a 9-7 record.
One aspect that makes Caldwell so appealing is his track record with established quarterbacks. After working with Brad Johnson in Tampa, he followed Tony Dungy to Indianapolis, where he helped guide Peyton Manning to his first Super Bowl before serving as head coach from 2009-11. After taking over as offensive coordinator in Baltimore, Caldwell helped Joe Flacco win his ring. Under Caldwell's leadership in Detroit, Matthew Stafford enjoyed some of his most productive seasons as a passer.
Coaches who have worked with Caldwell say he has a keen ability to comprehend what a quarterback does best and then elevate the player's game even further. He doesn’t try to reinvent his passers, a trait that Rodgers should find appealing.
Now it’s time to find someone who can take what Rodgers does best and blend it with a new but proven approach.
Follow Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.
Source: Read Full Article