I must first say that with the exception of Head Coach Mike McCarthy, I have little to no knowledge of any of the coaches that he has hired. I have heard many of their names but do not know any of them personally or by reputation. That concerned me a bit, not because I expected to know any of them personally, there are too many coaches for that to happen. But I would have hoped that I had heard of some of them by reputation. I would estimate that there are over 500 coaches actively employed by NFL teams, so it would be impossible to know all or even a majority of them.
Still, I was a little disappointed that no one I know, or knew about, got a shot with the staff. I had hoped that if someone I knew got hired, it would give me an idea as to the quality of the staff or the direction the group was going. If someone I knew and respected was added to the staff, I would have increased confidence and faith in where the team was headed. Since that did not happen, I have had to reserve judgment for the moment.
I had a chance to have lunch with one of the coaches at a Packer media event on Monday and came away personally impressed. If he is indicative of the quality and character of the rest of the staff, then I have a good feeling. He was very personable, knowledgeable, accomplished and serious. He and I talked about some of the places he has worked and some of the players he has coached and he has a great background in this game.
If his personal characteristics, record and resume are representative of the rest of the staff, then we can expect good things out of this team. My experience is that there is a wide disparity between different coaches and their roles require different responsibilities and talent. With the exception of the Redskins, who have decided to staff up with ex-head coaches and ex-coordinators, a coaching staff must have a wide variety of personalities and roles.
Take Jim Bates for instance. He was considered a defensive genius here the past year or so. But when I was a lowly scouting assistant in Cleveland and he was one of the defensive line coaches back in the mid 1990's, he did not stand out on that staff. He was overshadowed by the rest of the staff, which consisted of four future college head coaches (Rod Dowhower – Vanderbilt, Woody Widenhofer – Vanderbilt, Pat Hill – Fresno State, Kirk Ferentz – Iowa), numerous NFL head coaches (Bill Belichick, Nick Saban, Eric Mangini), other future coordinators (Jim Schwartz – Titans) and a few up and coming Personnel Directors (Scott Pioli – Patriots, Phil Savage – Browns, Mike Lombardi – Raiders, George Kokinis – Ravens). Coach Bates is very good at his job and deserves all the accolades, but at that point in his career, he was just another coach on a staff loaded with talent. It was obvious to me at that time that some of those guys I mentioned were destined for great things and some were still too young, like Mangini, that it was too early to tell.
It would be tough to have a bunch of Jim Bates-type coaches on your staff as much as it might be attractive from a knowledge perspective. A staff needs variety and diversity. You need some grunts and you need some thinkers and you need some yellers and you need some mother types and some father types. There is a good cop-bad cop thing going on and, like a family, the most successful ones have all the roles covered.
I have yet to meet any of the other coaches over there on Lombardi Avenue, but if they are like my lunch partner from the other day, I look forward to it. I have a good gut feeling about this staff and consequently the team in general.
Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at email@example.com.