The Green Bay Packers announced the hiring of offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski on Sunday, and he vows to fix a Packers running game, which struggled in 2005.
"We will be a successful rushing football team," Jagodzinski said. "I promise you that."
Jagodzinski certainly has the credentials to issue such promises. As this past season's Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach, his unit created running lanes for the NFL's No.1-ranked rushing attack. During his time with the Falcons he worked with Alex Gibbs. Gibbs previously coached the vaunted Denver Broncos offensive line, which had four different running backs surpass 1,000 yards behind their blocks.
Jagodzinski's Falcons offensive line plowed the way for a running game that averaged 4.8 yards-per-carry despite starting three former seventh-round draft picks, a fifth-round draft pick and an undrafted free agent. He remains confident that he can replicate that success with the Packers.
"That's one of my strongsuits," he said, "my knowledge of the running game."
To bolster a Packers running game that ranked 30th in the league in 2005, Jagodzinski will implement much of the Broncos' and Falcons' zone blocking scheme. In that system offensive linemen block the first person who enters their zone rather than a specific man. The scheme does not feature a multitude of different plays but relies on athletic players who can execute double team blocks.
"It's dependant on the guy next to you," he said. "You're always working in concert with someone else."
Head Coach Mike McCarthy not only hired someone with expertise in the running game but also a local product. Born in Milwaukee Jagodzinski played at West Allis (Wis.) Central High School and collegiately at Wisconsin-Whitewater. He has pictures of himself as a child, running around in a No. 15 Bart Starr jersey and looks forward to coaching in Wisconsin.
"I'm ecstatic," Jagodzinski said. "I'm proud to be here."
He not only has roots in the area but also with the Packers. The new offensive coordinator coached the team's tight ends from 1999 to 2003.
"I do have an advantage because I've been here before and I know these guys," Jagodzinski said. "And they know me."
His time with the Packers allowed him to work previously with McCarthy. In 1999 McCarthy served as quarterbacks coach while Jagodzinski served as tight ends coach. The two could form a symbiotic relationship. McCarthy has become renowned for his quarterback development and knowledge of the passing game, and Jagodzinski has expertise coaching the offensive line.
"It will be a great compliment of us two working together," McCarthy said. "I was looking for more an interior background."
The coaching duo has not determined who will call the plays.
"I'm not worried about that," Jagodzinski said. "We'll address that later on."
In the near future McCarthy will fill out the rest of his coaching staff. He has not set a timeline to do so but said Jagodzinski will have a major role in determining the rest of the offensive staff just as the eventual defensive coordinator will help fill the defensive staff. McCarthy has talked to 2005 defensive coordinator Jim Bates. Bates remains a possibility for that same post in 2006, and McCarthy may talk to him further on Sunday.
But Sunday served as a time for announcing the offensive coordinator, and that coach promises to improve the Packers' running game with the scheme used by the Broncos and Falcons.
"This system has been proven from Alex at Atlanta. It's been proven in Denver. It will be proven here in Green Bay," Jagodzinski said. "I'm very, very confident on that."