Bates simply had to step aside

Ouch! The Green Bay Packers had a gem of a coach in Jim Bates, but not anymore. The decision by the defensive coordinator to move on from Green Bay Monday afternoon was a kick in the shins for a team that desperately needs him, but one he had to make to protect himself and his coaching peers.

Jim Bates' departure from the Green Bay Packers probably shouldn't be a big surprise. He's following an unwritten rule among the fraternity of NFL coaches to not get in another coach's way. When Bates was passed over by Packers general manager Ted Thompson for the head coaching job in favor of Mike McCarthy, Bates' future in Green Bay all but ended, despite his admiration for Packers fans and their respect for him.

"It needs to fit," McCarthy said. "It wasn't in his heart and it wasn't in my heart. It was a mutual decision and that's why we're here today.

"I respect Jim Bates. I think he did a hell of a job here last year."

Bates took a defense that was one of the worst in the NFL in 2004 and transformed it into a top 10 defense in many categories last year. His energy and enthusiasm for the game is white hot, and well respected by players, coaches and fans. But now he has to go.

After finishing "second" to McCarthy in his quest to become head coach of the Packers, Bates decided after a weekend away from Lambeau Field to move on to another team, like he did last year after his stint with the Dolphins. Nick Saban, who was hired ahead of Bates, offered Bates the opportunity to be defensive coordinator, but Bates passed, trading his beach front home in Miami for a lodge in the Frozen Tundra. But why?

If Bates had stayed in Green Bay, both he and McCarthy would be in a no-win situation. The media and fans would constantly be comparing Bates to McCarthy and vice versa. Without Bates, McCarthy is clearly the top dog, and will be able to hand-pick coaches that he has always wanted to pursue when he got the "dream job" of NFL head coach.

"I want to give Mike the opportunity to pick those guys that he has worked with over the years and built relationships with," Bates said. "I didn't want to step in his way and be 100 percent committed to do what I need to do as defensive coordinator."

That's just the way coaches are in the NFL. They live transient lifestyles and rarely burn bridges with each other. Heck, one of the first things new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski did in his press conference Sunday was apologize over negative remarks about Mike Sherman last year. Sherman fired Jagodzinski after the 2003 season because the two didn't see eye to eye. Jagodzinski fired back last spring, saying Sherman never sought opinions from his assistants and was too narrow-minded.

Bates is getting out of McCarthy's way. Both he and McCarthy share the utmost respect for each other, but that doesn't mean it is good for the Packers. Bates is the best defensive coordinator since, well, Ed Donatell was fired as the scapegoat for the fourth-and-26 debacle in Philadelphia.

It will be a challenge for McCarthy to find a coordinator as good as Bates, but he said he's going to do his best to find someone with passion and experience. "I'm looking for someone that fits in the direction that we're going," McCarthy said.

In other words, he's looking for a coach that can pick up where Bates left off. That's a tall order, and Green Bay's defense will likely suffer in 2006 as the result of Bates' departure.

Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of and Packer Report. E-mail him at

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