If Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was hoping for a vote of confidence from his head coach on Wednesday, he got nothing of the kind. Matt LaFleur took to the podium to start wrapping up the Packers’ 2019 season, and amid many comments about the team’s performance in his first year, Pettine’s job status came up.
LaFleur was asked directly about Pettine’s future and the answer he provided was vague: “We’re still working through everything right now, just trying to evaluate everything.”
Translation: LaFleur either has not yet decided to retain Pettine or he has decided to let him go but cannot say so publicly at this time.
Although the Packers’ defense played better down the stretch in the regular season, the unit was embarrassed in each of the team’s final two losses, both to the San Francisco 49ers. They gave up 340 yards and 37 points in the teams’ week 12 meeting, then 350 yards — 285 on the ground — in another 37-point effort during the NFC Championship Game. Furthermore, the Packers finished 18th in yards allowed, though they did end up with top-ten rankings in points allowed, turnovers, and red zone touchdown rate.
All told, the Packers’ rankings improved drastically in those last three categories, all of which saw them in the 20s in 2018. But while the overall yardage improved, the Packers’ yards per rushing attempt dropped from 13th to 24th in the NFL. Pettine has been known to focus on defending the pass at the expense of run defense — he has said as much in his own press conferences — but his defense allowed 149 yards or more on the ground in seven out of the team’s 18 games this season, including in three of the team’s four losses.
Ultimately, LaFleur has a difficult decision to make. Pettine was a holdover from the Mike McCarthy regime, along with a few of his defensive assistant coaches, and the continuity that would result from keeping him on board during a head coaching change was listed as one of the reasons for his retention in 2019. However, now that the team has established a new culture under LaFleur, he can provide that continuity through to the 2020 squad and may decide to move on.
Whatever LaFleur’s decision is, he intends to talk to his boss, Packers president Mark Murphy, to discuss his plans. LaFleur said that the two will meet after he is finished with his evaluations, which he will perform for his entire coaching staff, to talk through potential changes. But in reading between the lines, it seems likely that the Packers and LaFleur will end up looking for a new defensive coordinator sooner rather than later.