The Green Bay Packers introduced Joe Philbin as the team’s offensive coordinator on Wednesday morning, as the veteran NFL coach has officially returned to the team for a second go-around in that position.
However, he and his head coach are treating it like it is his first day with the team.
Both Philbin and Packers head coach Mike McCarthy spoke to the media on Wednesday and they confirmed that the reunited duo will be starting from scratch regarding the team’s entire offensive playbook. “We’ve taken a little bit of a back-to-basics approach on offense,” McCarthy said, adding “we’re building the playbook the way you would if it was the first year on staff.”
Part of the reason for the big change is likely the team’s slippage in terms of offensive production over the past three years. With a healthy Aaron Rodgers in 2015 — though Jordy Nelson was out for the entire season with a torn ACL — the Packers finished just 15th in points scored and 23rd in yards. 2016 was a bounce-back year, but the team was 21st in points and 26th in yards in 2017, the worst finish in points since 2006 and the worst in yards since 1977(!).
Another reason for the change may be the multitude of changes on the coaching staff. Former coordinator Edgar Bennett is gone, as are position coaches Alex Van Pelt (QBs) and Luke Getsy (WRs). The team now has a run game coordinator — James Campen, who keeps his duties as offensive line coach — and a passing game coordinator in Jim Hostler, who came with Philbin from Indianapolis. Getting all parties on the same page for 2018 will be a process, and one that will probably benefit from a fresh start.
Although Philbin is familiar with a few players on the team due his last tenure with the Packers, that number is small; he and Aaron Rodgers had a good working relationship, but only Jordy Nelson, Bryan Bulaga, and Randall Cobb remain from the 2011 offense that set the NFL on fire. With the new offense will likely come new terminology and structure, which could very well be a positive for the team moving forward.
Philbin also believes that he has learned valuable lessons during his time as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach, a job he held from 2012 to 2015. “I’ll be a better assistant coach than I was the first time around,” he said. “That perspective of having been away, being a head coach, is very beneficial.”
In his own words, Philbin sees the Packers’ offensive coordinator job as having two distinct goals: “Help Mike McCarthy look like the smartest playcaller in the league and help our offense score points, period.” He certainly did so in 2010 and especially in 2011, and if the team can achieve anything similar to those results, they should be right in contention for an NFC North title and another Super Bowl appearance.
Still, there were understandably some mixed feelings about coming back to the place where Philbin was when his son tragically passed away in an accident in early 2012. “It’s very, very emotional for all of us, but at the end of the day we care and love a lot of people here,” Philbin said. Ultimately, his daughter — who will be a senior in college next year — was part of the reason he took the job now, as she told him that she was willing to go with him rather than finish out her high school career in Indianapolis. With the support of his family, however, the timing was right for his return.
“This feels right. It feels like the right place to be. Time to go to work.”