Bob Sanders has been fired as the Green Bay Packers’ defensive coordinator – something that doesn’t come as much of a surprise after special teams coach Mike Stock retired on Friday.
Something that is somewhat more of a surprise, however, is the Packers’ entire defensive coaching staff was canned along with Sanders, with the exception of assistant head coach/linebackers Winston Moss and defensive quality control assistant Joe Whitt Jr.
Among the departed are defensive ends coach Carl Hairston, defensive tackles coach Robert Nunn, secondary coach Kurt Schottenheimer, cornerbacks coach Lionel Washington, and conditioning coordinator Rock Gullickson.
While a new defensive coordinator may well want to bring in his own people, defensive assistants are ultimately hired by the head coach and are usually held onto when the coordinator is let go. Washington had been with the Packers for 10 seasons. Hairston, Nunn and Schottenheimer were original members of McCarthy’s staff, all hired in 2006.
Moss, meanwhile, has already interviewed for St. Louis’ open head coaching position and there has been speculation if he doesn’t get that job (which doesn’t appear likely), he would be a top contender for Sanders’ former job.
Additional speculation swirls around McCarthy’s former boss in San Francisco, former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan. McCarthy was Nolan’s offensive coordinator with the 49ers in 2005.
As the Journal Sentinel so astutely points out, today’s moves indicates that McCarthy wants to install a new defensive system and wants his coordinator to be able to bring in people familiar with his system. The one holdover – Moss – was not tied to Sanders or his defensive system, and is considered one of the NFL’s bright young coaching minds.
What is interesting about the Nolan speculation, is Nolan ran a 3-4 defense in San Francisco. The Packers ran a 4-3 under Sanders.
If the Packers were to switch to a 3-4, it would mean (with current personnel) moving Brandon Chillar or Desmond Bishop into the starting lineup – or both if someone decided to sit that turd Brady Poppinga.
Alternatively, defensive ends Aaron Kampman or Cullen Jenkins could be used as a combination end/OLB, much as Nolan used Justin Smith in San Francisco. The Packers front three would then look something like this: Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett, Kampman/Jenkins.
In the previous scenario, the front three would likely be Kampman, Pickett, Jenkins. While that looks solid, I am not sold on a linebacking group of Chillar, Barnett, Hawk and Bishop/Poppinga. That linebacking corp won’t remind anyone of the Baltimore Ravens.
Of course, this is all speculation until a move is made. Moss should get strong consideration for the defensive coordinator job, and there are some other intriguing names on the market as well, including former Jacksonville defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, St. Louis interim coach Jim Haslett and former Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel.
Whatever the choice, the new coordinator will be hard pressed to perform worse than Sanders’ unit did this year.