Jagodzinski will be missed

Ex-offensive coordinator's communication, leadership qualities an asset

Mike McCarthy, in his season-ending press conference Wednesday, said that he has begun interviewing candidates for the vacant offensive coordinator position. The position was held by Jeff Jagodzinski, who packed his bags earlier this week and left for Boston College to begin his stint as head coach of the Eagles.

McCarthy declined to go into detail on who he is or has interviewed this week, but it's a good bet that he may have brought in offensive coordinators from Jim Mora's staff in Atlanta and Dennis Green's staff in Arizona. Both coaches were fired on Monday, and, as is often the case, many of their assistants probably will be seeking new jobs within the next couple of weeks.

McCarthy probably invited Gregg Knapp to Green Bay for an interview. Knapp has served as the Falcons offensive coordinator the past three seasons. He also was offensive coordinator under Steve Mariucci and Dennis Erickson in San Francisco from 2001-03. He is quite familiar with the zone-blocking scheme, which the Packers installed this past season and would like to continue in 2007.

It is possible that McCarthy met with Keith Rowen, who was offensive coordinator for the Cardinals last season, and tight ends coach for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1999-04. Rowen tutored Chiefs Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez, whom the Packers are expected to pursue this off-season in free agency. Knapp probably is the leading candidate of coaches from outside the current Packers staff because of his familiarity with the zone-blocking scheme. But Kansas City's offense is not much different than Green Bay's, which makes Rowen a strong candidate as well.

Then there is Packers offensive line coach Joe Philbin and quarterbacks coach Tom Clements. Both are expected to interview with McCarthy within the next few days, as is running backs coach Edgar Bennett.

Philbin would seem the likely top candidate of the three because of his work with the team's offensive linemen this season. He also has offensive coordinator experience at the college level at Allegheny College, Northeastern University and Harvard in the 1990s.

Clements, 53, is eight years older than Philbin and gained experience as offensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills in 2004-05. He has been an assistant coach in the NFL for 10 seasons overall and worked closely with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers this past season.

As you can see, there are a handful of strong candidates, but what it ultimately will boil down to is "leadership" ability, according to McCarthy. What does that mean?

Here's an example: As the Packers put the finishing touches on their victory over the Chicago Bears Sunday night, all of the team's offensive linemen, and many other players and coaches gave Jagodzinski a hug and thanked him for his work this season.

The next day, Jagodzinski was reflecting on that moment and in the locker room, where emotions were, understandably, running high.

Jagodzinski and other coaches on the staff had to coach their butts off this season to get a very young offensive line and backfield ready for the new scheme. It wasn't always peaches and cream, but the offense had its moments. Away from the spotlight, Jagodzinski admitted he had to be pretty hard on the young linemen, in particular, during practices in order that they catch on as quick as possible.

"Those guys, I was the hardest on those guys, the offensive linemen," Jagodzinski said. "I think guys appreciate hard coaching. There wasn't one of those guys who didn't give me a hug after that game. Not one. That's the hard part about leaving. I know I was hard on them, real hard. (But) it always goes as that group goes and I've always felt that way.

"I think you can coach guys as hard as you want, and if they believe you care about them, you can. If they believe you're doing everything you can to make them a better player, they want that. Obviously."

The day after the Packers' 26-7 win over the Bears, the linemen continued to stop by Jagodzinski's office as he packed his belongings. They thanked him and again and asked for free Boston College baseball caps. "Especially (Jason) Spitz," Jagodzinski said with a smile.

Fans and the media do not often get to see the relationships that coaches and players build. We're often shielded from the discipline in practice. But it is very evident here that players had the utmost respect for Jagodzinski as a leader.

Let's hope the McCarthy lands a coach that can carry on those qualities. If you were surprised that Jagodzinski was hired as head coach for Boston College, now you know.

Todd Korth

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

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