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Did Coaching Changes Hurt Offense?

The offense slipped in its first season under coordinator Tom Clements

The offense slipped in its first season under coordinator Tom Clements

After years of continuity, Green Bay’s offensive coaching staff underwent major changes during this past offseason. After years of consistent productivity, the unit struggled to find itself this season. The Packers scored 127 fewer points and slipped from 3rd to 13th in yards. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not a coincidence.

To be fair, it should be noted that center Scott Wells left as a free agent and that wide receiver Greg Jennings missed eight games due to injuries. And while playing without two Pro Bowlers is obviously significant, it shouldn’t make that big of a difference – especially when you consider how well Randall Cobb and James Jones performed. So why has the offense slipped so much? The answer could be coaching.

After longtime and highly respected offensive coordinator Joe Philbin left for the Miami Dolphins, Mike McCarthy replaced him with quarterbacks coach Tom Clements. He then replaced Clements with tight ends coach Ben McAdoo. He then replaced McAdoo with running backs coach Jerry Fontenot. He then replaced Fontenot with former Tampa Bay quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt. Got all that? Some of the moves seemed puzzling at the time, but we all gave McCarthy the benefit of the doubt. Maybe we shouldn’t have.

McCarthy pretty much had to promote Clements, but it’s fair to wonder whether he was the best man for the job. He failed in his one previous stint as an offensive coordinator (Buffalo in 2004), and despite Green Bay’s great success on offense under McCarthy, only the Bears showed any interest in giving Clements the keys to their offense. That makes you wonder how he’s viewed around the league as an offensive mind.

As for McAdoo, Fontenot and Van Pelt, it’s fair to say that none of their position groups improved from a year ago. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn’t quite as good as he was in 2011. Tight end Jermichael Finley’s final numbers were similar, but he was a virtual non-entity for over half the season. Also, D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor didn’t show any real improvement in their second seasons. And the running game┬áremained as stagnant as ever until diminutive DuJuan Harris added a winter spark from off the street.

I’m not saying the new assistant coaches are the only reason for the drop in offensive productivity. Players obviously have to be held accountable. And so does McCarthy, the man calling the plays. Then again, there are those who will say the biggest reason for the struggles of the offense is the line. Of course, that would be ironic considering James Campen is one of only two assistants (WRs coach Edgar Bennett is the other) who was in the same job he held in 2011. Hmmm, maybe that should be my next post.

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8 Comments to "Did Coaching Changes Hurt Offense?"

  1. Rick says:

    I think the loss of Philbin was really underestimated. He was instrumental in the game plan and was the eye in the sky in the coaches booth during games. Since Clements stayed on the sidelines to work with Rodgers between series who took on the booth responsibilities this past season?

  2. StevefromMKE says:

    Where’s Archie blaming Ted Thompson…

  3. Archie says:

    It began the day Philbin’s son died and it hasn’t ended since. I think Philbin was more important to the Pack’s offensive success than he got credit for. Witness that Miami made him their head coach.

    As to playing musical chairs with his coaches as though they are interchangeable pieces, that seemed crazy to me at the time and still does. Some can handle it I guess, but some can’t. Also, coaches need to have a bond with the players they coach and that’s hard to do when you hardly know their names. Only benefit I see is to the coaches in terms of maybe making them more prepared for a promotion one day.

  4. Steve S. says:

    Just donated $50. Michael, I’ve enjoyed reading your perspectives for years now. I hope my donation helps keep you going. Thank you!

    • Michael Rodney says:

      Thanks. That’s more than generous.

      A number of you have donated in the past few days, and I just want to say how much I appreciate it.

  5. stroh says:

    A lot of factors played into the drop in production. Losing Philbin and shuffling the coaches didnt help but it was negligible imo. The major reason was the defenses playing purely 2 deep safeties. And not being able to consistently run the ball. Injuries at WR and RB had a lot to do w not being able to run consistently. Every time we started getting some good consistency running the RB got hurt. Benson was hitting his stride. Hurt… Green still getting over ACL couldn’t get it going. Starks showed he can run. Hurt… Harris just got going at the end. All the RB have different strength and weaknesses which means different play calls for each. That affect consistency of the blocking for OL. Not being able to run defense out of 2 safeties is ultimately what slowed the offense. Injuries to RB to RB was biggest factor on OL and WR hurt as did the coaching changes but those were contributeing factors at most.

  6. TrevorY says:

    Just found this site the other day and love it!

    I’m willing to give Clements another season before assuming that losing Philbin was the problem. I think the injury to Jennings and the shoddy play of the oline were the bigger problems this season.

  7. TheWildcatBeef says:

    Going from the best QB rating in NFL history to the 14th best in NFL history isn’t really a drop off I’d be concerned about.

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