Green Bay Packers: LaFleur Will Complete Extensive Search for Pettine’s Replacement

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur is shown Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020, during the team's first practice at training camp in Green Bay, Wis.Packers16 1 Hoffman
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur is shown Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020, during the team's first practice at training camp in Green Bay, Wis.Packers16 1 Hoffman /

The news dropped early Friday evening that the Green Bay Packers had decided to move on from defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. With his contract being up after the 2020 season, Matt LaFleur and Co. decided to simply not renew it.

As I said in my article when this news first broke, the Pettine era in Green Bay wasn’t nearly as bad as some will make it out to be. Over the last two seasons, the defense certainly had some big moments. However, with players like Za’Darius Smith, Jaire Alexander, Kenny Clark, Darnell Savage, and Adrian Amos, at their best, being an average defense by DVOA just isn’t good enough either.

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So now the Green Bay Packers’ search for Mike Pettine’s replacement begins, and according to Tom Silverstein of Packers News, it’s going to be an extensive one.

On special teams, the Green Bay Packers were fairly quick to promote assistant Maurice Drayton to the coordinator position — although that hasn’t been made official yet with the team — but when it comes to the defensive coordinator, it sounds like LaFleur is going to cast a wide net. Remember, LaFleur didn’t hire Pettine, so this will be his first time bringing in his own defensive coordinator.

If this were a decision that was made a month ago, I would expect LaFleur and the Green Bay Packers to move relatively quickly in making their decision. Once the season ends, at least a handful of head coaching vacancies appear as teams scramble to make their hire, and then that coach tries to quickly assemble their staff. At times it can turn into a mad dash to fill out the coaching staff.

But as we near February, all the head coaching positions are now filled, and many of the coordinator positions are as well. While yes, the pool to select a defensive coordinator may be smaller for the Packers at this point, LaFleur also doesn’t really have to compete with any other teams either. So he is afforded more time to make a decision.

Now, of course, it’s always better to make a hire sooner than later so they can get in the building and begin getting to work, but I wouldn’t expect an announcement in the next few days. As he should, LaFleur is going to do his due diligence.

As far as who LaFleur may be targeting, well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?

Some internal names include defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, who has been a defensive coordinator at the NFL level before. Along with up and comer Mike Smith, who has terrific energy and has played a key role in Rashan Gary’s development.

Potential outside hires include the 74-year-old Wade Phillips, who was in Los Angeles for a season with LaFleur. Wisconsin Badgers’ defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, who consistently has one of the top defenses in college football. And Kris Kocurek, who is the defensive line coach in San Francisco and worked under Robert Saleh, a good friend of LaFleur’s.

The list really could go on and on with a few other names to keep your eyes on including Kacy Rodgers, Teryl Austin, and James Bettcher. For a more extensive list, I recommend reading Zach Kruse’s article over at Packers Wire, where he takes a look at 15 potential candidates.

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In the end, your guess is as good as mine, and at this stage, no one truly knows which direction LaFleur is going to go when it comes to choosing the next defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers. But I do know two things; first, is that this should be a highly coveted job with all of the young talent on the defensive side of the ball. And secondly, I wouldn’t expect LaFleur to make a quick decision. As I mentioned, he has time on his side, and I believe he’s going to use it.