Packers chat with Pete Dougherty

Packers chat with Pete Dougherty

Thursday, Jan. 10 transcript

    I've heard the word "complacency" bandied about as a cause for the Packers decline.

    I'd suggest another word: hubris.

    How do you tell a "highly successive" football coach: "Hey, buddy: this ain't workin'" ?

    And the hubris didn't stop with the coach. Everyone saw that Thompson's minimalist approach to management was the best evidence on how not to run an NFL team.

    And the architect of this hot mess (...and the best snow slide in northeast Wisconsin) is none other that Mark Murphy.
    So, let's dive right in. I don't doubt that complacency became an issue, it almost always does. McCarthy knew that. What stood out from his introductory press conference back in '06 was when he said the biggest problem they're going to have is handling success, and he was right. That's where Lombardi was special, he beat complacency better than anyone. One thing on McCarthy's highly successful comment. He takes a lot of abuse over that, like he's some kind of egomaniac. But I never took at that way. Pretty much everything he said was in some way or another aimed at his team, and I took that comment as a premeditated, direct message to his team, which was struggling at that time, to stay the course, that he and his coaches know what they're doing and to trust him, he had the track record for them to trust him. It didn't go over well with the fan base, but I think the only audience for that comment was his team. Hubris? Maybe. Maybe he was inflexible in ways he should have been more flexible. Maybe he just lost a little bit of his edge, which can make a big difference in a business as competitive as the NFL.
    I expect the defensive staff to mostly remain intact, but I do see changes in the offensive and ST staff. A new offensive coordinator, QB coach, ST coordinator. etc. Do you expect LaFleur to act quickly or will he wait until the playoffs are done and add coaches from teams that are still playing?
    Might be some of both but I'm sure he's neck deep in putting together a staff as we speak. I see where my former colleague Rob Demovsky reported that Zook is being fired, no surprise there Our Tom Silverstein reported that the candidates for offensive coordinator are two assistants with the 49ers whom he's worked with in the past: his brother, Mike, who's the 49ers' pass game coordinator, and Mike McDaniel, the 49ers' run game coordinator.
    I am not a fan of keeping many of the current coaches on staff, especially on the offensive side, except for Campen. However, he and has been in charge of an OL that has seen ARod sacked many times every year. Not a fan of Joe Whitt, seems like our D backs are consistently out of position or not able to run with wide receivers. On the other hand, Montgomery seems to have made a positive impact on some defense of lineman. What’s your take on what will be happening with the new coaches?
    I would think that since he's reportedly keeping Pettine that much of the defensive staff will stay. Maybe he'll allow Pettine to make some changes to bring in guys he's worked with in the past or thinks highly of, that I'm not sure about. I still have to say that I often have a lot of trouble judging assistant coaches from the outside looking in. The talent they have to work with is a big factor, though it's also their job to get the most out of the players they're given. I think it's one of those things where you have to be working there to get a really good feel for. I do know that people at the Packers think highly of Montgomery, and I've always heard good things about Whitt. One thing I'll say about blown assignments in the secondary, you didn't see as much of that or guys looking at each other with their palms in the air after Tramon Williams when Clinton-Dix was traded.
    Pete,
    Last week you answered my question about Murphy's power. You said, he appointed all the members of the executive committee. How can they honestly hold him accountable when he appointed them? I see this as Murphy having the same power as Jerry Jones, a total control defacto owner. This is not a good thing.
    I agree with your point that it is harder for them because they're bound to feel beholden to Murphy for putting him on the executive committee. I don't see him as having Jerry Jones' power, because there literally is no one to tell Jones no, whereas the executive committee can if they think Murphy goes too far. But agreed that he gets more latitude because he's appointed all the members. Every system has its inherent weaknesses, and that's one in the Packers' setup. When the CEO has been in that job for a long time, he'll have essentially chosen his executive committee.
    Do first impressions matter? Matt LaFleur seemed a little sweaty, nervous, in his press conference and my impression is that he had trouble boiling down how he intends to build the team. His "all about the process" meme wasn't exactly the stuff of Knute Rockne. He seems bright enough. But does he have the presence he will need to win the 53 and hold the locker room? Or maybe should we just wait and let the results speak for themselves?
    Legit question, and yeah, at times he was nervous, no getting around that. But this was the fourth introductory press conference for a coach that I've covered, and the others (Rhodes, Sherman and McCarthy) also were visibly nervous. So I'm not going to read too much into that. Gutekunst was too for that matter. Actually, the most comfortable and composed at his introductory press conference that I've seen, and this might be hard to believe, was Thompson. He was low key but really sure of himself. I distinctly remember him saying, basically, "I'm ready for this job," and you could tell he meant. Anyway, I'm not going to take too much out of the press conference in that way, winning that first press conference isn't really that important. But what you bring up is important as far as addressing the team and commanding the room. He is low key, reserved, that's evident. That doesn't mean he won't command a room, but it's not as easy to envision as it is with a more outwardly dynamic person. But he was right when he said he has to be true to himself, because players will sniff out BS pretty quickly, and they'll figure out if a guy is all talk. So he'll have to be commanding in his own way. Tom Landry did, and Joe Gibbs. We'll have to see how well LaFleur does it and grows into the role.
    My Question and concern Pete is with reports of Rogers this past season changing McCarthy's play's so often that McCarthy had trouble getting into Rhythm and w McCarthy also trying to get Rogers to tone down his on the field gestures ending with McCarthy losing the battle and his job. I'm concerned about Murphy/Packer leadership continuing to acquiesce too much power to Rogers instead of making him do nothing more than the job he was paid all of that money for. Last years offense saw Rogers too often refuse to check down or throw timing routes while looking for the big play sandlot style which killed drives that can't sustain that. I get it's a QB's game, but if the packers don't hold Rogers to be more accountable to do his job as everyone else on the team has too, they won't win a SB and waste his talent by mismanaging it. And I wonder if the Belicheck way of " Just do your job" or there's heck to pay is part of the reason why Josh McDaniels didn't get the job because Murphy doesn't want to repeat the clash power struggle of last year having already given Rogers more power than he should have. Is this a legitimate concern?
    Your points are all more than valid. Rodgers does need to present better body language for his teammates -- doesn't mean he can't get on them, it sounds like Brady gets on his guys and is demanding, and I remember, for instance, that Rich Gannon was known for really being tough teammates. The question is why what they saw in LaFleur in that regard, and we're all just speculating with pretty much nothing to base it on if we see LaFleur as a hire to make Rodgers' happy. Maybe something LaFleur said or did in the interview, maybe along with something they heard from people he worked with, convinced them that he could connect with Rodgers but also be firm and unyielding on important points. So I'm not going to assume anything about what the dynamic between them will be like. We'll have to observe what can and see what the results are on the field. Because you're right, every quarterback -- Rodgers, Brady, Manning, Favre and on and on and on -- needs to be coached and to be held accountable by someone other than themselves.
    After LaFleur's hire Colin Cowherd said that he contacted two of his NFL sources and both said they weren't sure that he had the "stature, gravitas, and alpha" to lead a group of men as offensive coordinator, let alone as head coach. Have any of your sources said something similar?
    This is kind of along the lines of the press conference question. I've talked to a couple people, and they essentially described him as low key and reserved, which is to some degree is what Cowherd's sources were saying. It's a valid question and issue. Judging from his first press conference, I could see why that could be a concern. I'm going to get into this in a column soon, probably for the weekend, but I talked with a longtime assistant in the league about that, and his main point was that there are many ways to do everything, including lead, so maybe LaFleur has a way to do it that's understated but still effective. We just won't know until he's been in the boss' chair for a while.
    Pete, what's your sense of when there will be a retention decision on Perry, Matthews, Cobb, & Bulaga?
    I would think in February and early March. With Matthews and Perry, their contracts are up, so it's just a matter of whether they try to re-sign one or both, or just let them walk. I'm of the opinion they should let Cobb walk, but if they do so they need to find a quick slot-type guy to replace him. I'd offer Matthews a contract maybe in the $5M to $6M range to play primarily ILB. Bulaga and Perry have time left on their contracts. In my mind cutting Perry is a no-brainer, he just can't stay healthy. And Bulaga's body is breaking down, so I'd start over there too. If they're going to cut one or both, there's no real timetable except they'd probably do it before the start of free agency -- I don't know if either or both has a roster bonus due in March. But just guessing the Packers wouldn't wait until the last minute to cut them, so I'm thinking any moves with those two would come in February. Just a guess.
    Hi Pete. I'm a Packers fan in Nashville, and due to the archaic broadcast rules, I'm usually only offered the Titans game during early or afternoon on Sundays. What LaFleur schemed each week wasn't great, or at least wasn't executed well. Why do you think, not what Mark Murphy said, is the reason that LaFleur was hired?
    I'm thinking they heard good things about him from people they trusted or believed, and that something about him in the interview hit home at a gut level. I'm sure a big reason they hired him was that they thought he can make things work with Rodgers. They probably also wanted to retain Pettine as DC, and they liked that Pettine was on LaFleur's list of DC candidates (LaFleur and Pettine have the same agent), so they think those two will be able to work together. And I'm sure they (meaning Murphy and Gutekunst) got a vibe that LaFleur is a guy they could work with.
    Mike McCarthy was a "west coast" offense guy, can you compare and contrast that with the system LaFleur will implement?
    My understanding on this is pretty limited, so take it for what it's worth. His offense also is West Coast. McCarthy's mentor was Paul Hackett, and LaFleur's essentially is Mike Shanahan. Both Hackett and Mike Shanahan worked directly for Bill Walsh, so they started at the same point. Now, those offenses are always evolving, and they go in all sorts of directions. It sounds to me like the branch LaFleur is on, with Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay leading the way, has added more stuff from other schemes and college -- more bunch formations, more movement and motion and misdirection -- than McCarthy's had. From the things I've read in the last few days about McVay and Shanahan, and what LaFleur talked about yesterday as well, was an emphasis on having a lot of their plays looking similar in alignment and just after the snap, but then going in vastly different directions after that. It's a way to keep defenses off balance. I'm sure all offenses try to do that, that's a fundamental part of offense, but I don't remember McCarthy emphasizing that like Kyle Shanahan, McVay and LaFleur seem to.
    Hi Pete, Thanks for doing this chat. What is your first overall impression of the hire of LaFleur and I was wondering if he was even on your or your colleagues radar when the search started?
    His name popped up pretty early in the reports of candidates last week. Going into it the weekend I had to pick a couple guys to look into and right about. I thought the most interesting was Josh McDaniels because he seemed like a real boom or bust guy with his strong personality, which might have been a great and creative dynamic with Rodgers or a constant clashing of wills. Then I looked into Gase and LaFleur. You just knew that they'd prefer to have a guy who'd worked extensively with QBs if they could find one they liked, and both of those guys jumped out for that and their youth, which can bring a real hunger to the job. I guess if I'd been forced to make a guess, I'd have guessed they would hire McDaniels, with maybe Gase second and LaFleur third. But that was just wild guessing. You just never know who might have struck their fancy in the interviews.
    Why is it taking so long for the Packers to make coaching staff hires? It seems the other teams are getting the OC and DC locked down pretty quickly.
    Some are being named fast, and I'd have to look at who's been named already, but I think a lot of these guys already were available. Bowles, for instance, was a free agent after the Jets fired him. The two guys LaFleur reportedly is considering for OC are under contract with the 49ers. Years ago teams used to have to let an assistant coach leave for another team if he received a promotion, but that hasn't been the case for a while now. They only have to allow you out of your contract to become a head coach. So Kyle Shanahan will have to let one of those two out of their contracts for LaFleur to hire them, so there are some issues to work through there between LaFleur and Shanahan, which can take some time. LaFleur also said he's going to interview some of the guys already on staff, which takes time as well. But Pettine is staying on at DC, so that's a really important job being filled right there.
    Is there an irony to Murphy talking about complacency and accountability when he was the one responsible for keeping TT past his prime? I mean isn't that the tone setter and ultimate example of what he decried as an organizational problem?
    Hi Pete,

    I enjoy reading these chats with the readers input and your input. Are you planning on continuing these through the off season? Weekly? Monthly?
    Yes, the chats will continue throughout the offseason, and unless I'm on vacation we'll have one each week. For now it looks like they'll be on Thursdays in the offseason, though that could be fluid depending on what's going on in any given week.
    Have Pettine and LaFleur ever worked together? Any indication of what LeFleur will do on the defensive side of the coaching staff?
    Pretty sure they haven't worked together, but like I said, they have the same agent, Trace Armstrong, so they might know each other through him and certainly know a lot about each other.
    What role do you think the Packers new power structure played in helping/hindering the coaching search? National commentators like Mike Lombardi have dumped all over Mark Murphy and suggested it wasn't as appealing a job as many were making it out to be because of this "everyone reports to the president" system. Were they underwhelmed by the interviews because interest wasn't as great as they thought it was going to be? I mean the guy they ended up hiring only had one interview.
    That's probably an individual thing based on the candidate, but I wouldn't doubt that some candidates didn't like the structure and would prefer the cleaner lines of responsibility/accountability by reporting to the GM. Others might like being on closer to equal footing with the GM. I'm not a fan of the new structure, it opens the door to more infighting and backstabbing when things aren't going well, or fighting for credit when they do go well. The previous system served the franchise well for 25 years after a disastrous quarter century before that with different structures. Structure isn't everything, people matter more, but you have to choose a structure, and the GM/football czar is the most attractive in my mind.
    Pete,
    Any update on new position coaches? And any thoughts on the wisdom or lack of wisdom of hiring your brother.
    Yeah, I was just thinking about the brother thing as I got onto this chat. I guess just my initial thought/feeling is, probably not a good idea to bring in your brother as OC. I see why it would be attractive, it would be someone who would be completely loyal and willing to do whatever it takes to help and someone you know and trust and presumably think really highly of. But it creates the potential for internal issues with the rest of the staff and even players, guys thinking/wondering about nepotism and all that. I'd probably want to talk to some people in the league about this before drawing a conclusion, but my gut feel is that if I were advising him, and I'd advise him not to hire his brother, especially to such a high-ranking job.
    Isn’t it true that the new coaches success will be rooted in getting AR to play at an elite level again. If something close to that’ happens the bulk of their problems go away.
    Pretty much. I mean, they've got plenty of issues to address and need to upgrade the roster at a number of positions, of course, to get to the champions' circle. But yeah. I still don't see much difference between this year's team and '16, and that '16 team went 10-6 and played in the NFC title game, whereas this one was 6-9-1. So when you say the bulk of the problems go away, yeah, I have to agree. Not all, by any means, but the majority.
    I know Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay and their coaching tree are all the rage right now. Isn't it important to step back from the hype and realize these coaches have won 0 Super Bowls?
    Sure. It's always a push and pull on all these things. Look at Belichick and the dynasty he's built. But then which of his assistants or even front-office guys has gone on to big success? Basically none. O'Brien is doing OK in Houston, Dimitroff has been to a SB as GM in Atlanta. But a lot of these guys have been average or bombed. On the other hand, look at how well so many of the Wolf proteges have done. We can find things to pick apart anyone they'd hired unless they raised Vince Lombardi from the dead, and then it would be, well, he was great in the '60s but will he be any good in today's game?
    Pete, you seem optimistic about the new coach, but Silverstein seems pessimistic. I’m sure you guys talk to one another, do you sometimes purposely pick opposing view points to get the full story out?
    I really don't have an opinion on whether it's a good hire, and even if I did I'd advise you to pay it no mind. Anyone who's skeptical about it is smart to be so. Most NFL coaches fail. How many last more than four or five years? A small minority, to be sure. How many win a Super Bowl? Very few.
    Pete: Question and a comment.....
    With Matt L a QB whisperer or more broadly, an offense minded coach, do you think he'll prod/influence/ ask Brian G for offensive infusion via the draft more so than if his experience was on D side of ball? If 1265 asks for my input in April, with our first three picks currently within top 44 picks, I focus those picks on rush LB, TE and OL or safety?
    Not sure what he's told Gutekunst about the roster or if he'll push for more help on offense. But I agree with what you see as the greatest needs for those top three picks: OLB, OL and TE. Safety is up there too, though I wonder if they'll move Jackson there.
    It would be interesting to find out which players were on the nine man advisory Council, and if any of them thought that Aaron Rodgers was not being held accountable? Any insight?
    None other than Murphy said Rodgers was on the committee.
    Pete--I'd like to follow up on the Packer's management structure. Is there a way to make the office of the president more accountable? If, as you say, 5 of the 6 executive committee members are beholden to Murphy, he is the de facto owner of the team. If he decided to retire at 80 or double his salary he could do it. And I guess, he even has the power to appoint his successor. It seems like a real flaw in the organizational by laws. It wouldn't matter to me as much if he hadn't devalued the GM position.
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