Alex Van Pelt Failing His Receivers
During the offseason, Mike McCarthy made the much ballyhoed and now belly-ached move of giving up the play-calling duties to Tom Clements. To not bother putting a fine point on it, this was presumably because MM had his head in his ass down the stretch of the NFC Championship Game. It is also assumed that if he didn’t have the burden of calling plays, he could actually be aware when his special teams coach decides to call a FG block left when leading 16-0 against a desperate and known to be aggressive coaching staff.
With the Packer offense wallowing in the bottom half of the league for most the season, the idea of MM reversing this decision has been beaten to death and is a non-starter at this point. It is too late in the season to make that big of a change now.
A less talked about move was the one that promoted Edgar Bennett to offensive coordinator and removed him from the position as coach of the receivers. In fact, to fill that void, the Packers made the unorthodox move of giving that responsibility AND the quarterbacks’ coach position to the same guy- Alex Van Pelt.
This was somewhat unfortunate as by every empirical measure Bennett was a smashing success right where he was. The Packers not only had two Pro Bowl receivers on their roster, but Davante Adams clearly played better in the latter portion of the season last year, showing marked progression in the right direction. He was getting it.
The motivation or intent behind the move was sensible. No doubt that McCarthy and his assistants are well aware that the MM coaching tree has hardly sprouted a bud ever since winning the Super Bowl after 2010. While three executives under Ted Thompson have moved on to run their own teams, only the ill-fated Joe Philbin has gotten a head-coaching gig out of his time under McCarthy.
In fact, former quarterback’s coach, Ben McAdoo, accepted an OC job with the New York Giants to give himself a better track towards a top gig. Considering all that, it made perfect sense for McCarthy to reward one of his top assistants while also blocking other teams from offering an OC job first.
Of course, Bennett might be OC in Green Bay, but he isn’t calling the plays. So, in the end, you have an exceptional running back or receivers coach who isn’t quite a full OC. Meanwhile, you have a former quarterback trying to coach both the quarterbacks and the receivers.
The results seem to speak for themselves. The Packers shockingly have the 23rd ranked passing attack and neither Van Pelt or McCarthy are going to step up and blame the quarterback, which kind of narrows it down in regards to who is at fault.
Sure, injuries are the primary culprit. Van Pelt and McCarthy, I’m sure, would both be quick to point that out. Okay, but Jeff Janis has NOT been injured, and he hasn’t learned the playbook yet? Despite what McCarthy is selling, football is not a game of geniuses. It is a simple game with plenty of the intellectually challenged doing exceedingly well at it. So, either Janis is as sharp as a loaf of bread, or he has a really poor teacher.
Also, injuries have nothing to do with receivers lining up and not knowing where to run their routes or how to. They also have nothing to do with effort and motivation. Adams appears to have regressed while Janis STILL doesn’t know what he’s doing out there, allegedly.
One would assume, perhaps falsely, that having the same coach in charge of the quarterbacks and receivers, having everyone in the same room, should make it easier for everyone to get on the same page. Well, that obviously hasn’t been happening.
So, with all this being considered, let me be the first to suggest that Alex Van Pelt is NOT a good receiver’s coach. Rather, in actuality, he has been completely inept at it so far.
Now, since Edgar Bennett was rightly promoted, there is nothing the Packers can do now to get him back into that position. Where that leaves the Packers is needing to replace Van Pelt as receiver’s coach, and the sooner the better. It is most likely that McCarthy would not make such a move until after the season is over. Of course, that means the Packers have to continue to live with the results until then.
I would suggest bringing in a former Packer receiver to assume the position immediately. Fortunately for the Packers, there is someone who has played in this system and with Aaron Rodgers, someone who knows the offense, and someone who was incredibly successful in it. That person also happens to have recently retired and therefore may be totally available. Yeah, I’m thinking of Donald Driver.