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Coaching Changes Maintain Continuity On Offense, Connection With Defense


Keeping together an offensive coaching staff that helped the Packers finish ninth in the league in total offense in 2006, Head Coach Mike McCarthy filled his first coaching vacancies on Monday by staying in-house. On the defensive side, he also designated a longtime colleague to be his right-hand man as an assistant head coach.

McCarthy promoted Joe Philbin to offensive coordinator to replace the departed Jeff Jagodzinski, who left to become the head coach at Boston College at season's end. James Campen was moved up to take Philbin's former role as offensive line coach, and Jerry Fontenot was retained as an assistant to Campen on the offensive line.

"Consistency was something that quite frankly we did not have as a football team, particularly the first half of the season," McCarthy said. "This enables us to continue to build."

Meanwhile, Winston Moss was promoted to assistant head coach/defense. The Packers linebackers coach in 2006 who coached with McCarthy for five seasons in New Orleans, Moss will continue to oversee the linebacker position while expanding his interactions with the entire team to include development and administrative issues.

"When I first put the staff together last year, that was the one position that I went back and forth on, whether to do it or not do it," McCarthy said regarding an assistant head coach. "In hindsight, I didn't err, but I think it's a position that's needed."

The continuity being maintained with the offense and offensive line is particularly important for the Packers because of their youth in those areas and the new zone-blocking scheme that was implemented in 2006. Green Bay broke in four rookies on offense last year - receiver Greg Jennings and offensive linemen Daryn Colledge, Jason Spitz and Tony Moll.

Those rookies made a combined 49 starts, led by Colledge with 15. The offensive line started two rookie guards, Spitz and Moll, in the season opener for the first time in team history, and all three rookie linemen started on Oct. 22 in Miami, the first time the Packers started three rookies on the offensive line since at least the 1970 league merger.

The chance to build on what they've already established in their young careers is clearly a positive for the players.

"It just makes for an easy transition," Colledge said. "We'll be able to come back into work and it will be good for everyone. We're used to the system, we'll be running the same offense. For everyone it just makes it easier to do your job."

For Philbin, the move continues a steady series of promotions since he joined the Packers' staff in 2003 as an assistant offensive line coach. For 2004 and 2005, he added tight ends to his assistant offensive line duties, and then last year McCarthy hired him as the offensive line coach.

This will be Philbin's first coordinator position in the NFL, but he was an offensive coordinator three times during his 19-year college coaching career. Philbin held the dual position of offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Allegheny College (1990-93), Northeastern University (1995-96) and Harvard (1997-98).

McCarthy said he did his "due diligence" in exploring both in-house and outside candidates, but it was Philbin's credentials along with his work this year (his first with McCarthy) that made the choice feel like the natural one.

"All of our coaches on the offensive staff have an area of responsibility, and Joe is very heavily involved in the run (game) and (pass) protection part of it," McCarthy said. "I thought he was exemplary in his performance in those areas from a game planning (standpoint). I think he's an outstanding teacher. He has a very good rapport with his players, so really observing Joe this past year was a major factor in promoting him to offensive coordinator."

Philbin said McCarthy asked him during the interview process what he could bring to the offense, and Philbin broke it down rather simply.

{sportsad300}"The three things I hope we accomplish here as long as I'm the coordinator are, number one, that we play fundamentally sound," Philbin said. "Number two, that we're tough, and number three, that we're smart.

"There are a lot of good schemes in football, a lot of ways to move the ball. But if you play fundamentally sound, and if your guys are tough and smart, you'll have a chance to win."

Philbin's knowledge and teaching of the zone-blocking scheme, of which some concepts date back to his college coaching career at Iowa (1999-2002), will continue to be a key part of his role with the offense.

"We invested a lot of time in it, a lot of repetitions, a lot of practice time," Philbin said. "We think it's good, we want to get better at it and improve at it, and we'll start finding ways to do that tomorrow."

Like Philbin, Campen also has moved up the ladder in a short time. Hired to be an assistant offensive line/quality control coach for the Packers in 2004, Campen was promoted to assistant offensive line coach by McCarthy in 2006 and now is the top offensive line coach in just his fourth year.

Campen, a former center for the Packers, has worked with Philbin during his entire tenure here, another indication of the continuity being maintained with his promotion to Philbin's former spot.

"Certainly I think it is an advantage from the standpoint that the players know our structure, ... understanding how we're going to install things, what is expected of them," Campen said.

"I'll use a quote from Joe when I took the assistant offensive line job here two years ago. His first words to me were, 'You have to do that job better than I did it.' So his first words to me today after he was promoted were to 'do a better job than I did' as the head offensive line coach. We will continue to do that, and work harder and harder, and certainly the continuity is a big plus."

Fontenot was a coaching intern this past summer who was kept for the duration of the season as an offensive line assistant, his first coaching position in the NFL.

Playing for three teams during a 16-year career, Fontenot initially made an impression on McCarthy as the New Orleans center during McCarthy's first four years as offensive coordinator there. He has carried his leadership traits and knowledge of the game into the coaching fraternity, and in working with the Packers this past year sees loads of promise in the young linemen.

"It's one of those lines that has a huge amount of potential," Fontenot said. "From what I see we have guys that really want to work and to get better, and I think they have great personalities. I think they all mold pretty well together. Now it's 'Campy's' and my job to make sure we get the most out of them."

Of all the coaches involved in Monday's changes, Moss has the longest history with McCarthy, and his new role will have him working even more closely with his longtime colleague.

Moss was the linebackers coach in New Orleans during McCarthy's five seasons there as offensive coordinator from 2000 to 2004, and he was one of the first hires McCarthy made to his staff upon becoming Head Coach last year.

"I think the biggest thing is he's shown a lot of trust and a lot of confidence, and I appreciate that," Moss said. "Whatever he needs to bounce off of someone or get a second ear on, I'll be that person to help him out.

"I think we're still going through process of finding out exactly what we need to be doing with this position, but that will take care of itself."

Moss' work this past season with the linebacking corps saw Nick Barnett turn in another solid season and youngsters A.J. Hawk and Brady Poppinga steadily improve, making the unit one of the strengths of the team. McCarthy and Moss both made it clear the new role of assistant head coach won't take him away from overseeing that position and doesn't change Bob Sanders' responsibilities as defensive coordinator.

"The defense was good at the end of the year," Moss said. "I think Bob did a great job keeping this defense together and with the talent that we have, we finally saw what this defense is very capable of doing. So if we can play like that not only at the end of the season but actually carry that into next year and play the entire season that way, we're going to help this team win a lot of games."

The Packers did not have an assistant head coach in McCarthy's first season and were one of only eight clubs without one designated. For Moss, he sees the promotion as one that could lead to being a coordinator and potentially a head coach someday, a career goal for him.

"This job description will grow," Moss said. "This is just a starting point. We'll work on specifically what we need as the offseason goes on."

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