When Mike McCarthy hired Bob Sanders as his defensive coordinator in 2006, it was a marriage of convenience for the Packers' new head coach.
First, Sanders would maintain the defensive system put in place with success by his protégé, the popular Jim Bates. Second, Sanders became the Packers' fourth defensive coordinator in as many years. The last thing the defensive players needed was to have to learn yet another system.
McCarthy's search to replace Sanders has turned much more exhaustive. Dom Capers, with 16 years as an NFL head coach or defensive coordinator, is the fourth person known to have interviewed for the post. And, reportedly, two more interviews are on tap in the next couple of days.
All of which leads one to believe McCarthy has his eyes intently focused on one of the hot assistant coaches remaining in the playoff chase. Since guys like Eagles secondary coach Sean McDermott and Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler are off-limits until their seasons end — unless their head coach gives permission during the two days after the conference title games — McCarthy is leaving no stone unturned in waiting for those hot commodities to become available.
While McCarthy hasn't talked to McDermott or Butler, who never have been coordinators but have learned under two of the best in the business in Jim Johnson and Dick LeBeau, respectively — it's quite possible he's talked to their intermediaries to gauge their interest in the job. Since McCarthy didn't put on a full-court press to hire either of his previous interviewees, it seems likely at least one of the hot assistants is interested in coming to Green Bay.
Of course, McCarthy's measured approach is fraught with perils. From the outside, McCarthy might have fallen in love with McDermott or Butler — or even Ravens special assistant Vic Fangio, who interviewed here in 2006. The danger in waiting, however, is what if the candidate McCarthy has fallen head over heels for turns out to be incompatible during the interview? What if that candidate is blown away by a better offer or is being pursued by a team with better talent?
Then, not only has McCarthy not gotten his guy, but he's missed out the most-qualified candidates he's interviewed: Gregg Williams (Saints), Mike Nolan (Broncos) or Capers (the Broncos want him to be their secondary coach).
Fortunately, even with Williams and Nolan off the market, there are proven coordinators available. Jim Haslett, who was the third person to interview with McCarthy, is considered a quality defensive mind who was hamstrung by lousy talent and front offices in St. Louis and New Orleans. One NFL insider told Packer Report that Capers is a "hell of a coach" who, also, was hurt by a lack of talent. Capers is a 3-4 guru but did run the 4-3 in Jacksonville. Former Packers cornerback Tim Lewis, who had successful stints as coordinator in Pittsburgh and the New York Giants and is Carolina's secondary coach, is available, too.
One person who won't get the job is Raheem Morris. The Buccaneers have chosen the 32-year-old Morris, who was to have replaced Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator, as their head coach after shockingly firing Jon Gruden on Friday.
There are three possibilities in Tennessee, depending on what the Titans elect to do in replacing new Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. Assistant head coach/linebackers coach Dave McGinnis is an experienced coordinator. Former Packers safety Chuck Cecil is the Titans' defensive backs coach. Defensive line coach Jim Washburn could be a possibility, too.
Dallas just fired coordinator Brian Stewart, though he was relieved of his play-calling duties by coach Wade Phillips at midseason. And, if all else fails, McCarthy could simply decide none of the candidates measure up to his linebackers coach/assistant head coach, Winston Moss.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum.
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