Jim Bates, the Green Bay Packers' new defensive coordinator, had the chance to take at least five other coaching offers, but as he said Tuesday in an introductory conference call with the Wisconsin media, the longtime NFL assistant knew it was time to get back to his Midwestern roots.
Bates grew up outside of Detroit and his wife, Beverly, is a native of Plainfield, Wisconsin.
He said he is eager to bring his enthusiastic style of coaching to Green Bay, not only to get a chance to coach in front of friends and family on a regular basis, but also to have the opportunity to turn around a Packers defense that ranked 25th out of 32 NFL teams in 2004.
In his five seasons running the defense with the Miami Dolphins, Bates' teams ranked in the top 10 every year, finishing eighth overall and second against the pass in the recently completed campaign.
Perhaps more than anything, though, Bates is excited to be coming into a situation where his defense won't be asked to carry the full burden for the team's success. The Dolphins' struggles in 2004 were easily traced back to an offense that ranked near the bottom of the league in almost every category.
The 14-year NFL coaching veteran is looking forward to heading a unit that can feed off a potent offense, such as the Packers' high-octane attack, and he's also excited about getting the most out of what he believes to be a very talented defense.
"Just watching the offense with Coach Sherman, Coach Rossley, and the offensive staff, and knowing a lot about the ability and the youth of that offense was exciting to me," Bates said. "Knowing that they were number one last year in the NFC in total offense, and then when I looked over at the defensive side of the ball and went through the personnel and saw the youth involved and the ability of several guys that I knew first-hand, it was even more exciting to me because I love to go into an opportunity where guys are hungry, have the ability, and are willing to work to improve with the offensive side of the ball moving the ball as well as they do."
As excited as he is to work with the staff and players in Green Bay, Bates - who has earned a reputation as being a coach players love to play for - believes the players and staff will be just as eager to work with him because of the attitude he brings to the job.
"Every place I've ever been, I've coached with a lot of passion," Bates stated. "I have passion towards the game - I had passion as a player, and I've had passion and it's real. Players can recognize when there's a sincere effort involved in trying to help players and players trying to help coaches - it's a total respect. And I think I've gained that every place I've ever been."
The newest member of the Green Bay coaching staff said that while he's aware that some are saying the Packers defense needs to be wholly rebuilt, he's ready to start with the basics.
"To be good on defense you have to build a foundation," he said. "I am very technique-oriented, as the staff will be. I believe in the basics of building a strong, strong foundation.
"The number one thing that we will do is we will be a solid, sound, foundation football team that will play excellent technique and will be a good open-field tackling, swarm-the-football team. That's one thing I can promise you - foundation, techniques, swarm the tackle, and be a good tackling football team."
Bates said that he will be working to instill confidence in the defensive unit right off the bat.
"We're going to build the confidence from when we start in the offseason, right on through the mini-camps and into camp and into the season. Let's remember last year as a memory, learn from the mistakes of last year, but we're going forward with a fresh start."
When Bates reports to Lambeau Field next week to begin his tenure as the defensive coordinator, rest assured that he will be ready to put everything into transforming the Green Bay defense into one of the best in the National Football League. He made a point to let the fans know that the 2005 Packer defense is going to be one to watch.
"It is exciting for me to go in and take a new challenge," Bates said. "It is exciting for me to come in there and get this defense playing at a high level.
"That's what I expect out of the defense and I know Mike (Sherman) expects that out of me and the defensive staff, and that's what we're going to bring forth. We're going to bring forth excellent play, big-time effort, and make it fun for the Green Bay Packer fans. The fans are so close to the situation up there - they're going to be proud to watch the Green Bay Packers play defense - I promise you that."