While the Packers defensive strategy under Mike Pettine to stop the pass first seemed to work well at times, the run game dominant San Francisco 49ers exposed the flaws in this strategy — not once, but twice this season. Understandably, some fans are concerned with Pettine’s role in the future of the Packers.
First of all, without a doubt, he deserves another season to flesh out his program under new head coach Matt LaFleur. Also, let’s not forget the team made it to the playoffs as a #2 seed and ended up in the NFC Championship. The Vikings were not able to exploit the Packers’ run defense weakness because of the rest of the defense doing its job. The defense also saved a few games when Rodgers was not giving 100%. In the end, the Packers’ defense was ranked 12th in the league in opponent points per game.
On Wednesday, prior to the announcement below, Matt LaFleur did not give a clear answer about Pettine’s return(per NFL.com):
Yeah, we’re still working through everything right now. Just trying to evaluate everything. Like you said, I think our defense did a lot of great things. Obviously the last game was really disappointing in terms of our performance. It just wasn’t good enough, especially when you get to a championship game like that. You know what’s at stake. Just all across the board, it wasn’t just the defense, our offense and special teams weren’t up to par as well.
The following quote is from ESPN:
They definitely out-coached us. I just didn’t feel like we played with the same urgency, the same tenacity, the same toughness. We didn’t set the edge the same as we had been earlier this season. It’s disappointing because it’s not like we didn’t know what they were going to try to do. We knew exactly what they were going to try to do. We knew they were going to run the football … and for them to be able to do that was extremely disappointing, and I just didn’t think we played with the same effort as what I had seen earlier in the season.
Mike Pettine will return as Packers defensive coordinator, sources told https://t.co/LfG3qW2TGU. He met with coach Matt LaFleur after LaFleur’s season wrap-up press conference on Wednesday and they’re moving forward together for Year 2. https://t.co/ZDa7zhLSqG
ESPN’s Rob Demovsky confirmed yesterday that he certainly will be returning next season. It also seems obvious at this point that Pettine is still LaFleur’s guy and this decision is not being forced on him.
Let’s also remember that Matt LaFleur, a damn fine coach so far, was also out-coached by Kyle Shanahan and crew. Shanahan was always one step ahead and seemed to intuitively know what the Packers’ next move was.
I am very satisfied with LaFleur’s first season, as are most fans, but the reality is that the hot new coach in the NFL right now is Shanahan. Of course, he’s had more time to get his team acclimated to his program.
One thing is certain next season for the Packers’ defense: it’s put up or shut up for Mike Pettine. This past offseason, he was given a few choice players to strengthen the defense corps with players like Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Adrian Amos signed for top dollar. As you may recall, Pettine was originally hired under previous coach Mike McCarthy’s final season and was kept on board by LaFleur when he took the reins.
Make us proud, Mike. Or else.