We know two things: 1) The Packers will not make a decision on their new head coach until after the season. 2)What happens in these last four games could have a major impact on what direction Mark Murphy takes.
I have a feeling the offense will be much more productive on Sunday and will look better over the last four games. Of course, it will help if the right side of the offensive line is healthy–something we don’t know yet, since Bulaga and Bell haven’t practiced this week. But I think Philbin and Rodgers will work well in collaboration and things will click a bit more and look more like the offense we’ve grown accustomed to. Look for better tempo, look for more slants and screens and look for Aaron Jones to get much more than 50% of the offensive snaps.
Let’s say that happens and let’s say the defense, despite now having four starters on IR (Daniels, Wilkerson, Perry and King) and several others injured, continues to handle their business and show steady growth under Mike Pettine. I think it’s in the best interest of the Packers to try to keep Pettine around amid all of the housecleaning. The players have said they love to play for him and enjoy the system. Chances are this unit could take a major step forward in the system’s second year, helped in part by re-enforcements that will be coming via free agency and the draft.
Naturally, a new head coach would want to overhaul the staff and bring in people he knows and trusts. But what if the Packers go with a young, unproven offensive-minded coach? Keeping Pettine could be part of the deal and that type of candidate may have no problem with that.
If the Packers’ new head man is a 30-something offensive guru-on-the-rise, it will mean that he wowed Murphy and Gutekunst and just as important, he wowed Aaron Rodgers. Because make no mistake, this hire is all about finding someone who will have Rodgers’ respect and his ears. There is a narrative going around that Aaron Rodgers is uncoachable; I find that hard to believe. What I can believe is that Rodgers is frustrated by the lack of creativity and innovation in the Packers’ scheme and is itching to take a page from what is happening in LA, KC, New Orleans and even Chicago.
So let’s say the Packers land on that kind of guy. Rodgers loves him. Murphy and Gutekunst are equally smitten and it allows them to keep Pettine and the majority of his staff. I think there’s a guy out there who could check all those boxes and it’s Zac Taylor, currently the Rams’ QB coach and a young man (he’s 35) who is seen as one of the most promising offensive minds available. The former Nebraska QB got his NFL start from none other than Joe Philbin, who hired him to coach QBs in Miami in 2015 and is credited with getting Ryan Tannehill to play some of his best football. Maybe he would keep Philbin around as his OC. Maybe hiring Zac Taylor would remove the temptation to blow everything up.
Again, this only happens if he blows away Rodgers, Murphy and Gutey. Right now, my money says he will. Just a hunch.
As for the game on Sunday, these teams are a long way from the teams that met in the NFC Championship a couple years ago. The Falcons have dropped four straight, are even more banged up on defense and are playing out the string. The Packers should be more motivated to atone for last Sunday’s travesty, which accelerated McCarthy’s departure. By the way, I love the fact that the Pack brought Mike back to speak to the team one final time and provide closure for both sides–a very classy move.
With the playoffs out of the picture, these last four games are a chance for the Pack to look at some of their younger players and I believe they will–in a couple of weeks. The team needs a bounce back game on its home field this week and needs to do all it can to knock off the Bears next week. The final two games could serve as an opportunity to give some guys a lengthy audition.
Conventional wisdom states that teams usually perform very well, immediately after their head coach is fired. I think that holds true this week and Falcons coach Dan Quinn finally loses to a Packer team, after winning his first three, all at home.
Packers 27 Falcons 17