GREEN BAY – Before returning to Green Bay this year after a six-year absence, Joe Philbin had spent nine years as an offensive assistant coach for the Packers.
He held a number of different positions, from coaching the tight ends and the offensive line to coordinating the offense, the job he returned for in 2018.
The circumstances are not what he envisioned or desired now that he’s interim head coach, but it will still be something special for Philbin when he walks out of the Lambeau Field tunnel on Sunday in charge of the Packers for the first time.
“I remember the day I came here, in February 2003 I think,” said Philbin, noting a lot of great times he had working for both Mike Sherman and Mike McCarthy before getting his first head coaching job in Miami in 2012.
“It will be a privilege, it’ll be an honor to lead the team onto Lambeau Field for sure.”
In what’s been a tumultuous start to the week for everyone involved, Philbin is sticking for the most part to the same practice routine the team had under McCarthy, with some tweaks here and there.
He did dismiss assistant head coach Winston Moss on Tuesday, saying he didn’t feel he “fit” with the team at the moment and stressing he wants “everybody on the same page, moving in the same direction.”
His message to the players continues to be for everyone to sharpen up his game, not waiting for some revolutionary game plan that’s going to turn the team’s fortunes around.
“I told them again I don’t have the magic pill,” Philbin said prior to Wednesday’s practice. “Schemes are important, but they’re not as important as guys playing together, playing with great effort and playing fundamentally sound. That’s really the focus.”
Philbin feels the players are tuned in, as a season-high number showed up for Tuesday’s optional weightlifting session on their off day.
Philbin is leaving the bulk of the defensive planning to coordinator Mike Pettine and focusing most of his energies on offense. He’ll be calling plays regularly for the first time since, he estimated, roughly 20 years ago when he was offensive coordinator at Northeastern University. He did call plays in preseason games over the years for McCarthy and has always been heavily involved in game-planning.
In describing what he wants to see on Sunday, Philbin made multiple references to the energy the team needs to bring to the field, which was absent last week. When the team is not playing well and not making any big plays, that type of lull can feed upon itself, and it’s on everyone to prevent that from happening with the attitude and approach they bring to the game.
“Some of it’s just good old-fashioned elbow grease sometimes to get things going for you,” he said. “You have to play the game the right way, play the game hard, play the game sound.”