Tom Clements sees significant promise in his latest QB pupil

Longtime Packers assistant encouraged by Jordan Love’s progress

QB Jordan Love

GREEN BAY – It was a little more than a year ago Tom Clements ended a brief retirement to return to the Packers' sidelines.

It was an opportunity for the 69-year-old assistant coach to chase another Super Bowl championship with longtime pupil Aaron Rodgers, whom Clements coached directly for six seasons as Green Bay's quarterbacks coach before receiving a promotion to offensive coordinator in 2012.

In returning to the Packers, however, Clements was introduced to another promising quarterback, Jordan Love, who had served as Rodgers' understudy the previous two seasons. As much as Clements enjoyed getting back to work with Rodgers, he was impressed by Love's dedication and drive.

"I came back and enjoyed it, enjoyed working with Jordan and the other quarterbacks," Clements said. "Any time you can coach a guy and you think you can help him, and it looks like you've helped him a little bit, that's gratifying."

While Rodgers is now in New York, Clements chose to return for a 12th season in Green Bay to help see Love's development process through. The 24-year-old quarterback flourished under Clements' watch last season, making significant strides with his footwork and command of the pocket.

Love and Clements got a jumpstart on their partnership last spring, when the former first-round pick stood in for Rodgers with the No. 1 offense during voluntary OTAs. Once Rodgers was back in the building for training camp, the four-time MVP commended Clements for his work with the young QBs while praising Love for his improved fundamentals.

Love still sat during most of his third NFL season but showed significant growth in a relief appearance of an injured Rodgers last November in Philadelphia. With Rodgers in the locker room with a rib injury, Love completed 6-of-9 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown against the NFC's eventual Super Bowl representative. His 63-yard TD pass to Christian Watson was one of Green Bay's longest plays of the season.

Even at the NFL level, coaches never can be too sure about what they have in a prospect until they see it on the grass every Sunday. However, Love's outing against the Eagles had some parallels to Rodgers' breakout performance in 2007 in place of an injured Brett Favre against Dallas (18-of-26 for 201 yards and TD).

"We didn't know he was going to be a Hall of Famer and have the career he had, but we knew he was good," said Clements of Rodgers. "And the same thing (with Love). We've watched Jordan in the preseason, in practices, and then he got an opportunity to have a little extended playing time against Philadelphia and he did some very good things. So, I'm sure that helped his confidence, helps the confidence of the guys around him and he just needs to build on that."

A longtime developer of quarterbacks, Clements has worked with everyone from former No. 1 pick Kyler Murray in Arizona to Tommy Maddox when he earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year with Pittsburgh in 2002. However, Clements' oversight of Rodgers taking the reins from Favre in 2008 could go down as one of the most critical transitions in NFL history.

Within four years, Rodgers had guided the Packers to a Super Bowl championship, led Green Bay to a 15-win season and captured the first of his four MVP awards. In the meantime, Clements also spearheaded the development of seventh-round pick Matt Flynn, Rodgers' backup for six-plus seasons.

The quarterback school Clements and former head coach Mike McCarthy once utilized during the offseason has undergone heavy alterations since the 2011 collective bargaining agreement cut down the spring calendar, but many of those same fundamental lessons have been passed down to Love, who's thrilled to have Clements back for another year.

"Tom's a great coach," Love said. "He's been doing it for a long time, and he knows what he's talking about. So just being able to listen to him, try and tune my game to any pointers he might have for me to try and elevate myself, I think it's all huge, and I just try to keep adding, keep stacking and evolve my own game."

From a philosophical standpoint, Clements' beliefs are rooted in movement drills and processing information quickly in order for the quarterback to make the best decision possible. One of Rodgers' favorite drills centers on going through progressions while Clements points to the stationary target. It forces the QB to drop back and adjust his footwork depending on which receiver he's throwing to.

When the final product hits the field, Clements wants his quarterbacks "to play the game without a conscience" and Love is getting there. There's still plenty of work to do – both during the upcoming OTAs and training camp later this summer – but the signs of steady progress are there.

And that has the veteran coach encouraged about his latest student's future.

"He did the things that I've done throughout my coaching career as far as working on the fundamentals of the game, working on the footwork. That's really a big aspect of playing quarterback," Clement said.

"Last year during the season he would know the game plan in and out. He was always ready to go in there, so once you install it and talk about it, he digested it very well."


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