GREEN BAY – It’s quite the mix.
Assessing the three coordinators on Matt LaFleur’s first coaching staff, the Packers’ new head man has surrounded himself with a former head coach he can lean on, a creative offensive mind similar to his own, and an enthusiastic special teams leader well-versed in a scheme that intrigues him.
That’s the long and the short of the top of Green Bay’s new coaching staff, which LaFleur introduced on Monday after several weeks of interviewing and hiring finally wrapped up.
“You win with people,” LaFleur said.
In keeping Mike Pettine as the defensive coordinator after Pettine first came to Green Bay a year ago, LaFleur stressed the potential for continued progress on that side of the ball, rather than starting over again. Though Pettine joked he has “a thick book of what not to do” as a first-year head coach from his time in Cleveland, LaFleur also sees the former head coach as a valuable resource while he settles in.
“I’ve gone against his defenses before, and I think they present a lot of different challenges for offenses,” LaFleur said. “The fact that he’s been a head coach and sat in this seat really affords you an opportunity to bounce ideas off of him.
“Continuity going into Year 2 for this defense is going to be critical.”
On offense, it’s going to be all about LaFleur, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy and, of course, quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the same page.
No one expressed any concern there would be any overly dramatic shifts in approach for Rodgers, but the melding of LaFleur’s background in the Mike/Kyle Shanahan system with Hackett’s West Coast principles will be interesting to watch.
LaFleur has gotten to know Hackett over the years at the scouting combine, where the two would often interview quarterback prospects together and compare notes, and he wants Hackett to bring his ideas to the table.
“What he did in Jacksonville was really impressive despite what happened this past season,” LaFleur said. “Two years ago they just fell short of the Super Bowl. He’s one of the most organized guys I’ve ever been around.”
Bringing back Getsy, who previously coached wide receivers for the Packers, to Green Bay after a year away in the college ranks resulted from the “thumbs up” he received from everyone he talked to, and Getsy’s playing experience as a college quarterback.
LaFleur is looking to connect all their different perspectives with Rodgers in some way as a building block for the offense.
“Three quarterback guys will be hitting him from all angles,” LaFleur said. “I’m going to do my part. I know I need to be in that room as much as I possibly can. I’m going to be the play-caller, and the relationship between the play-caller and the quarterback is absolutely critical. I don’t foresee ever missing a quarterback meeting.”
Special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga will have the toughest turnaround job of the three given how much the Packers struggled in the third phase a year ago. The fact that three coaches have been assigned specifically to special teams – Mennenga, holdover assistant Maurice Drayton, and a quality control coach in Rayna Stewart, who worked with Mennenga on special teams at Vanderbilt last year – speaks to the importance LaFleur places on it.
LaFleur was attracted to Mennenga due to his longtime tenure in Cleveland as an assistant to Chris Tabor, who comes from the John Harbaugh/Dave Toub background on special teams. Toub’s special teams units over the years in Philly, Chicago and now Kansas City have consistently been among the league’s best.
“I’m interested in getting that scheme as part of what we do,” LaFleur said of bringing in Mennenga. “You’ve got to have the knowledge base, but it’s (also) about just some juice, some enthusiasm.”
That enthusiasm is a trait LaFleur already anticipates permeating throughout his coaching staff.
As he fielded questions about the overall youth of the group – with new position coaches such as Adam Stenavich (offensive line), Justin Outten (tight ends), Alvis Whitted (wide receivers) and holdover Jason Simmons (defensive backs), for example, have never headed up their own position group in the NFL before – LaFleur sees the career opportunity in front of each of them.
It’s the same type of opportunity he has seized every step of the way in his own journey, with now the biggest one he’s ever been presented with right in front of him.
“I think we’re going to bring a lot of energy every day,” LaFleur said. “And I think we’ll be able to connect and reach our players and that’s what I’m most excited about.
“You will not see egos and these guys are going to roll up their sleeves and get to work, and I think our players will appreciate that.”