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 remained 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.