Catch of the day

New Packers defensive coordinator Jim Bates comes to Green Bay with a fishing pole and a toolbox.

The fishing pole will be packed because Bates is an avid angler. The toolbox will come because the Packers' defense is in major need of repairs.

Bates is the man for the job, or so hopes Packers coach Mike Sherman, who hired the former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator and interim head coach on Monday.

Bates sounded full of optimism during his Tuesday introduction to the Wisconsin media, via a conference call from his oceanside home near Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"It is exciting for me to come in there and get this defense playing at a high level," Bates said. "Winning 10 football games, it's hard to do in the NFL. And (if) we play better defense and really get these guys playing hard and playing with technique and being good, solid tacklers, shoot, there's no reason we can't win 12, 13, 14. Just with the improvement in that area of the football team."

Bates comes to Green Bay with a track record of defensive success. During his five seasons in Miami, his defenses never finished outside the top 10 in total defense. Their cumulative ranking during his stay was fifth.

Thus, Bates doesn't see any reason why he can't make the necessary repairs to a unit that ranked 25th in the league last season and played a huge role in a disappointing 10-6 season and first-round playoff exit by setting franchise records for most touchdown passes allowed and fewest turnovers forced.

"It's a new season. Last year is history," he said. "We're starting over. The jobs will be wide open. It's going to be a new start for a lot of individuals. That's one thing about coming in with a fresh start — I will bring in, ‘Hey, we're starting over. Learn from the mistakes of last year, but we're going forward with a fresh start.'"

Bates will bring a change of philosophy from last year's ill-fated blitzing scheme employed, albeit for only the first few weeks of the season, by deposed coordinator Bob Slowik. Bates believes technique, not scheme, is the key to a stout defense.

"To be good on defense, you have to build a foundation," Bates said. "I am very technique oriented, as the (rest of the) staff will be. I believe in the basics of building a strong, strong foundation."

Technique was sorely lacking last season, particularly in the secondary, where rookie first-round pick Ahmad Carroll and rookie third-round pick Joey Thomas made nearly indecipherable progress during the season. The same penalties Carroll was flagged for during the preseason were the same penalties Carroll got flagged for during the playoff loss to Minnesota.

Despite the rookies' dreary first seasons, Bates says both players have "excellent ability" and a promising future. Bates also spoke highly of defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, saying he reminded him of Dolphins Pro Bowler Jason Taylor, and athletic middle linebacker Nick Barnett, who is in the mold of his longtime Miami standout, Zach Thomas.

"Size has not been a big thing when we have the two big people in the middle," said Bates, alluding to Cletidus Hunt's and Grady Jackson's ability to demand double teams to free up the linebackers. "We're fortunate to have a couple big guys in the middle."

The Packers are fortunate to be located in Green Bay and so close to so many fantastic fishing spots. Bates said there were five other suitors for his services, and Green Bay won out on numerous fronts. Not the least of which was his ability to have some quiet fun away from the coaching grind.

"There's good fishing up there," Bates said. "I'm ready to fish a little bit. I love fishing for walleye and pike and perch. I mean, everything was a marriage for me."

Part of that marriage was his marriage. His wife, Beverly, is a native of Plainfield, Wis., and he has other nephews and nieces living in central Wisconsin. That makes a pretty good homecoming for a coach who now lists 16 jobs on his nomadic resume.

The 58-year-old Bates, while saying he would like another crack at being a head coach, sounded like a man who was ready to settle down.

"Football in Green Bay is one of the most special events in the country. I'm getting toward the end of my career," Bates said.

"And for me to go to Green Bay, Wis., with everything in place, the coaches I want to work with, the opportunity on the defensive side of the ball with some young players that will be hungry to play and prove that they're good football players ... it's just everything about the situation.


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