Cross-training highlights staff re-structuring


His former quarterbacks coach is now the offensive coordinator, which allowed the former tight ends coach to become the new quarterbacks coach, which allowed the former running backs coach to become the new tight ends coach, which necessitated the hiring of a new running backs coach, who was formerly a quarterbacks coach. Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy is authoring a cutting-edge approach to coaching staff development.

"It's always beneficial to have a perspective of how everybody else looks at it, too. You really see how things fall together," Tight Ends Coach Jerry Fontenot said on Monday in explaining the genius behind McCarthy's strategy of mixing and matching members of his staff.

A year ago at this time, Fontenot was being promoted from assistant offensive line coach to the title of running backs coach. Fontenot got an opportunity in 2011 to see football through the eyes of running backs, who got a similar opportunity to see offense through the eyes of a former offensive lineman.

Fontenot's move to tight ends coach is one of two staff re-assignments and one addition to the staff McCarthy announced on Monday. Former tight ends coach Ben McAdoo is the Packers' new quarterbacks coach, and former Bucs quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, McCarthy's first pupil, is the Packers' new running backs coach.

"Alex is the first quarterback I had an opportunity to work with," McCarthy said.

Van Pelt is McCarthy's first success story. As Van Pelt's position coach at Pitt, Van Pelt broke several of Dan Marino's passing records and, in the process, caused the football world to ask: Who's that kid's coach?

"Mike came in as a graduate assistant my redshirt freshman year, coached receivers, worked his way up, coached me. He went on to Kansas City and I made the next stop there with him, as well, so I have five years with him. There is a good history there and I have a lot of respect for Mike and glad to be on his staff," Van Pelt said.

Van Pelt has been a young coach on the rise since ending his 10-year career as an NFL backup quarterback, but all of his years as a coach have been spent tutoring quarterbacks. Running backs?

"My area of expertise would be having them look at the game as a quarterback would; understanding protections, seeing tips in protections, the blitzes. I'll be bringing a different view to them of the passing game. I'll learn as I go along and I'll lean on guys like Edgar (Bennett) and Jerry (Fontenot)," Van Pelt said.

Bennett preceded Fontenot as the Packers' running backs coach, but McCarthy moved Bennett to wide receivers coach last winter. It would seem to all be part of a master plan to infect all of McCarthy's assistants with a deeper understanding of the passing game. In other words, a team that threw for 51 touchdowns in 2011 is intent on throwing for even more.

"I think that's a big part of it. The two biggest things that stand out to me at the running back position are protecting the football and protecting the quarterback. With the blitz packages you see now, I think it's critical that the guy standing back there protect our franchise quarterback and understands the protection schemes," Van Pelt added.

Fontenot can be expected to bring a kind of offensive lineman's toughness to his new room. In turn, he'll advance his understanding of the passing game.

"We have guys that are explosive, some guys block very well, some guys are a combination of the two. Each guy has certain talents and it's my job to get in tune with how Ben used those guys," Fontenot said.

"For me, career-wise, it's a great opportunity to be able to get more involved in the pass game and get a better understanding of how that works. At the end of the day, it's about coaching football, and that's what I love to do."

Can Fontenot cure star tight end Jermichael Finley of his bout of the dropsies in 2011?

"He may have had a few drops this season that may have been avoidable; just work on fundamentals. It's going to be my job to help him get there," Fontenot said. "I wouldn't handle it any differently than I would a running back that might've had an issue holding onto the football. Holding onto the ball is job one and, for a receiver, holding onto the ball is job one, also. Jermichael has it in him." Additional coverage - Feb. 13

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