Tom Clements and Mike Stock were a little different than the other 13 coaches in attendance and that will be a good thing for the Packers headed into the 2006 season.
At first glance, Clements, 52, and Stock, 66, are two of the "senior citizens" on what new head coach Mike McCarthy is assembling as one of the youngest coaching staffs in the league. Coaches on hand for the media luncheon on Monday, not including Clements and Stock, averaged just 42.8 years of age.
Aside from their elder status, Clements and Stock are different in other ways, too. They will coach two areas that will be critical to turning around the fortunes of a team that took a nose dive in 2005. Clements will coach the quarterbacks and Stock will coordinate the special teams.
In hiring Clements, McCarthy will work with someone he is relatively unfamiliar with, yet his coaching career may hinge on the relationship.
Whether or not Brett Favre returns for another season and receives the input from a position coach that he has not gotten in years could be an important part of Clements' job.
"I've coached veteran guys before," explained Clements, "maybe not at the level of Favre, but I think you take the same approach. I can learn as much from Brett as hopefully he can learn from me. I think especially with a guy at that level, it's more of a collaborative type of deal. Although at some point, I say, ‘Here, why don't you try it this way. If it doesn't work and you have a better way, let's talk about it.' Whereas with a younger guy you may say, ‘Okay, this is the way we're going to do it. You're becoming engrained into this system.' So I would have no problem working with a guy with the experience that Brett has. It would be a great opportunity."
More importantly, it can be argued, is the effect of the new coach on the long-term future of the Packers. Clements, along with McCarthy, will have to develop second-year quarterback Aaron Rodgers to get him to play like the overall No. 1 draft pick he was rumored to have been a year ago.
"Most all young quarterbacks have their growing pains," said Clements. "You just have to be patient, you have to be able to teach them what you want them to learn, they have to be receptive to it, and they have to develop some mental toughness and keep their confidence level high because there are going to be some bumps in the road."
Clements experienced and witnessed the struggles of a young quarterback with high expectations in his most recent job as offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills. J.P. Losman, a quarterback out of Tulane that the Packers expressed interest in two years ago coming into the draft, has battled injuries, but has not performed well under Clements when healthy.
"This was his second year, but in his first year he got hurt in training camp and wasn't able to practice until later in his first year and he really didn't have a lot of practice," said Clements. "Once you're in the season, it's hard to develop a person and he didn't get a lot of playing time. So this past year was really his rookie year. Like most rookies, he was seeing things for the first time as a professional player, had to get used to the speed of the game, seeing different defenses, and I'm sure he'll be better next year."
Clements, among all of the other Packers' assistant coaches, has no direct relationship with McCarthy or no direct ties to the Packers. McCarthy deviated from his mission statement of hiring "Packer people" when he chose Clements.
McCarthy met with Clements at the Senior Bowl prior to the annual post-season college game this past weekend. He hired him shortly thereafter. Clements arrived in Green Bay on Saturday and will look to make contact with Favre, who he has never met, and Rodgers, who he knows little about, as one of his first duties.
Clements, by initial accounts, appears to be a cerebral man and that should serve the Packers well with Favre or Rodgers. With a law degree from Notre Dame and a winning background as a player (including the highlight of quarterbacking Notre Dame to a national championship in 1973), he is unique among the majority of a coaching staff that does not have winning in its background.
Stock 'thrilled' to be in Green Bay
Stock, like Clements, also has winning in his background and may just provide the infusion of life that the Packers' special teams units so desperately need. Along his journey in nearly 50 years of being involved with football, he has been to a Super Bowl as a coach with the Bengals, coached at Notre Dame when they competed annually for national championships, and played and coached under the legendary Ara Parseghian at Northwestern.
Outwardly, Stock was the one coach on Monday thrilled to have the opportunity to coach in Green Bay.
"I'm absolutely flabbergasted, just so excited about being here… if you grew up with NFL football, this is the place," he said.
As one of the most upbeat new coaches, Stock is not showing his age at all. He had his hip replaced last year and was out of coaching, but he does not have plans to retire any time soon. If he can impart his wisdom and energy into a unit that has not had made a significant overall impact in the past four years, then the Packers will have something to build on.
There will be challenges for Stock, which may include working with a new kicker and a new punter and several new coverage team players.
"You've got to establish a group of core guys who are not going to be around just for a year. That's where the problems lie in special teams coaching today," he said. "Because of salary cap issues and all of that, you pay the top dogs big money, and so what's left over is not as much for the other guys. The guys that we work with, the special teams' guys, are normally backup players. Some are front-line guys, but not that many. And then sometimes, if those front-line guys get hurt, those guys have to step in and be starters at those other positions, and now you're working with guys off the street. So there's a matter of consistency there. The better you are at staying healthy, the better you are at having a chance to be successful as the games go on through the season."
While McCarthy went young in several coaching positions to mirror his team's roster, his selections of Clements and Stock give him two veterans at positions that need it the most. Last season's poor production and miscues in those areas should have been indicative enough of that.
Editor's note: Matt Tevsh is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at email@example.com.