Q&A With Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin


*After seven games the Packers offense is ranked 14th in the NFL with an average of 328.9 yards per game. Green Bay is No. 10 in the league in passing offense and No. 22 in rushing, but in Sunday's win over the Colts running back Ryan Grant posted his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.

The offense is coming off probably its finest all-around performance of the season with no penalties and no turnovers against the Colts, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers posted his fifth game of the season without an interception.

Rodgers currently ranks fifth in the NFL with a 98.8 passer rating, and is second in the league on third down with a 120.3 rating. Wide receiver Greg Jennings leads the league with 685 receiving yards.

In the first of a three-part series of conversations with the team's coordinators, Packers.com sat down with second-year offensive coordinator Joe Philbin during the bye week to take a look back at the first seven games and look ahead to the rest of the '08 season.*

What has been most impressive about quarterback Aaron Rodgers so far this season?

Probably that he has played in the system so well. That is one thing as a coordinator that you are pleased about seeing. You don't want to take away a guy's natural instincts at any position, but I think at the quarterback position you've got to have discipline and poise obviously. You can't free-lance too much. I think for a young player he has shown a lot of poise.

He has executed the game plans pretty well and stayed true to that and hasn't gone out on his own and done a bunch of improvising. That's why I think he has a 3-1 touchdown to interception ratio. That's why maybe he's completing 65 percent of his passes. I think there are a lot of reasons why, but that poise and playing within the system have certainly been beneficial to him.

Would you say he has exceeded your expectations?

I don't know about that. We have high standards here. When you watch him throw, I always use the analogy, and I'm not a quarterback coach, but I watched Ben Roethlisberger in college play live and Carson Palmer play live. I watched Aaron Rodgers throw a ball and I thought to myself, "He can throw a ball."

I don't know that I would sit here and say I'm surprised or that he has exceeded my expectations. I think he has performed well, and I'm sure if you ask anybody on our staff, our hope is he's going to play better in the second half of the season.

It's been great that he has battled through the injuries and displayed good leadership there, good toughness. I think the players respect that and respond to that.

Another offensive player that has been very productive is wide receiver Greg Jennings. Can you talk about the season he has had to this point?

He's a big-play receiver. You hate to say his numbers speak for themselves, but in this case they do. He kind of has a knack for making plays at the right time in an important game. He's a real fine route runner. If you think of a receiver, not just a guy that can necessarily get a jump ball down the field, but a guy that is precise in his routes and fluid and smooth and catches it, he's got a lot of nice qualities. He's really off to a good start.

Do you see him getting more attention from opposing defenses?

I wouldn't be surprised. The nice thing is obviously Donald Driver is a very accomplished in his own right and is an excellent football player. It's like us when we go up against a defensive team that has two great pass rushers; you can't double-team everybody, so you have to pick your spots and make your choices.

I certainly think there are going to be times where some teams say we've got to take this guy away, and hopefully other guys will step up and it will provide opportunities for other play-makers.

With the way this team ran the ball the second half of last season, was it frustrating trying to get the ground game going this year?

I think we all feel like as a staff that we would be a little further along in the running game than we are at this point in time. We've done a great job the last couple of weeks of getting the attempts where we want them to be and where we need them to be, but now it's up to us to get the production where it should be because everything else is in place.

We feel like we are making some strides when you watch the film from an execution standpoint. There were points in the film this week where we felt like the line had to do a better job. There were a couple of instances where the fullback had to finish better. There was a couple where we felt like the tight end needed to do a better job. There was some downfield blocking and there were some where Ryan (Grant) has to break through the arm tackle. We feel like there are some yards out there that we've got to capitalize here, especially as we get to the next part of our schedule.

Last year there was a lot of improvement in the running game the second half of the season. Obviously each year stands on its own, but do you see any similarities between this season and last in that area?

The one thing you always hope is in your program that players get better as the season progresses. If you have high-character guys, which we believe we do, and the work ethic is where it needs to be you kind of hope as a coach if you stick with your philosophy and stick with your beliefs and keep working on the fundamentals, and have good fortune in terms of having the same guys doing the same things for an extended period of time, history usually tells you're going to get better and you're going to improve.

That's what we're banking on and we've proven that in the past. As you have mentioned, can we assume that it's going to be exactly the same as it was a year ago? Absolutely not, but you hope whatever the year is that your guys get better with time. They get better with work and stick to their basic principles of good offensive football and keep plugging away.

Do you guys work ahead on Tennessee during the bye some and also do some self-scouting?

Yeah, we'll do some Tennessee work and each one of our staff guys kind of have specific areas that they are in charge of from a situational standpoint offensively. We will sit down and visit in each one of those areas.

As you know, we've got a lot invested in the offense going back to April, May, June, and July. We've invested a ton up to this time. To the average fan is there going to be a lot of radical changes? Probably not, but we'll find some things here that we'll address and hopefully rectify and get better at.

You always find something, like in this personnel grouping we are way too heavy in the pass, or in this formation we are always running to the tight end. You'll find a few of those things that you'll use to your advantage in the upcoming weeks and hopefully keep people from getting too good a bead on you.

An area that has improved lately, especially against Indianapolis with none on offense, is penalties. What do you attribute that to and how key is that for everything you are trying to do offensively?

It's huge. The negative plays in our three-game losing streak were just killing us. We were getting sacked twice a game, two or three negative rushing plays a game, four to five penalties a game, so we were up near double digits.

You look at the game against Indianapolis, our statistics aren't going to impress anybody. Nobody is going to be saying what a juggernaut the Packers offense is, but when you consider that we had zero giveaways and zero offensive penalties, that's a sign of good execution. That's a tribute to the players that they came out ready to play and they had good focus.

We make a big point of it every week. Every Monday we show them all of the negative yardage plays that we had. We show them the good and then the bad and we want to avoid the bad and keep reinforcing the good. I think it's really a matter of concentration and focus and not getting distracted by other factors that can prevent you from doing what you really need to be doing.

{sportsad300}With James Jones battling a knee injury for much of the season, how has Jordy Nelson done in his role?

He didn't get as many touches against Indianapolis as he did against Seattle, but I like the progress he is making. I think he is playing faster and playing more comfortable in the system. I think if you asked him that he would say that things are just coming a little more natural to him. He's doing less thinking.

He's got good hands and he's got good size. He's moving better on the field. I think when you are a little bit confused you're a little bit tentative and it shows in your play. I think he's playing faster and he's working through those issues and now you are seeing a more productive and confident player.

You have gotten a little more production from the tight end position recently. Is that a concerted effort or just a product of getting more of play-action, etc?

It's a little bit of both. To have the type of offensive balance we are looking for, you want to make sure you are getting guys involved in the offense from a number of different positions. They are almost always part of the progression and it just depends what number they are and if we get to that progression and if we get to them are they open.

How pleased were you with the team's bounce-back ability after the three-game losing streak to put together two good wins before the bye?

I'm not surprised. I really believe in the guys that we have. It's a very high-character group on both sides of the ball and special teams. I think the Indianapolis game was probably the first time where it felt like the offense, defense and special teams were all playing together as one almost. Sometimes it takes time to mesh, and hopefully we'll be able to build off of that type of performance.

We want to execute even better, but I think it was a good team performance. We did some things to help our defense and they did some things that helped us obviously. When you are playing like that, usually you've got a good chance of winning and you are kind of feeding off of one another. Those are fun games to be a part of.

What is one area you would like to see improvement in the second half of the season?

I think we've got to be a little more explosive offensively and take advantage of some more big plays when they present themselves. I think that is probably the No. 1 thing where we are down a little bit from where we were a year ago at this point of time.

I think we have to just continue to look for ways to improve on what we are doing. I don't think we need to make a lot of wholesale, dramatic changes. We believe in our system and we've got a good scheme. We've got to detail our work execution-wise and fundamental-wise. Hopefully we'll get guys back healthy and get us practicing all guys for a full week and then some, and that's when I think you really kind of start hitting your stride in the second half of the season.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content