As Matt LaFleur fills out his coaching staff, he’s added a few former NFL players to the Packers’ coaching lineup. New outside linebackers coach Mike Smith played under Mike Pettine in Baltimore. New wide receivers coach Alvis Whitted played for both the Jaguars and Raiders (and made a catch against the Packers in 2003). LaFleur even interviewed Wes Welker for a job, though his potential role in Green Bay wasn’t clear.
That got us thinking about former Packers players who may be in need of a job. Whether it’s with the Packers or elsewhere, here are our suggestions for former players we’d like to see get a shot.
Evan “Tex” Western -- Al Harris and William Henderson
I’m probably cheating a bit by picking a couple of players, and I’m definitely cheating with my first pick. That’s because former Packers cornerback Al Harris is already a position coach in the NFL -- he has been coaching the Kansas City Chiefs’ defensive backs for the last six years, first as an assistant and then as the primary cornerbacks coach for the last three seasons. Harris was a technician as a Packer, and he provided one of the best individual plays in the team’s postseason history with his pick-six off Matt Hasselbeck in 2003. I’d love to see him back wearing Green and Gold on the sideline, especially since he’s got legitimate coaching experience.
As for someone without any notable experience as a coach, I’m going with Henderson, who probably didn’t earn enough accolades for his excellent career as a fullback. Sure, his position is out of favor in today’s NFL, but the skills he brought to that position -- receiving, tough short-yardage running, and most importantly exceptional pass-blocking -- are still critical for modern-day tailbacks. Bringing Henderson in to work with Aaron Jones on protecting Aaron Rodgers, for example, sounds like a great idea, and his toughness would allow him to connect with a bruiser like Jamaal Williams.
Jon Meerdink - James Jones
It was interesting to watch James Jones develop over the course of his career. Never an overwhelming athlete, Jones got by with positioning and understanding despite struggling with a very basic thing: catching the ball. In four of his first five seasons in the NFL, Jones caught less than 60% of the passes thrown his way. The problems even extended to the Super Bowl, where Jones dropped a tough but catchable ball that may have taken points off the board.
Eventually, he turned it around. In all but his final NFL season, Jones was far more reliable and developed into a steady older presence, so much so that he was the Packers’ first call when Jordy Nelson went down with a knee injury in 2015. What changed? Focus and a lot of positive self-talk.
”During the game, I’m out there talking to myself saying things like, ‘Stay focused. Stay hungry. The ball’s gonna come. Aaron’s gonna throw it to the open guy,’ “ Jones said in 2012. “A lot of the players think I’m crazy.”
Crazy or not, it worked, and it may be the kind of advice (along with whatever else Jones in to shed his problems with drops) that could be of use to other players. If nothing else, it’d be cool to have his hoodie back on an NFL sideline.
Bob Fitch - Nick Collins
Green Bay’s secondary has been in shambles ever since Collins injured his neck in 2011. Every time Collins got the ball in his hands - which was quite often, with 21 career interceptions - he was looking to score. Quite often, he did! Do yourself a favor and watch his 9 minute tribute video and try not to cry at what could have been. Collins started every game in his career and was a special talent that was taken away from football too soon.
The fit is perfect, too - in this 2014 article, he was quoted as saying he wants “to go into coaching. Just not right now.”. Well, Nick, I think the opportunity has arisen. He’s already doing some high school and youth coaching in Florida and as a Packer Hall of Famer is already beloved by Green Bay.
Paul Noonan: Doug Pederson
Brandon Jackson was on staff as a coaching intern, but I’m not sure if that is still the case. If he is, that’s great as he’s the best blocking back in team history and he has a lot to teach. That said, the obvious answer is former backup QB, Doug Pederson. The current leader of the defending champs is one of the most progressive, aggressive play-callers out there, and he’s been successful with widely varied levels of personnel, different quarterbacks, and a host of other challenges.
I’m glad he’s had such success, I just wish it was with the Packers organization.
Wendi Hansen: Reggie White
Fifteen seasons, 13 consecutive Pro Bowls, 10 All-Pro nominations, 198 career sacks, and 232 games. The numbers speak for themselves, but despite his impeccable talent and skill on the field, Reggie White was one of the finest human beings to ever grace the green and gold uniform. I may be a little biased as he’s one of my favorite athletes of all time, but that aside, White would’ve made one hell of a coach. His love of the game - and the Packers organization - spoke volumes. He was smart, precise, dedicated and knew how to inspire his fellow teammates.