Next Packers Coach: McDaniels? Arians? Who Does and Doesn’t Make Sense for Aaron Rodgers
On the Monday Morning NFL Podcast, Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling analyzed who should be the next coach of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers…
GARY: We have out first head coach firing to talk about, Andy.
ANDY: Our first of the holiday season. We had a good time with Hue Jackson a few weeks ago, don’t ya think? This one’s bigger.
GARY: This is a big one. It doesn’t have quite the comedic effect that the Hue Jackson one had. (I can’t believe I forgot about Hue Jackson, I’m very sorry about that.)
ANDY: It’s a marquee franchise, it’s a mark of an era changing, and it’s a superstar quarterback getting a new head coach. Those three things do not happen very often. I think we can skip the analysis; we’ve talked McCarthy so much. Not just this year, but in past years. I think the general consensus, and how you and I feel, is we understand the move. It was time. Are you with me on that?
GARY: I am with you on that. We had a lot of MMQB content on it the past week. Andy had a really good Extra Point column last Monday, Kayln Kahler had her big feature on what was wrong with the Packers, and now here we are. I think we all saw this coming and certainly we saw it coming after once they had lost to the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon.
ANDY: So then the question becomes, “Who coaches this team next?” I understand why the Packers would fire McCarthy to get an early jump on it. I know Tony Dungy at halftime of the Sunday night game didn’t love that they didn’t let McCarthy finish out the season and I’m sure that’s how a lot of coaches feel. The reality of it, though, is McCarthy also gets a jump on the coaching process for him and a big deal with coaches is finding your staff. Gary, I get multiple texts from coaches this time of year each week saying, “What are you hearing out there? What jobs will be open?” Because everybody in the NFL is starting to look at, “Where will I coach next year? How can I get promoted? What are the opportunities?” If McCarthy’s fate was inevitable, and I think it was—anything short of the kind of run you kept predicting for them, which was another wrong prediction by the way. If anything short of that had happened, McCarthy would be looking for a staff anyway so he gets a jump on it too.
GARY: Why am I getting jabbed here?
ANDY: You know why you’re getting jabbed! I’ll tell you why. I was thinking all day about this, before McCarthy got fired. I thought, “I’m gonna open the show telling Gary once again, this is a great example of why we’re not looking at this strength of schedule thing in the NFL,” because it was upsets on top of upsets today. I was all prepared. I was going to use Cardinals-Packers as a jumping off point to attack you that way. I wanted to come out fighting because you’re using the strength of schedule thing and I’m begging you to stop. Begging.
GARY: You raise a really good point on Mike McCarthy. Jenny Vrentas had done a piece looking at the top head coaching candidates, surveyed people from around the league. The two names that came up again and again and again were Josh McDaniels and Mike McCarthy. I don’t want to say Mike McCarthy is definitely going to get a job, I think he’s very likely going to job and early reports are that Cleveland is very interested. Letting him go now lets him get a head start on that. Let’s face it, there are no moral victories for the Green Bay Packers. They’re not going to sit back and say, “Oh we finished 8-7-1, now we got some momentum going into next season.” It was time to reset.
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ANDY: Let’s say the Browns finish two or three games over .500 under Gregg Williams and let’s say Baker Mayfield keeps looking as good as I think he’s looked. Is it possible they want to do kinda what the Bucs did with Dirk Koetter a few years ago and say, “We want to keep the Mayfield-Freddie Kitchens marriage in-tact. We’re going to ride with Gregg Williams.”
GARY: I think that’s a logical way to do it. John Dorsey threw everybody a curveball last draft season, everyone said Baker Mayfield was not his style of guy. A lot of whispers around Cleveland are that Dorsey wants a veteran coach, a leader of men proven type of guy to take over that franchise. It’s tough to say, “I’d be on board with Gregg Williams getting a head-coaching job.” That seems be somewhat uninspired, but I do like the Mayfield-Freddie Kitchens pairing. Do you bring in McCarthy and have him be a CEO type?
ANDY: I don’t think McCarthy would do that. McCarthy is an offensive hands-on coach. McCarthy is calling the plays with Aaron Rodgers back there. He took back the playcalling from his long-time assistant Tom Clements. He’s not just going to be a CEO type with a Baker Mayfield type young QB.
GARY: What if he’s changed his mind after the past two years? What if he doesn’t want to call plays anymore?
ANDY: Typically play callers like to stay play callers, but not all of ’em. Bruce Arians once told me he would quit coaching if he couldn’t keep calling the plays. Let’s also remember the guy that had the Cleveland job, Hue Jackson, remember the year he got that job. Everybody thought he’s the No. 1 candidate and they were talking about him the way they were McCarthy now, “Oh where’s Hue gonna be? He’s got his choice?” I heard he even cleaned out his desk before his exit interview in Cincinnati because he was so sure that he’d have options as a head coach and he wound up only having one option. It was the Browns job, the worst job out there, and it didn’t work out. I know McCarthy is a hot name now, but these things have a way of changing once the job interview process actually initiates and once we see what teams have playoff success. Who do you think is the right type of coach for Green Bay?
GARY: Everyone’s saying offensive mind, which is understandable. I think if you’re going to have someone dealing with Aaron Rodgers, you want it to be someone who can be on that same footing as him. As far as the power dynamic goes, I think you want it to be your head coach dealing with your future Hall of Fame quarterback.
ANDY: It’s a young guy’s game right now. We’re hearing names like Zac Taylor, Lincoln Riley, these young quarterback whisperer type coaches. That’s not the guy you bring in to coach Aaron Rodgers. You’re not bringing in someone younger than him. John DeFillipo? I don’t think you bring him in. Rodgers needs a very specific type. Josh McDaniels maybe, who’s worked with Tom Brady?
GARY: McDaniels makes sense.
ANDY: McDaniels would take that job too.
GARY: Could you bring Bruce Arians out of retirement?
ANDY: Would that be the best fit? I don’t think Arians would do very well with Rodgers playing off-schedule. He had Roethlisberger early on though.
GARY: Isn’t that kind of what you want to do with your next head coach? You’re looking at Rodgers, he turned 35 on Sunday. He’s presumably going to have some diminishing physical traits at some point in the next couple years. I feel like the next head coach’s biggest goal should be to get Aaron Rodgers to consistently play on-schedule. They also had so much changeover at receiver, it kept Rodgers from being able to play effectively off-schedule. It just doesn’t work when you have a bunch of young receivers who don’t know what you’re doing when you start improvising?
ANDY: Do you go defense or special teams coaches and do the CEO approach? A John Harbaugh-type.
GARY: I think it’s tough to have an assistant coach trying to wrangle Aaron Rodgers. We saw what happened. Even with Mike McCarthy as head coach, there was always tension. When they were winning, it was healthy tension. Now that they’re 4-7-1, it was very unhealthy tension.
ANDY: One thing I like about Arians’s scheme, the more I’m thinking about this, is he’ll do empty sets a lot, which kind of forces the ball out of the hand of the QB. I know Carson Palmer, he had a bad offensive line in Arizona, but he felt under Arians that there’s a lot of pressure to get the ball out, and don’t know if Palmer always loved that but he had some excellent years under Arians. The other thing that Arians does, it’s a deep-intermediate passing game, it’s not a quick-strike passing game, and part of the issue with Rodgers is he’ll hold the ball on those quick strikes, which is really unusual. If Rodgers is going to play the way he plays, and let’s assume he is, then maybe finding a deeper passing game where there’s theoretically more time built into the plays, which leaves more time for Rodgers to scratch that itch to continue plays, maybe that would be a viable option. I’m liking this Arians thing the more I think about it.
GARY: I think I like the McDaniels fit best.
ANDY: I like McDaniels more than Arians for this scenario too.
GARY: We’ll see. I don’t know enough about Lincoln Riley—I know what he does with that offense down in Oklahoma—but I think there’s an unknown because in the college ranks, frankly, the coach-player dynamic is far, far different.
ANDY: Lincoln Riley makes more sense for Cleveland, not just because of the Baker thing but, in theory, the young quarterback. Rodgers would have to adjust a lot more to a Lincoln Riley than another QB would. And I don’t think someone younger than Rodgers is going to be the right solution. I can’t fathom that.
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