GREEN BAY – Of his seven previous coaching stops in the NFL, Jim Hostler’s longest was a six-year stint in Baltimore from 2008-13.
As the Ravens’ wide receivers coach then, Hostler worked with polished veterans such as Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin, who confirmed for him that even the most accomplished players in the league never stop looking for an edge.
“Those guys want to be coached,” said Hostler, who was named the Packers’ pass game coordinator on offense earlier this week. “It’s important for them to get better every year.
“They approach it like Michael Jordan from the standpoint of every year starts over for those guys. That’s why they’re in the league as long as they are.”
Hostler hasn’t met his newest offensive weapons yet, but he believes Green Bay’s veteran receivers Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and newly minted Pro Bowler Davante Adams will continue to attack their jobs much the same way.
While they’ll be working more directly with a young, up-and-coming receivers coach in David Raih, who has replaced the departed Luke Getsy, Hostler will be providing oversight in his new role and has plenty of experience to draw upon.
Hostler coached Mason from his 12th through 14th seasons in the NFL (2008-10), and Mason had a pair of 1,000-yard seasons in that time, the seventh and eighth of his career.
Similarly, Boldin’s eighth through 10th seasons were with Hostler (2010-12), and he averaged 62 catches for 882 yards over that span, leading to a later revival of 1,000-yard seasons in San Francisco.
Nelson’s production fell off dramatically in 2017, the drop coinciding with the injury to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. For various reasons, Cobb hasn’t come close to matching his career numbers from 2014, while Adams’ back-to-back double-digit TD seasons led to a big contract extension.
All three are at different stages in their careers, and due to contract situations, there are no guarantees the receiving corps will remain intact in 2018. But with all the changes on the offensive staff, Hostler sees Green Bay’s veterans embracing the “ground zero” approach he’s seen work with other proven players.
“These guys will be no different,” he said. “They’ll start over, they’ll train themselves, they’ll build this year’s version of how they play.”
Hostler is in the process of building this year’s version of how the Packers’ offense will play, as he along with Head Coach Mike McCarthy, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and run game coordinator James Campen are rewriting the playbook for 2018.
Hostler has worked with both McCarthy and Philbin before, but not at the same time.
He was an assistant wide receivers coach for two years in New Orleans (2001-02) when McCarthy was offensive coordinator there, and he was San Francisco’s quarterbacks coach in 2005 under McCarthy as coordinator as well.
He sees a coach-to-coach relationship that’s different now, one that has naturally evolved through experience.
“When I was younger and I was around Mike, it was learning how to be a coach, to develop and coach a position,” Hostler said. “Now that we’re down the road, it’s all about the system – how we play the game, how the thoughts are put together.”
Hostler’s experience coaching receivers, QBs and tight ends in the NFL was certainly attractive to McCarthy for a pass game coordinator, and Philbin’s recommendation no doubt carried weight, too.
The past two seasons, Philbin and Hostler worked together on the Colts’ offensive staff, and both coaches said they hit it off right away. They mentioned coming from similar backgrounds and thinking about football the same way.
McCarthy is counting on the intriguing mix amongst his top lieutenants to work for the offense as a whole. Hostler’s knowledge of all the perimeter positions plus his experience as a coordinator (San Francisco, 2007), Philbin’s work as a head coach and coordinator rooted in his offensive line expertise, and Campen’s foundation as an offensive line coach will be combined under McCarthy to get Green Bay’s offense back to its consistent, explosive ways after much went awry following Rodgers’ injury.
Hostler sees himself as a guy who can help “tie a lot of things together” with the background he brings.
“He’s very, very bright. Sharp,” Philbin said of Hostler. “He’s a good communicator, a great family guy. I couldn’t be more ecstatic that he’s here.”