Hello Packer Nation!
Wow, what a year! Are we happy that 2018 season is over with? Like many fans, it would be wise to assume we are all happy to move on to bigger and better things. But, what does that all mean? Let's examine what the upcoming offseason has in store.
First, there is a TON of uncertainty at the coaching level. Green Bay has not experienced such upheaval and uncertainty since the 2005 season commenced. That year, the Packers finished 4-12. Coach Mike Sherman was kicked to the curb. GM was wide open for any takers. Bob Harlan was getting ready to retire and planning a succession plan for his impending retirement.
Those needs were filled that offseason and led to the most successful decade in recent Packer history. Mike McCarthy was named head coach in 2006, who was hired from San Francisco and was their OC. Ted Thompson was plucked from Seattle to man the GM position. From 2006-2017, the Packers averaged around ten wins per season, made it to four NFC Championships, won a Super Bowl in 2010, collected six NFC North division championships, just to name a few achievements under their leadership! It was quite a successful stretch that culminated in turmoil and two straight losing seasons in 2017-2018. Thompson was demoted to the closet in the 2018 offseason. McCarthy was dismissed 12 games into the 2018 season. It was the first time a Packer coach was let go during a season.
Here we are, 2019, and a new era is about to begin in Titletown. The Packers will hire their 15th coach. The new coach will assemble a coaching staff that will hopefully breath life into this downtrodden organization. Newly appointed GM Brian Gutenkunst (promoted early 2018) will have, at minimum, over $40 million in salary cap space to construct a competitive team for 2019 season. They will have at minimum, 10 draft picks to use in the draft. Two of those picks will be in the first round at #12 and a "to be determined" 1st round pick from New Orleans, no better than #28.
Who should the Packers hire as their next head coach? Conventional wisdom would suggest an offensive minded guru who can lead Aaron Rodgers back on track. While that is commendable, why does it need to be an offensive or defensive guru? It truly doesn't matter because that is what your offensive & defensive coordinators are tasked with. The biggest concern should be finding a head coach who will be a strong leader, demands accountability and delegates responsibilities wisely. He cannot be afraid to ruffle feathers. He needs to know how to push buttons to get this team back on the winning track. He will need to hire and be able to trust the coordinators and position coaches.
Mark Murphy suggested they will interview at least 10 potential candidates before deciding on the favorite. Murphy also suggested he will be the one who ultimately decides the next head coach to lead the Pack.
Who are candidates the Packers are looking at? Here is a list of candidates the Packers have shown interest or interviewed thus far:
1. Josh McDaniel (New England OC)
2. Matt LaFleur (Tennessee OC)
3. Jim Caldwell (Ex-Detroit head coach and previous stints as OC)
4. Chuck Pagano (Ex-Indianapolis head coach and previous stints as DC)
5. Dan Campbell (New Orleans tight end coach)
6. Brian Flores (New England DC/LB coach)
7. Mike Munchak (Pittsburgh OL coach and ex-Tennessee head coach)
8. Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern head coach)
9. Joe Philbin (Current interim Packer coach)
10. Pete Carmichael (New Orleans OC)
11. Todd Monken (Tampa OC)
12. Adam Gase (former Miami HC)
If the Steelers let Mike Tomlin go, would he be contacted? Among the available candidates listed above, who is the best leader? That is a great question as this years class of coaching candidates are relatively unknown outside of Caldwell and Pagano. My hunch would suggest McDaniel, LaFleur, Carmichael and Monken are the favorites (in that order). I would throw Fitzgerald (Murphy factor) in there but he seems pretty content staying at Northwestern. The Packers have typically hired "coordinators" as head coaches so my feeling is they won't stray far off that course.
Now lets talk about the roster. If the 2018 season showed any knowledgeable football fan one thing; this team sorely lacked talent and depth. Their 6-9-1 record would indicate as such. It was my biggest concern coming into the season (I touched on these topics in previous blogs "Truth - There is No Downside to Positional Depth" and "Pre-Draft Roster Analysis"). The team was very weak on the offensive line, defensive line/pass rush, safety, tight end, inside linebacker and special teams. In order for this team to improve quickly, the Packers need to shore up positions categorized "in the trenches." Success in football starts by protecting your QB and providing running lanes for running backs. When an offense can threaten with pass and run, they can be unstoppable. It also works in reverse where your defense needs to make opposing QB's uncomfortable by applying constant pressure and not allowing running backs daylight. Improvement on the offensive line and defensive line (OLB is a need but until a new coach is hired we don't know if a 3-4 defense will be implemented) should be their top priorities as well as play makers on defense. The defense needs more players like Nick Collins, Charles Woodson, Desmond Bishop or a younger version of Clay Matthews. Reggie White would be fantastic!
This is just a start. There is much to do at 1265 Lombardi. Will the Packers do all the right things to get back into Super Bowl contention? Let the stop watch begin!
A few dates of significance to keep track of for NFL teams, per NFL Operations;
February 4, 2019 - Waiver system begins for 2019.
February 19, 2019 - First day for teams to designate Transition or Franchise players.
February 26 - March 4, 2019 - NFL Scouting combine in Indianapolis for college players eligible for NFL draft.
March 5, 2019 - Deadline to designate Transition or Franchise players.
March 13, 2019 at 4pm EST - Free agency begins. Also, teams must be under the 2019 salary cap (Estimated to be around $187-$191 million per team). All 2018 player contracts expire. First day of league year will begin at 11:59:59pm EST.
April 1, 2019 - Teams that hired a new head coach may begin offseason workout programs - the Packers.
April 15, 2019 - Teams with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.
April 19, 2019 - Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets.
April 25-27, 2019 - NFL Draft in Nashville, Tennessee
July 15, 2019 - Deadline for players designated as "Franchise" players to sign multiyear contract. After this date, all eligible players can only sign a one year contract. A new multi year contract cannot be signed until after the teams last regular season game.
Mid July 2019 - Teams can open training camp.
Packers 2019 Opponents - Dates and times TBD:
2019.....here we come!
Go Pack Go!