Green Bay Packers: Should Mike Pettine be on the Hot Seat?

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images /

With the Green Bay Packers defense continuing to struggle, is it fair to wonder if Mike Pettine’s time as the defensive coordinator could come to an end?

The honeymoon is over.

Mike Pettine was a welcome breath of fresh air when he arrived last season as the Green Bay Packers’ defensive coordinator. The thought was that Pettine could bring some of the schemes that made him successful under Rex Ryan in New York and Buffalo and the hope was also that he’d learned a few things as a consultant for the Seattle Seahawks that could help Green Bay.

There were some noticeable differences early. Pettine made some halftime adjustments that helped spearhead a comeback in Week 1 against Chicago. He put Josh Jackson as the primary defender of Trey Burton, while Jaire Alexander essentially shadowed Tarik Cohen.

The adjustments helped the Packers keep the game in check for some Aaron Rodgers’ heroics.

Naturally, the Packers’ defense was a better unit when they had their horses throughout the season, but eventually injuries took their toll. Pettine was starting guys on Sunday that they acquired off of waivers the previous Wednesday.

Eventually, the defense finished 28th in defensive DVOA. However, that was understandable considering the lack of personnel which included a safety group that might have been the worst in the NFL and Pettine’s pass rushers were at the end of the road.

Then the offseason happened. First and foremost, the Green Bay Packers’ front office reportedly strongly preferred that Matt LaFleur keep Pettine as his defensive coordinator. It’s an amount of influencing that was inappropriate at best. While it makes sense they’d want stability on one side of the ball, no coach should feel pressured to keep anyone on their staff. None the less, Pettine survived the coaching change, and GM Brian Gutekunst went to work.

Three big free agents were signed and two first round picks were spent on defense. They’d also spend another top-150 pick on a defensive lineman.

The defense was dominant in the early portions of this season. After beating Chicago in week 1, Aaron Rodgers smiled and proudly proclaimed after the 10-3 win, “we got a defense.”

But since a Week 4 loss to Philadelphia, the defense has been noticeably absent. Opposing teams get big plays in masses and the same issues seem to occur every week.

The saving grace for the Packers’ defense is basically that Za’Darius and Preston Smith are sacking the quarterback. Not to mention that they’re getting turnovers at a good clip this season as well, as they currently sit fifth in the NFL in turnovers forced.

Unfortunately, turnovers don’t typically happen when you’re facing the league’s elite teams. When they don’t get turnovers, they rarely make a stop. They’re better than the 2011 Packers’ defense in that they’re not completely reliant on turnovers, but they’re very close to that.

Going into Sunday’s game against San Francisco, Pettine’s defense was ranked 19th in defensive DVOA. An improvement from a season ago, but certainly not significant enough considering the amount of capital that was spent in the offseason.

Also, that DVOA ranking will be dropping following Sunday’s debacle and they’ll be in the bottom-third of the league once again. And as a result, the question that looms large over this team for the remainder of the season will be: Does the investment made in the defense match the results on the field?

To this point, I would argue that it does not and there are a few reasons for that, the biggest of which being that the Green Bay Packers still have some glaring deficiencies.

The defensive line other than Kenny Clark is an average unit, at best. Meanwhile, Blake Martinez has been exposed throughout the season and the middle of the Packers’ defense remains as soft as it’s ever been.

That being said, a defensive coordinator with two pass rushers like the Smiths, a nose tackle like Kenny Clark, and a defensive back like Jaire Alexander should be able to do more than what has been done this season if he truly is an elite defensive coordinator.

Next. Packers should take a chance on Jordan Matthews. dark

Pettine still has time to salvage this season and fix some of the things that have plagued his side of the ball. However, if he does not, this could be a very difficult conversation that Matt LaFleur and Brian Gutekunst will have to have this offseason.