The Green Bay Packers appear to be closing in on the biggest decision they will make about their coaching staff in 2021. The Packers and head coach Matt LaFleur appear to be entering the last phase of the hiring process for their vacant defensive coordinator position, according to some media reports, which suggests that the team could have a new hire in place in the next few days.
The Packers began their initial round of interviews last weekend, but then on Thursday, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky indicated that second interviews were underway. Then on Friday afternoon, beat writer Tom Silverstein tweeted that LaFleur is narrowing down the candidate pool by informing some candidates that they are no longer under consideration.
Silverstein added that his interpretation of his sources’ information is that the team is down to a set of three finalists: Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, Rams safeties coach Ejiro Evero, and Chargers linebackers coach Joe Barry. This may not be the full list of finalists, as Silverstein acknowledged, but it certainly presents some intrigue as the search begins to come to a close.
These three individuals have a wide variety of experiences. Barry has served in two two-year stints as an NFL defensive coordinator, but his units in Detroit (2007-08) and Washington (2015-16) were both largely disappointing. Evero is a young, up-and-coming NFL coach who has risen through the league’s coaching ranks over the last decade and a half. Leonhard, of course, has served as the Wisconsin Badgers’ defensive coordinator for the last four seasons and had an excellent ten-year playing career as an NFL safety, much of which involved working with Mike Pettine.
Earlier in the process, Packers defensive backs coach Jerry Gray appeared to be a top contender as well. While his name is not included in Silverstein’s report, it’s possible that he may still be in the running — Demovsky suggested that there may be another finalist, though he would not name that individual.
If the Packers settle on the Wisconsin native Leonhard as their choice, they will need to find a way to pry him away from his alma mater, though staying in his home state would likely help make that a bit easier than it would be had he interviewed with a different NFL team. Often seen as the heir apparent to Badgers head coach Paul Chryst, Leonhard may be loath to leave the comfort of Madison, particularly if he feels that he may be in line to take over for Chryst sooner rather than later.
Evero and Barry would likely require less of a financial commitment than it would take to lure Leonhard, particularly with Evero being a first-time DC if he were to get the job. That may end up playing into the equation for the Packers, who have been notably stingy in terms of paying assistant coaches in the past.
Stay tuned through the weekend as Acme Packing Company will bring you any new developments in the search for Mike Pettine’s replacement.