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More Thoughts on the Purge of Packers’ Coaches

In my last post, I expressed my views on the Packers’ firing of defensive coordinator Dom Capers. The purge has continued, with the additional removals of offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett, quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, and assistant linebackers coach Scott McCurley.

Offensive Coordinator Edgar Bennett

We’ve previously reported that Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame running back Bennett had steadily moved up the coaching ladder in Green Bay since 2001. He went from director of player development to running backs coach, then to receivers coach, and finally Mike McCarthy promoted him to offensive coordinator in 2015. It appeared Bennett was on a path to becoming a head coach for some NFL team.

So, given McCarthy’s hands-on approach to running the offense, he had 14 years to closely assess Bennett’s abilities prior to choosing him as his offensive coordinator, and then he had three more years working hand-in-hand with him in running the offense. How is it that Bennett now gets blamed for the team’s lack of offensive output in 2017, while McCarthy does not?

Quarterbacks Coach Alex Van Pelt

Van Pelt got his coaching start in 2006 with the Buffalo Bills. After two quick promotions up to offensive coordinator, the entire Bills coaching staff was let go after a disappointing season in 2009. He joined Tampa Bay’s coaching staff as quarterbacks coach, but again was part of a purge of that entire coaching staff two years later.

Big Mike quickly picked him up and made him Green Bay’s running backs coach in 2012, then moved him to quarterbacks coach two years later. As with Bennett, McCarthy abruptly fired him – for the third time he’s a victim of multiple firings. I’m unaware of Big Mike making any criticisms of Van Pelt’s performance prior to his firing.

It’s safe to assume that when the crisis of Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone occurred, Big Mike didn’t simply delegate the game preparation of Brett Hundley to Van Pelt. No, McCarthy was surely front-and-center at Hundley’s practice sessions, he headed up the game-planning meetings, and he selected the play calls – not Van Pelt.

Instead of accepting blame for the backup quarterbacking debacle, Big Mike took it out on his underling – a pattern seen often during his head coaching tenure.

Defensive Line Coach Mike Trgovac

As has been a common practice, Big Mike chose a veteran coach to be his defensive line coach back in 2009. From 1984 to 1994, Trgovac had been a coach at five colleges, the last being defensive line coach at Notre Dame. From 1995 through 2018, serving mostly as a defensive line coach with the Packers, Redskins, and Panthers, Trgovac’s defensive units had a knack for being ranked among the league’s best.

I have to wonder what Big Mike didn’t like about the job Trgovac was doing. Kenny Clark had a breakout second season, including recording 4.5 sacks after getting none his rookie season. Mike Daniels had another steady campaign. Other than those two, Trgovac was left to work with another second-year man, Dean Lowry, who improved greatly, and castoff Quinton Dial, who performed better than his $775,000 salary would have suggested. Rookie Montravius Adams was largely lost to injury.

The Packers ranked eighth in rushing yards allowed per carry (3.9), compared to 12th in 2016 and 26th in 2015. In what way was Trgovac failing at his job?

Assistant Linebackers Coach Scott McCurley

Unlike the others let go, McCurley at age 37 was one of the Packers’ youngest coaches. His entire 12-year coaching career has been spent with the Packers. He’s assisted Winston Moss in coaching linebackers for the past four years. It’s a little curious that the assistant, McCurley, would go while Moss remains.

Actually, inside linebacker was perhaps the brightest position on the team in 2017. Second-year man Blake Martinez went from a part-time player to being tied for the league lead in tackles – something no Packers player has accomplished in decades. Steady third-year teammate Jake Ryan had his second consecutive year of 80-plus tackles.

The outside linebackers didn’t fare as well, though injuries (and age) slowed down Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and Vince Biegel. New acquisition Ahmad Brooks met expectations and Reggie Gilbert showed unexpected promise – maybe he should have been put to use earlier, but that wasn’t the assistant’s call.

It’s not McCurley’s fault that the team let Julius Peppers, who recorded 11 sacks on the year, go back to Carolina.

Comments

If McCarthy was basing his firings on player performance, you’d think that offensive line, tight ends, and receivers coaches would have been the first to go. Receivers coach Luke Getsy got out just before the purge, returning to college coaching at Mississippi State. On the defensive side, the cornerbacks and safeties coaches would seem to have been the obvious targets for dismissal.

McCarthy has a reputation for firing a coach or two as a way of scapegoating following disappointing seasons. As this is the team’s most disappointing season in nine years, five firings seems to be par for the course.

If all these guys weren’t ultimately deemed by Big Mike to have the qualities needed to become outstanding coaches, then wasn’t he badly mistaken in promoting or hiring them to begin with?

One thing for sure: as McCarthy’s reputation grows for canning his coaches when things go bad, it’s going to become harder and harder to get promising people to come to Green Bay to work for him.

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Rob Born

Someone else said it first but I popularized it: “Athleticism is important in athletic pursuits.” It took three years, but the Packers finally listened. My new mantra: “Trading down is fine, but never trade up.”

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10 Comments

  1. FTS January 4, 2018

    I dont have problem with joe whitt. Dont forget randall was on a baseball scholarship, rollins on a basketball scholarship, combined 3 years of college football experience. Woodson and harris praise the guy and earned their respect. Moss should of been gone along time ago, clay hasn’t been motivated since coach greene left. Big mikeys problem was promoting young coaches with less expeirence to fast. I think hes gotten arrogant as time went on and thought, Im the genius offensive playcaller i can plug-n-play anyone on the offensive coaching staff because i can do it all. Its time to be new!

  2. Bob January 4, 2018

    This whole mess reminds me of a song [ Send In The Clowns] .

  3. Tucson Packer January 4, 2018

    Rob, again, great article. I see you are trying to use a logical thought process to figure out these personnel decisions both the firings and those still left. It is clear to me, unfortunately, the Packers Brass just plain doesn’t have one.

  4. Empacador January 4, 2018

    I said in another thread this very thing about why Moss was kept. McCarthy named him assistant head coach. Can’t be a good look for a highly successful head coach to fire his hand picked assistant head coach.

  5. chuck January 5, 2018

    Don’t agree with this rationale. Whether spoiled ass fans want to admit it or not, this has been a rather successful ly run organization for quite some time which is atypical for NFL standards. The folks within the organization have a much better perspective than fans and some beat writer. Let’s just allow the system to play out and see if the performance on the field improves.

    1. Empacador January 5, 2018

      Are you a McCarthy supporter by chance, Chuck? Do you think people here are “spoiled” or “entitled”, Chuck? The only success has been Thompson in the first half of his tenure as GM here and Rodgers carrying the weight of everyone else. No Rodgers, and this shit implodes YEARS ago. Don’t care what the record has been with McCarthy as a coach.

      Let’s not kid ourselves and put this into perspective, Justin Harrell received a Super Bowl Championship ring too, and what did he contribute? Simply along for the ride. Why is that so hard for people to admit the McCarthy isn’t the second coming of Lombardi and despite his longevity here, he has accomplished his success off the backs of others? He hit the lottery when Thompson hired him and he hit the lottery again when that same Thompson drafted the guy McCarthy didn’t want in San Francisco. Seems McCarthy’s judgement about Hundley wasn’t the only time he has been very, very wrong in his career. I’m sure with his ego he has missed on several other players too, simply because he thinks he is better BASED ON THE WON-LOSS record than he actually is.

      If McCarthy leaves, he will NEVER duplicate the “success” he had in Green Bay, that is if anyone bothers to hire him. People, not just “spoiled, entitled” Packer fans, are finally seeing what a blowhard and fraud he is. Too bad it is about 7 years too late though.

  6. MM²SUCK January 5, 2018

    MM is a weasel of great magnitude. This guy plays favorites and seems to shit on anyone that he feels compelled to, and to hell with any good reasons(s) for doing so. What Rob points out so glaringly is that the “firings” seemed to have VERY LITTLE to do with performance but seemed to mirror something a despot like Kim Jong Un would do to someone that he decided that he did not like anymore, or; he had to blame someone (and his “favorite” personnel must be spared no matter how their performance was) you know! Because his “group” of Fav’s need to stay! Fuck meritocracy!

    1. Empacador January 5, 2018

      Nice nick change MM. Although, gonna take some getting used to. Lol!

      1. MMTTDCSUCK January 7, 2018

        Amen! Sorry for the delay. Been down with the flu . . .

        1. MM²SUCK January 7, 2018

          Oops!