The Green Bay Packers formally announced Bob Sanders as their defensive coordinator on Monday morning -- a move designed to build on the defensive foundation set last year.
"It will be a smooth transition," Sanders said.
Sanders, the team's defensive ends coach in 2005, adds continuity to a unit that played well throughout last season. He will orchestrate a similar system to the one former defensive coordinator Jim Bates used.
In that scheme the defensive ends played wide and at an angle to the offensive line. Small, speedy linebackers flowed to the ball and the cornerbacks impeded receivers with tight bump-and-run coverage. Playing that way helped the defense improve from 2004's ranking of 25th in the league to seventh in 2005. Last year's defense also finished No. 1 against the pass.
"We have a system in place," Sanders said. "The system is sound fundamentally. It's designed to create turnovers. It's designed to allow the players to play aggressively."
Sanders implemented that type of defense for the last six years while learning from Bates. After coaching at the University of Florida for 11 years, he joined the Miami Dolphins in 2001. With the Dolphins, Sanders served as the linebackers coach for four years under Bates, the team's defensive coordinator.
Although Sanders learned to become detail-minded from his mentor and will run a similar 4-3 defense, he will tweak Bates' scheme to make it his own. Sanders did not elaborate on those changes but said they could include some different coverages.
"I hope to put a stamp on it of some things I believe," Sanders said. "It will be very, very similar."
Through film study of the Packers' defensive ends in 2005, interviews and a series of calls to Sanders' colleagues, Head Coach Mike McCarthy decided Sanders was the best man for the job.
"That is why he will lead our defense," McCarthy said. "And I am excited to give him that opportunity."
Sanders will oversee a defensive roster he knows intimately. He represents the fourth Packers defensive coordinator in as many years, following Ed Donatell, Bob Slowik and Bates. By serving as last year's defensive ends coach, however, Sanders knows the strengths and weaknesses of each of the players and can jump right into the evaluation process.
"That is a huge advantage," he said.
He also has the advantage of having called the defensive plays before. When Dolphins Head Coach Dave Wannstedt resigned with seven games left in the 2004 season, the team elevated Bates from defensive coordinator to interim head coach. For those last seven games, Sanders handled Bates' playcalling duties.
"That experience, I think, will lend a great hand in helping me," Sanders said.
When Sanders called Bates and told him of his promotion on Saturday, his former boss beamed with pride.
"He was very, very excited for me," Sanders said.
Sanders expressed similar excitement about assuming his new post as defensive coordinator of the Packers.
"I am extremely blessed and honored and humbled to have this opportunity," Sanders said.