Staying in-house for coordinator is best

PackerReport.com's Doug Ritchay explains why it is important for Packers head coach Mike McCarthy to promote from within for the vacant offensive coordinator position.

The biggest question facing the Green Bay Packers this off-season is whether quarterback Brett Favre will return in 2007. Just like last year, everybody has an opinion, but nobody, including the quarterback himself, knows what will happen.

However, we do know one thing which happen. The Packers will have a new offensive coordinator, as coach Mike McCarthy needs to find a replacement to fill the void left by Jeff Jagodzinski, who left to become the head coach at Boston College. Contenders for the spot include in-house candidates in quarterbacks coach Tom Clements and offensive line coach Joe Philbin, as well as Tampa Bay quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett, who McCarthy has a relationship with dating back to his early years of coaching.

Under Jagodzinski, the Packers ranked ninth in total offense this past season, and considering the Packers' injuries at wide receiver, youth on the offensive line and ineffectiveness at tight end, it's a pretty impressive number.

Notwithstanding, the Packers were an unimpressive 24th in the most important stat – points scored – at 18.8. Therefore, it's not like the new coordinator is replacing a legend.

Furthermore, McCarthy should take the most responsibility for these numbers, since he calls the plays.

It's likely McCarthy looks to a coach with a background in the zone-blocking scheme Jagodzinki brought from Atlanta. That would seem to favor Philbin, who was the offensive line coach.

"It's a position of leadership, so those are qualities you're looking for in that position," McCarthy said. "And really, I'm more concerned about fit more than anything, because of the direction that's already been established with our offensive staff.

"I'm very comfortable with the operation we have there, the personalities we have there. With me calling the plays, I'm obviously very involved there. We have a lot of things in place, but it's my responsibility to look at every possible option, and that's the way I'm going about it."

Philbin did a nice job with an offensive line which included three rookie starters at times. Also, he has been in Green Bay since 2003, so he's familiar with the personnel.

Nevertheless, Clements has an edge, also. If Favre retires this off-season, he will be key in preparing Aaron Rodgers to be Favre's replacement. Clements worked with Rodgers this past season as quarterbacks coach and may have as much knowledge about Rodgers than anybody on staff.

Also, Clements was the Bills' offensive coordinator in 2004-05 – a position Philbin has never held in the NFL - so he has experience in this position. That wasn't the best outcome for Clements, who was let go when the Bills fired head coach Mike Mularkey.

There are arguments to be made for both coaches. As for Hackett, he's been everywhere and recorded modest success. With his track record, he seems unlikely as a top candidate.

If the Packers go outside the coaching staff, it would make more sense to find a coach who McCarthy believes is an up-and-comer. This position, although attractive, especially if Favre returns, doesn't have the usual responsibility most coordinator positions have. That's because the offensive coordinator does not call plays in Green Bay. He more or less oversees the game action and provides McCarthy with play-call ideas.

He's an assistant chef. He doesn't make the meal, but he's responsible for some of the ingredients. Wherever McCarthy goes with his decision, it will be the second most important off-season decision made – right behind Favre's decision to retire or not.

Although the offense didn't light up the scoreboard this past season – the Packers were shut out twice in 2006 – assuming Greg Jennings gets healthy and Koren Robinson gets "clean," the tight end position improves, and the draft or free agency gives the quarterback of 2007 another weapon, the offense has a chance to be more than a complement to the defense.

Truthfully, Favre's decision and McCarthy's decision on who to name the offensive coordinator may be the keys to what happens in 2007.


Doug Ritchay

Doug Ritchay is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.


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