We can debate just how much influence an NFL team’s assistant coaches have over a team’s ultimate success. I seldom get excited when new assistant coaches are added to or subtracted from the team.
You look at their resumes and they appear interchangeable, with many being with a half dozen or more pro or college teams in just their first decade of coaching. It’s especially hard to gauge the talents of position coaches, whose primary job seems to be to help NFL newcomers learn the ropes. How much can an offensive line coach or cornerbacks coach teach veteran NFL players?
What I like to see in an assistant coach is a motivator as much as a teacher. I like guys who are totally invested into the drama and competition of the games. Call it what you will: being able to get players psyched up, having players at an emotional high at game time, urging and cheering on the troops, displaying some fire in the belly.
I suppose that younger members of coaching staffs tend to be the best game-time motivators, but this is just a generality. No coach in the NFL gets his guys more revved up during games than the Seahawks’ head man, Pete Carroll – the league’s oldest head coach. When Carroll gets his guys on a roll, you don’t want to be in their way.
When’s the last time you saw an emotional leader in the coaching ranks of the Packers? I would say it would be from 2009 through 2013, when Kevin Green was the team’s outside linebackers’ coach. I hated to see him leave – he wanted to be with his kids until they entered college. By the way, he returned to the NFL in 2017, as the Jets’ OLB coach.
One good way to know that the Packers had a gaping emotional deficit in 2018 was to look at their road record: 1-7. The lone win was in overtime against the Jets. The Packers have the luxury of having the best fans in the league, so extra motivation at home isn’t as critical as on the road. In fact, the Packers – whose fans were as loud as the home team’s – almost beat a great team, the Rams, in the LA Coliseum.
For many years the Packers have lacked motivation when playing the league’s poorer teams. Things finally reached critical mass last season, as evidence by the 20-17 loss to the Cardinals (2-13 other than against GB) and the 31-0 loss to the Lions (4-10 other than against GB) – both before the home crowd.
One Possible Solution
As I write, the Packers recently interviewed Wes Welker, presumably to become the special teams coach. Welker is surely a guy who could readily identify with the players, and he was one explosive and motivated guy as a player.
Welker really had no business being in pro football. He’s made it because he was gritty, competitive, and extraordinarily motivated to succeed and win. He stood 5’9” and weighed 195.
Coming out of Texas Tech, Welker wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine; his Pro Day times were well below average. He went undrafted in 2004. He wasn’t strong, and he wasn’t big, but he made up for it by being slow: 4.65 40-yard dash time.
In three years with the Chargers and Dolphins, he only started three games. Then he got traded to the Patriots, for a seventh round pick – Bill Belichick apparently saw something he liked.
History records that from 2007 through 2012 he caught more passes than anyone else in the league. He reached 500 catches with the Pats in just 70 games, an NFL record. He never had a game without a catch, regular or postseason, with the Patriots. In his six years with the Pats he was named to five Pro Bowl teams, and was an All-Pro four times. He led the league in receptions in 2007, 2009, and 2011. He played in two Super Bowls, though he never came away with a ring.
He spent his final three years with Denver and St. Louis, but by then a number of concussions had taken their toll on him. Some think he lacks the number of great seasons to get into the Hall of Fame.
Special Teams Credentials
Playing for Texas Tech in 2003, Wes won the Mosi Tatupu Award, given annually to the best special teams player in college football.
Wes worked his way up in the NFL by being a fine kick returner (183 times), punt returner (264 times) and special teams tackler.
How’s this for trivia: in 2004 with Miami, Welker became the second player in NFL history to return a kickoff and a punt, kick an extra point and a field goal, and make a tackle in a single game.
I’d love to see a guy with this kind of spirit and competitiveness join the Packers coaching staff. Welker has a belly full of fire.