Special teams assistant Connor Lewis did not play professional football before he arrived in Green Bay as a football technology analyst in 2016. He did not coach professional football, nor did he coach college football, and he didn’t play any college football, either.
If you think that background is fairly unique, you’d be right. He’s the only Packers coach who had no college or professional experience as a player or coach before landing his current gig. And that’s not a reason to be concerned. That’s a reason to be excited.
Too often, landing a coaching job in the NFL is not so much about what you know as who you know. Connects, not merit, are the currency of the realm. Just ask Joe Barry.
And to be fair, those connections can unearth real gems. A league-wide search for fruit-bearing branches from the Sean McVay tree was so common two years ago that “Do you know Sean McVay?” became a meme, but that same search landed the Packers Matt LaFleur. Though the Packers didn’t have direct ties to McVay, LaFleur’s ties to his former boss (and to Kyle Shanahan) were no doubt an intriguing part of his coaching resume.
But a predilection toward “I know this guy and therefore I am going to give him a job” or “I like who this guy knows” limits your pool of potential candidates to your past and present workplace acquaintances or people who you’ve heard of. And, to be sure, it’s certainly possible that Lewis could benefit from that same process. After all, he’s been making connections in the NFL for most of a decade now.
Lewis’ connections are different, though, created from day one as a coach and consultant in the NFL after graduating from Vanderbilt with a degree in mathematics and a minor in corporate strategy.
He’ll assist the Packers with gameday decisions from that perspective, leveraging data to help refine what the Packers do on the field. Such an approach is becoming more and more the norm in the NFL, and it’s exciting to see data-driven decision making getting a more prominent role in Green Bay. That it’s coming from a coach with an entirely unique background is even more interesting.
Does it mean anything will improve for the Packers, particularly on their annually dreadful special teams units? Not necessarily. But trying the same things hasn’t yielded any results. Lewis and his boss, Maurice Drayton (who has an incredible story in his own right), certainly represent a different approach. I’m very intrigued to see how it plays out.