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Packers’ Mike McCarthy discusses defensive coordinator vacancy & other coaching changes

On Thursday, the head coach discussed the status of all three of his team’s coordinator positions as well as the other moves on his staff.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday morning, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy went on 620 WTMJ in Milwaukee to discuss the changes to his coaching staff, shortly before holding a press conference for the media.

On the radio in the morning, McCarthy briefly touched on the changes to the offensive coaching staff, which consist of the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coaches being opened up. Of Alex Van Pelt’s departure, McCarthy said that his QB coach wanted to be a “free agent” and hoped to have an opportunity to interview for other jobs since his contract had expired. It appears likely that Van Pelt sees himself as a viable offensive coordinator candidate, and now that his contract has expired he wants to pursue an upward move elsewhere.

Was this truly a “personal decision” by Van Pelt, as McCarthy said, or was it McCarthy’s call and he is just giving it a friendly spin for Van Pelt’s sake? McCarthy echoed his earlier sentiments in his press conference later on in the day, saying that the decision “was made last year and that “this is a moment (Van Pelt) has prepared himself for.” All that certainly makes it sound like McCarthy would have been willing to bring Van Pelt back, but it’s impossible to say for sure.

As for Edgar Bennett, the offensive coordinator, McCarthy said on WTMJ that the “situation is fluid” and has not ruled out the possibility that Bennett could return to the staff in a different role. The wide receivers coach — Bennett’s post before being promoted to coordinator — is open due to Luke Getsy’s departure, and that could be his spot if he does come back.

McCarthy did confirm that he still plans to call the offensive plays regardless of who is hired as offensive coordinator. Perhaps this is related to the disappointment of 2015, when McCarthy let then-offensive coordinator Tom Clements call the plays for most of the season; the offense sruggled mightily without Jordy Nelson that year, and McCarthy ended up taking the duties back near the end of the season.

One coach who is apparently safe, however, is special teams coordinator Ron Zook. McCarthy said that “I thought Ron did an excellent job this year” before later using the phrase “hell of a job” when discussing Zook’s constant adjustments to different personnel.

Later on in McCarthy’s press conference, he announced one additional coaching change, which involves defensive quality control coach Tim McGarigle. McCarthy said that McGarigle is leaving for another opportunity, which was later reported to be a job on the coaching staff at Northwestern University.

Defensive Coordinator

McCarthy gave some lengthy insights into his decision to move on from Dom Capers, starting out by discussing at length the broad reasons for the change: “Each and every season you evaluate what you’ve done,” he said. “You come up with continuing educations, there’s different development excercises that you do as a staff ... this year I feel I have to go outside and add external resources.”

Still, McCarthy confirmed that there are three internal candidates to replace Capers: associate head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt, Jr., and safeties coach Darren Perry.

Despite the likely schemes that would come with one of the possible internal hires, McCarthy would not say if he is looking for a coordinator who would necessarily stick with a 3-4 base scheme, in large part because he feels that nomenclature is outdated. “I don’t know how many times I’ve said this: we’ve been 80-plus-percent sub defense for over 10 years now,” he said. “How we communicate and structure player acquisition particularly through the draft and fit it to our defense, that’s really my focal point, how we can improve in that area.” Thus, do not be surprised to see candidates from outside the organization who bring more experience or basis in a 4-3 scheme to the table, especially since McCarthy gave no indication that the team would go back to running more snaps out of base alignments.

Regardless of the coordinator hire, McCarthy is not guaranteeing his other defensive assistants jobs in 2018. This came in a discussion of the potential new coordinator’s scheme, when he noted that “the defensive coordinator needs to be involved in the hiring of every (defensive) assistant coach.” It would stand to reason that if Moss, Whitt, or Perry were hired, the other two would likely stick around, as the three have worked together for some time; however, an external hire could put those coaches’ tenures in jeopardy.

McCarthy’s timeline for filling Capers’ old job is very much up in the air, however. He said that he has no firm timeline to fill the position, however, even going so far as to say that his schedule is “probably a little bit different than expected.” Therefore, we could be waiting a bit until this position is filled — perhaps even longer than it takes to hire Ted Thompson’s replacement.