GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy’s pursuit of a new defensive coordinator for the Packers will include internal and external candidates, and his offensive coordinator will have a different job description.
Those were two significant points McCarthy made regarding the coaching staff in his season-ending news conference on Thursday, which covered a wide range of topics and lasted more than half an hour.
Associate head coach Winston Moss, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr., and safeties coach Darren Perry are three internal candidates to replace Dom Capers as defensive coordinator. McCarthy did not mention any external candidates nor specify any traits he’s looking for, except to say he has a “direction” in mind.
On the offensive side, McCarthy said he will continue to call plays, but the offensive coordinator will have new responsibilities. He’s having “conversations” with current offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett about his future, while quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt and defensive quality control coach Tim McGarigle will be leaving to pursue new opportunities.
Special teams coordinator Ron Zook will be back, McCarthy confirmed.
The extensive changes are a reflection of the falloff in the Packers’ play in going 7-9 after eight straight trips to the playoffs, quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone notwithstanding.
“When you say you have a standard at the Green Bay Packers, it stops right there,” McCarthy said. “Are we doing everything we need to do? It needs to be answered throughout football operations.”
Interviews for the defensive coordinator position will begin soon, and McCarthy’s choice will be involved in hiring replacements for departed defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, assistant linebackers coach Scott McCurley and McGarigle.
Conversations with outside candidates will also include their thoughts on Moss, Whitt and Perry. McCarthy added the coordinator hire will be more about fitting the style of defense he’d like to play than a specific scheme.
“The foundation of who’s here is what we’re going to build off of,” he said. “It’s established, it works. We need to be better. Everyone added to our staff, there will be a fit element.”
The same goes for McCarthy’s thoughts on the new general manager. The head coach said he’d be involved in the process with President/CEO Mark Murphy, but didn’t specify exactly how, only that he’s “confident” and “comfortable” with his role.
McCarthy’s 12-year partnership with GM Ted Thompson was highly successful and he’s obviously hoping for a similar relationship with Thompson’s successor, but he acknowledged the priority is what Murphy is looking for at the top of the football operation.
After signing a recent one-year contract extension, McCarthy’s head-coaching contract runs through 2019.
“I have the best job in pro football, no disrespect to the other 31 clubs,” McCarthy said. “I love it here, I want to be here, but it has to fit for me, too. I’ve done this job long enough, I wouldn’t want the GM to hire me or partner with me if we don’t fit together.”
A couple of times McCarthy mentioned bringing in “external resources” to improve the team, and while that will apply to at least some of his upcoming coaching hires, he also referenced the makeup of the roster.
McCarthy felt the leadership in the locker room wasn’t as strong as in years past, and the on-field gap between the team’s veteran and younger players didn’t close significantly enough as the season wore on. He started to see it in 2016 when the team lost six of its first 10 games, and the gap was even wider in 2017.
Young players have been forced to play “too soon,” an indication more experienced players are needed to weather the inevitable injury storms, though McCarthy said draft-and-develop “still needs to be the core of who you are.”
Striking the right balance will be up to the new GM and McCarthy together to get the Packers back into championship contention after the most disappointing season in Green Bay in nearly a decade.
“We like being on the doorstep, pounding the door down, or attempting to pound it down like we have the last eight years,” McCarthy said.
“Adversity is a great climate to improve from. It doesn’t feel good. It’s rough, it’s hard, it’s not popular. It’s a great opportunity for us to get better, and I’m fully confident we will.”