Mix-and-Match Staff Meshes Well

A creative approach to creating a coaching staff seems to be paying dividends for head coach Mike McCarthy. It's early, obviously, but the new faces in new places are earning strong reviews.

A former tight ends coach coaching the quarterbacks?

A former NFL quarterback coaching the running backs?

A former NFL offensive lineman coaching the tight ends?

A former NFL running back coaching the wide receivers?

The reconfigured Green Bay Packers' coaching staff raised some eyebrows when coach Mike McCarthy announced the moves a few months ago. Now, with one practice remaining until the coaches head home for family and golf, it seems like McCarthy's mismatched staff has meshed well.

So much so that McCarthy made light of it on Tuesday.

"My biggest adjustment is the staff meeting room when I look down to the left and we start talking about the depth chart and James Campen is at the end of the table and he talks about the offensive line," McCarthy said. "Then Ben McAdoo's sitting next to him. I say, ‘All right, Ben, start talking about the tight ends,' and he looks at me, ‘I'm coaching the quarterbacks now.' ‘All right, Ben, talk about the quarterbacks.' That's about the biggest adjustment I've had to make."

Before McCarthy promoted quarterbacks coach Tom Clements to offensive coordinator and moved Ben McAdoo from tight ends coach to quarterbacks coach, quarterback Aaron Rodgers told ESPNMilwaukee.com that he preferred a former quarterback in that position.

Fast forward to Tuesday, and Rodgers sounded perfectly content with McAdoo leading the quarterbacks room, even though McAdoo's never played quarterback or coached the position at any level.

"I think every player wants to be coached," Rodgers said. "I don't care if you're Year 1 or Year 8 or Year 15, you want to be coached. I'm no different. I enjoy a new face in the room with some new ideas to motivate me and challenge me. Because it's a different voice in the room, there's going to be times when he brings things up that you probably haven't heard before. I think it's going to be a great room come regular season. Ben's done a good job so far."

For his part, McAdoo understood Rodgers' concerns.

"I'm not defensive about that," McAdoo said a couple weeks ago. "I didn't play the position, I've never coached the position. I have something to prove. I'm very capable. I've never been the pretty girl in the room. I've always had to work for what I have, and I like that."

The other odd pairing was the hiring of former Buffalo Bills quarterback and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt to coach the running backs.

"It's been refreshing, it really has, to go in there and see it through the eyes of a running back," Van Pelt said. "Talk about the protections and the tips on where the blitzes are coming from (from a quarterback's perspective)."

Pass protection is paramount for the Packers' running backs. It's been a strength of that unit dating to Edgar Bennett's time as running backs coach, and it continued last year under Jerry Fontenot.

"You learn how to protect the quarterback a little bit better because you've got to know the whole defense," running back James Starks said. "He's big on knowing the protections, what you can get with a certain blitz or a certain formation. He's getting us a lot smarter. We're looking at it from a quarterback perspective, so it's a lot easier once we get out there to do our job."

Fontenot, who joined the staff in 2006, was the assistant offensive line coach from 2007 through 2010 and coached the running backs in 2011 before taking over the tight ends for this season. The longtime NFL center will bring a gritty personality to a group that includes pass-catchers Jermichael Finley, D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor.

"Jerry Fontenot is a guy who's moved three different spots in three years, but I think the guys really appreciate his approach to the game," Rodgers said.

The interesting thing about McCarthy's staff is the big-picture approach. This isn't about just the quarterbacks and just the running backs. It's about each position getting a larger understanding of the scheme. McCarthy used words like "creative" and "aggressive" in describing the staff's approach.

"I love our staff," Rodgers said. "Mike does a great job of bringing in guys who understand the position, either played the position or studied their butt off to make sure they understand what they're teaching, and make sure they understand how to get it across to the players. So it's a great staff."

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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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