Packers: Three internal candidates among those vying for defensive coordinator opening
GREEN BAY — Whomever is running the Green Bay Packers’ defense in 2018 was given quite the challenge by coach Mike McCarthy on Thursday.
“The defense needs to be better than the offense. I mean, that has to happen,” McCarthy said during his annual after-the-season briefing. “So you’ve got four ways to do it. You get player acquisition, player instruction, obviously player finance — who you pay to build your roster — and you get player performance. … We can always get better, and that’s really where I’m at with it. So the defense, we need to be better.”
With that as the hope, McCarthy fired longtime defensive coordinator Dom Capers following Sunday’s season-ending loss at Detroit, then dismissed position coaches Mike Trgovac (defensive line) and Scott McCurley (inside linebackers). Another member of the defensive staff, quality control assistant Tim McGarigle, has departed to take a job on Northwestern’s coaching staff under Pat Fitzgerald. McGarigle played at Northwestern and was thought to be a candidate to replace McCurley.
McCarthy said the three senior-most members remaining on the defensive staff — cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt, safeties coach Darren Perry and assistant head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss — were the three internal candidates for the job.
But McCarthy emphasized he’ll “interview both external and internal candidates” and that the process will start “in the near future.”
McCarthy intimated that team president/CEO Mark Murphy’s search for a replacement for general manager Ted Thompson, who will transition into a role as the team’s “senior advisor to football operations” and his own player exit interviews have delayed the interviews for the defensive coordinator position.
“We obviously have the GM search going on, I’m involved in that, so that’s currently taking place,” McCarthy said. “The player exit interviews (were) very productive. I had a chance to sit down with our football team, talk extensively with our players, and generate a lot of healthy conversation out of that. So that’s kind of the state of where we are.”
Meanwhile, McCarthy made it clear he does not have any interest in being both coach and GM, as ex-Packers coach Mike Holmgren once desired and as McCarthy’s predecessor, Mike Sherman, was from 2001 through 2004.
“I don’t believe in the total control,” McCarthy said. “I think the job’s too big for one person.”
McCarthy confirmed what was reported by the State Journal and numerous other outlets Wednesday — longtime assistant coach Edgar Bennett was being stripped of his offensive coordinator duties and may not return. McCarthy said he was “in conversations currently” with Bennett about taking on a different role on the staff.
McCarthy also clarified that quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt is leaving after he chose not to extend his contract last year — having had interview requests blocked in past years — in hopes of landing a coordinating a job elsewhere, the way ex-Packers QBs coach Ben McAdoo did several years ago.
McCarthy said regardless of who is his next offensive coordinator, he will still call the offensive plays himself, saying that “job description, job responsibility is really where my focus is right now.”
But he made it clear he’ll be bringing in new coaches from the outside.
“This year, which is out of the norm over the way we’ve operated particularly the last nine years, we will be adding external resources,” McCarthy said.
Of course, some of those external candidates could be former Packers assistants. Joe Philbin, the team’s offensive coordinator from 2007 through 2011 before becoming the Miami Dolphins head coach in January 2012, is available after the Indianapolis Colts fired coach Chuck Pagano and his staff. Philbin had been Pagano’s assistant head coach and offensive line coach.
McAdoo, is also available after being fired by the Giants late in the season. McAdoo let his contract run out and left to become the Giants offensive coordinator in 2014 after being blocked for at least two interviews in prior years.
“I think that’s natural (to consider former assistants),” McCarthy said. “But once again, it needs to fit with who’s here.”
Randall must ‘clean his own house’
Asked about how two defensive players — safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and cornerback Damarious Randall — assessed the Packers’ issues when they spoke during locker clean-out day on Tuesday, McCarthy chalked most of their comments up as “words of frustration” but had some frustration of his own with Randall, who was sent to the locker room for pouting in the team’s Sept. 28 game against Chicago.
Randall rebounded to have arguably his best season but then missed the final two games with a mysterious knee injury.
“I’ll tell you what I told Damarious. He needs to focus on himself. He’s got to clean his own house. That’s what I look for him to do in the offseason,” McCarthy said. “He did a lot of really good things.
“We all understand what happened in the Chicago game, but I thought from the Chicago game on he played at a very high level. He probably played his best football of his career, but then he didn’t play the last two games.”