Coaching Changes Bring New Challenges

The cohesion of the coaching staff has played a big part in the Packers' three consecutive playoff berths. Now, Joe Philbin is in Miami and who knows who else will be leaving 1265 Lombardi Ave., as well. Now, everything might ride on the future of QBs coach Tom Clements.

Kudos to the Miami Dolphins for making a bold selection by hiring Joe Philbin as their head coach.

Philbin's never been a head coach at any level.

He didn't call plays in Green Bay.

Not only did he not play professionally, but he played only one season at Division III Washington & Jefferson.

He's not an electric personality, unless a dry wit and self-deprecating sense of humor are your things.

So, give credit to Dolphins owner Steve Ross for making his decision solely on football and not trying to impress a South Beach fan base that needs to be impressed.

As with any coach, Philbin will sink or swim based on the players around him. If Philbin and Matt Flynn wind up being a package deal — a theory broached to Packer Report by an NFL insider — then Philbin will have a fighting chance to turn around a once-proud franchise. The Dolphins went 11-5 and won the AFC East in 2008, when Tom Brady missed most of the season. Other than that, their last winning season was in 2003 and their last playoff berth was in 2001.

That said, Philbin's departure is the inevitable fallout from the Packers' success. And it's one reason why Green Bay's playoff washout was so bitterly disappointing.

The Packers got lucky last season, with only receivers coach Jimmy Robinson (to Dallas) leaving after winning the Super Bowl. With Green Bay turning in a 15-1 encore, it's no surprise that the Packers' front office (Reggie McKenzie, so far) and coaching staff (Philbin, so far) are being coveted around the league.

To be sure, the Packers will have the talent to get back to the Super Bowl next season. With our without Jermichael Finley, the offense will be loaded. The defense should perform closer to its 2010 standard than its 2011 disaster with potentially five picks in the first three rounds at general manager Ted Thompson's disposal.

But the Packers' 2012 fate very well will be determined in the next few weeks — and it's all out of coach Mike McCarthy's hands. Presumably, quarterbacks coach Tom Clements is atop McCarthy's list to replace Philbin. Clements was Buffalo's offensive coordinator in 2004 and 2005, with the 395 points scored by the 2004 team being trumped only once in the last 20 seasons. More importantly, he's got a great connection with Aaron Rodgers, and his teaching ability will be of vital importance with a new backup quarterback to groom with Flynn's expected free agent departure.

Clements, however, interviewed to fill Tampa Bay's head coaching vacancy on Thursday. The reason for the Buccaneers' interest is obvious. Quarterback Josh Freeman, a first-round pick in 2009, threw 25 touchdown passes and six interceptions in 2010. In 2011, he regressed to 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. If Freeman is the player the Buccaneers are going to build around, it only makes sense for the Buccaneers to pick a coach with a proven track record working with quarterbacks.

"To leave Green Bay, it'd be a hard place to leave," Clements said on Monday, "because of the situation I'm in personally with the quarterbacks and the situation we're in with the team. We have a young team, we can be good for a number of years. It's great to be in a winning program. If opportunities arise, you analyze it and see how that would be, and compare it to what you're involved in and make the appropriate decision."

If Clements takes over in Tampa Bay or follows former director of football operations Reggie McKenzie to Oakland, McCarthy's offensive staff will be without two key cogs. When McCarthy moved assistant Edgar Bennett from running backs coach to wide receivers coach a year ago, McCarthy had Bennett's long-term career interests at heart. So, he'd likely be Plan C if McCarthy sticks with his build-from-within philosophy.

Regardless, the cohesion of the coaching staff has played a big part in the Packers' success. Since overhauling the defense following the 2008 season, McCarthy's staff has returned virtually intact the last few seasons.

Because of the team's success with three consecutive playoff berths, it's safe to assume McCarthy has planned for a raid on his coaches and has a list of names tucked into his pocket to replace everyone from Philbin to Winston Moss to Darren Perry. Still, new coaches — experienced or not — could mean a setback for a team that figures to be one of the top Super Bowl contenders when next season kicks off.

"That'd be a challenge," Clements said. "Anytime there is change, it's a challenge, but I think the biggest thing is we have a program in place and you have players who understand what the program is and what the standards are, and any new coach coming in would have to fit within those parameters. But (it's) not insurmountable."


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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.


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