Through the ups and downs in the bulk of Mike McCarthy’s tenure as the Green Bay Packers’ head coach, there were a handful of assistant coaches who always stuck around. Winston Moss was one. James Campen another.
The third was Joe Whitt, Jr., who was first hired by McCarthy back in 2008 as a defensive quality control coach. Two years later, McCarthy promoted Whitt to cornerbacks coach, and in 2018 he got a new title as defense - pass game coordinator.
Now, after one year under that title and with McCarthy gone, Whitt is also out. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Packers fired him on Friday. This move comes on the same day that new head coach Matt LaFleur confirmed that Mike Pettine will return as the team’s defensive coordinator for the 2019 season.
Whitt has drawn praise over the years from coaches and players alike for his ability to teach and connect with players. Former Packers corner Charles Woodson, for example, took to Twitter to express his support for Whitt in his sudden search for a new job:
I 100% and whole heartedly vouch for joe Whitt jr for any team out there needing to fill their staff.. Great teacher, and coach, that players can trust.. hard to find that combo @NFL @ESPNNFL @espn @AdamSchefter https://t.co/dZO8Vnvou8— Charles Woodson (@CharlesWoodson) January 12, 2019
Considering the fact that Whitt helped Jaire Alexander to a largely successful rookie season, the move comes as some surprise. However, speculation is roiling that the Packers are trying to scrub the coaching staff of many of McCarthy’s long-time assistants to get more of a fresh start. Beat writer Tom Silverstein, for example, speculated that it may not have been LaFleur’s decision to fire Whitt, implying that it may have been a directive from above. With LaFleur reporting directly to team president Mark Murphy, it seems plausible that Murphy may be insisting that coaches with career-long ties to McCarthy need to move on.
With Whitt now gone, Campen and Joe Philbin are the two remaining Packers assistants who spent lengthy portions of their careers with McCarthy. Both arrived in Green Bay when Mike Sherman was the head coach, but were retained when McCarthy took over in 2006. Campen in particular appears to be a likely candidate to remain, given his excellent work as the Packers’ offensive line coach over the past decade-plus, but Whitt’s departure may suggest that the franchise wants some new blood in the organization. Stay tuned for more updates on the status of the rest of the coaching staff.