Staff Changes Leave Big Questions

Three, to be exact, not the least of which is how RBs will survive without EB's fundamentals focus. For instance, did you know that James Starks fumbled 19 times in college but none as a rookie?

INDIANAPOLIS – The press release came and the look at the calendar followed a split-second later. No, it wasn't April Fools Day.

To replace highly regarded receivers coach Jimmy Robinson, coach Mike McCarthy shifted Edgar Bennett to receivers coach. Plus, he promoted assistant offensive line coach James Fontenot to running backs coach.

Say what?

"I played tight end in college, so what the hell am I doing coaching quarterbacks?" McCarthy joked.

The coaching shuffle – which included promoting offensive quality control coach John Rushing to assistant receivers and assistant special teams coach and adding Joel Hilgenberg to fill Rushing's old post – is wrought with implications.

Not to mention second-guessers considering Bennett's entire playing and coaching career was spent at running back and Fontenot's entire playing and coaching career was with the offensive line.

"I've seen that story written before," McCarthy said. "Edger Bennett will do a great job. Personally for him, it gives him an opportunity to expand his horizons and develop as a coach. This is an opportunity he jumped through. He wanted to do it."

Still, there are three major questions:

-- One, can Bennett coach the wide receivers? That answer is probably yes, and a veteran group led by Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and, perhaps, James Jones (free agent) will help mitigate any growing pains for Bennett.

-- Can Fontenot coach the running backs? Under Bennett's leadership, Ryan Grant never fumbled in 2009, Brandon Jackson has fumbled three times in 447 career touches and rookie James Starks (19 fumbles in three collegiate seasons) never fumbled in 2010 despite not having played a game since January 2009. Plus, Jackson and John Kuhn were impenetrable pass blockers. Bennett's constant drumbeat of fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals had his players doing all the little things.

-- Can McCarthy handle the extra duties? With offensive coordinator Joe Philbin pitching in a little more with the offensive line now that there's no assistant offensive line coach, McCarthy will have to pick up the slack at coordinator. It's a role he's embracing, but it brings me back to a conversation with McCarthy's close friend, former MVP quarterback Rich Gannon. Gannon said at midseason, Aaron Rodgers went to McCarthy and said the two weren't working together enough.

"I felt that, as an offensive play-caller, I probably got a little bit too far away from the quarterback room in the early parts of the year," McCarthy said when Gannon's story was relayed. "That's a criticism that I have of myself and that's something that Joe Philbin and I have talked about. I definitely felt it helped spending more time with Aaron, and I think it's obvious. You should always spend as much time as you can with your quarterback. It's easy to kind of take things for granted because when players mature, you kind of give them a little more rope than you probably need to. That's just human nature. I think it was important to spend that extra time – it was Thursday afternoons that we would spend a couple hours together and we'll continue to do that."

Can McCarthy continue to have that quality time if he's got a few extra duties on offense? No doubt McCarthy knows his staff better than anyone, so he clearly deserves the benefit of the doubt. Plus, McCarthy deserves a tip of the cap for broadening Bennett's horizons to make him more attractive as an offensive coordinator, should it be elsewhere or in Green Bay if Philbin were to be offered a head coaching post.

"I think Edgar Bennett is someone that will be looked as a potential coordinator candidate in the future," McCarthy said. "It's like anything: You coach running backs or any particular position, it's easy to get into that box and stay in there. When you're not out there coaching the other parts of the offense, you know it but you don't know it. It's one thing to know the plays and know the adjustments, but when you're coaching it every day, it's totally different. This is a great opportunity for Edgar personally but this isn't about personal opportunity. This is about what's best for our staff. This is about what's best for our offense. We're going to be better for it."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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