Can youth prevail?

McCarthy favors younger coaches, connections among assistants

Mike McCarthy's new coaching staff is nearly set, and soon after Sunday's Super Bowl in Detroit, it will officially begin to prepare for the 2006 season. The common thread among the staff is youth, and only time will tell if its enthusiasm can help propel the Green Bay Packers into playoff contention.

Along with the youthfulness are the connections that McCarthy utilized while forming his first staff. Green Bay's 42-year-old head coach hired a handful of assistants that he has worked with at various NFL stops before his return to Green Bay.

McCarthy, during his stay in New Orleans as offensive coordinator from 2000-04, worked with linebackers coach Winston Moss, wide receivers coach Jimmy Williams, strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson, and offensive line quality control assistant Ty Knott. McCarthy also reunites with offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, whom he worked with in 1999 in Green Bay, and defensive backs coach Lionel Washington, who has been in Green Bay coaching the cornerbacks since 1999. McCarthy lured 28-year-old tight ends coach Ben McAdoo from San Francisco, where the two worked last season, to Green Bay. McCarthy also added defensive line coach Carl Hairston, defensive backs coach Kurt Schottenheimer, and special teams coordinator Mike Stock to the staff. McCarthy worked with all three during his time in Kansas City from 1993-98.

Two coaches retained from Mike Sherman's staff got promotions. Bob Sanders has been elevated from defensive ends coach to defensive coordinator. Joe Philbin, who will be the offensive line coach this year, coached tight ends and was the assistant offensive line coach last year.

Other Sherman holdovers include defensive line coach Robert Nunn, assistant offensive line coach James Campen, running backs coach Edgar Bennett, and Washington.

McCarthy said Monday that he still plans to hire a special teams assistant coach and defensive quality control coach. Count on both of those coaches to be young.

Ten Packers coaches are 45 or younger. The 66-year-old Stock and 56-year-old Schottenheimer are the two oldest coaches on the staff. From there, the age range drops off, though, Stock possesses the enthusiasm of a coach half his age.

"I don't know if the age really has anything to do with how successful a staff will be," said Jagodzinski, 42. "I don't think it's going to be any problem at all, the age. In fact, I think it's going to be a real positive because it's going to be something where they give a lot of energy out on the field."

That's a good thing. The Packers are coming off a 4-12 season, their worst since 1991. However, in the NFL it is not uncommon anymore with free agency and the draft to go from worst to first in the span of a season. McCarthy notes the Saints went to the playoffs in 2000 after going 3-13 in 1999.

"You can bounce right back in this league," McCarthy said. "That's the beauty of parity."

Still, the Packers' new coaching staff faces a big challenge. Since 1978 only 11 rookie head coaches in the NFL led their teams to division titles. Atlanta's Jim Mora, Jr., was the last to do so in 2004.

If McCarthy's young staff can get the Packers to play with passion, focus and energy in 2006, anything can happen, whether Brett Favre is at quarterback or not. Realistically, because of all the changes and new schemes that will be installed on offense and special teams, the Packers probably will be inconsistent as they adapt to McCarthy and his assistants.

McCarthy begs to differ.

"I think the beauty of the system is it plays into the ability of your players," McCarthy said.

McCarthy and his staff plan to evaluate current personnel, beginning at 1 p.m. (CT) on Monday at Lambeau Field. They will then prepare for the annual NFL Combine in Indianapolis later this month, and the NFL draft in April. McCarthy also plans to take advantage of an the extra minicamp allotted by the NFL to new head coaches this off-season.

McCarthy's younger staff definitely is up to the challenge ahead of developing a chemistry among the team that will get the Packers back on the winning track. Time will tell if it can be successful in 2006, or if there are growing pains to endure.


Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.


Packer Report Top Stories