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An in-depth look at the Packers' head coach candidates

NFL beat reporters talk potential head coaches
Posted: 10:21 PM, Jan 06, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-07 05:16:48Z
An in-depth look at the Packers' head coach candidates

At this point in Green Bay’s search for its next head coach, there are more questions than answers. NBC26 spoke with beat reporters covering the respective teams from which the Packers are interviewing coaches to find out more about the 11 names we’ve seen so far linked to the head coach vacancy.

Former Colts and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell

Caldwell has plenty experience with some of the NFL’s most revered quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford. He also has plenty experience as a head coach in the league, with the Detroit Lions from 2014-2017 and Indianapolis Colts from 2009-2011.

While both stints in Detroit and Indianapolis ended in his termination, Caldwell’s experience with Manning and bringing a team to the Super Bowl won’t be overlooked, according to WRTV sports reporter Brad Brown.

“Jim's role (during the Colts’ Super Bowl run in 2009) in particular was really just to manage that team and all let those guys and that experience take care of itself,” said Brown. “I think that would translate well into the setting that he's got there in Green Bay with Aaron (Rodgers) being the experienced leader of that offense. We always took him as a very quiet guy, not a rah-rah guy and it seems that that works well with players that have a great deal of experience. I think it could translate well into the situation the Packers are looking to fill right there."

Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell

Dan Campbell is a smash-mouth “Texas football guy” who commands the room upon entry, according to WDSU sports anchor and reporter Fletcher Mackell, who covers the Saints.

“I mean, he is a 6-foot-5 guy; he is still built like he could get out there on the field. He is loud, he is engaging, he is a commanding presence,” said Mackell.

Campbell has never been an offensive coordinator but was elevated to the interim head coach role when Joe Philbin was relieved of his duties in Miami during the 2015 season.

“I think hiring (an offensive) coordinator, he’s going to let them do their thing so to say, because I don’t think we look at Dan Campbell as kind of this offensive architect or offensive genius the way we look at Sean Payton, and even to a lesser extent, Pete Carmichael,” Mackell said.

Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael

While not the Saints’ play-caller, Carmichael has moved up the ranks in New Orleans since arriving with Sean Payton in 2006. Their offenses have never finished worse than eighth in offense and have finished outside the top 10 in scoring just once.

Mackell said Carmichael’s “very low-key, unassuming” personality stands in stark contrast with Campbell’s.

“He is not this loud, boisterous leader of men if you will. He is kind of looked at as the mad scientist type in the shadows behind Payton and Drew Brees,” Mackell said. “So I’d be interested to see how he commands a locker room, how he commands a team. Because while he draws up a lot of plays and he could be arguably responsible for the Saints offense, I don’t know how he would do as a head coach.”

The Saints’ rhythm-focused offense orchestrated by Carmichael could be a match for Rodgers and Green Bay.

“I would certainly say with someone as talented as Aaron Rodgers, if Pete Carmichael gets the job, he is going to implement what he has done here for 13 years with Sean Payton and Drew Brees, and even new wrinkles,” said Mackell.

Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores

Flores is the defacto defensive coordinator for New England as its play-caller. His no-nonsense approach has attracted several suitors looking for more discipline. Flores led a Patriots defense that finished seventh in scoring, No. 11 against the run, No. 21 in total yards and No. 22 against the pass.

“In Brian's case, he's interviewing with four teams,” said Jim McBride, the Boston Globe’s Patriots reporter. “I would be stunned if he didn't get an offer from one of them. And I would be surprised if he didn't take that offer. I know he interviewed in Arizona last year, and they were very close to hiring him. They loved him. He's probably glad that they didn't seeing that they only gave Steven Wilks one year but I could see both (he and Josh McDaniels) leaving and I would be surprised if they didn't get offers.”

Former Dolphins head coach Adam Gase

Gase was fired on Black Monday after guiding Miami to a 23-25 record in his three-season tenure. He worked in Denver under Josh McDaniels and later called plays with Peyton Manning and that 2013 record-setting offense. He coached Jay Cutler to a career-high quarterback rating and career-low interceptions mark in Chicago in 2015.

Gase is 40 years old, just five years Rodgers’ senior, and there were reports out of Miami that Gase lost the locker room. While he has the head-coaching experience and offensive background the Packers might be targeting, they’ll be taking a deep look at that.

Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur

This season was LaFleur’s first as a play-caller in the NFL, as injuries ravaged the Titans offense. QB Marcus Mariota dealt with a nagging injury in his throwing arm, and the Titans finished No. 29 in passing but No. 7 in rushing with running back Derrick Henry.

“I think a lot of Titans fans were surprised this week when they heard that Matt LaFleur would be a candidate for the Packers’ head coaching job, simply because he’s only been a play caller in the National Football League for one season, and this fall, the Titans’ offense wasn’t particularly prolific,” said NewsChannel 5 Sports Anchor Steve Layman. “In fact, quarterback Marcus Mariota’s passing numbers went down by about 700 yards from the previous season. Now there are a lot of reasons for that. The Titans were plagued by injuries all season long, including injuries to Marcus Mariota that cost him the final game of the season, so we maybe didn’t see the full repertoire or the full offense from Matt LaFleur this year, but still, if you’re looking for a proven coordinator in this league, I’m not even sure you can call Matt LaFleur that just yet.”

But Layman said LaFleur’s offense “catching its stride” at the season’s end was a big part of Tennessee finishing 4-1 and just missing the playoffs.

Before his time in Tennessee, LaFleur was Sean McVay’s offensive coordinator in LA in 2017, when the Rams were No. 8 on the ground and No. 10 through the air. And even before that, LaFleur worked with Matt Ryan when the Falcons went on to the Super Bowl, Ryan’s MVP season.

“I think he’s an innovative offensive mind, and I think the goal would be that he can open things up for Aaron Rodgers and company. That was certainly the goal here, when Mike Vrabel and general manager Jon Robinson brought him in this last year to try to open up the Titans’ offense for Marcus Mariota… If Green Bay wants Matt LaFleur, that’s what you’re looking for: You’re looking for a guy who’s been tutored by some of the best offensive minds in football and coached some of the best quarterbacks in football. You hope he can bring that to the Packers.”

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels

McDaniels has been a lightning rod candidate since he controversially accepted the head coach job in Indianapolis last season only to change his mind and remain with the Patriots. Before that, he called plays in New England from 2006-2008 and became the Broncos’ head coach in 2009. In Denver, he was scandalized when his team videotaped an opponent’s walk-through practice. He was fired 12 games into the 2010 campaign after a 11-17 tenure.

But since returning to New England in 2012, the body of work with Tom Brady speaks for itself: finishing outside the top 10 in offense only twice (No. 11 in 2006 and 2014).

According to NBC10 sports anchor Raul Martinez, McDaniels has been shown the head-coaching ropes in Foxborough as the “man in waiting” for Bill Belichick.

“For McDaniels to leave it would mean that Bill Belichick is going to stick around for a while and if you have an opportunity to be the head coach of Aaron Rodgers, how can you not at least take a look and consider it?” Martinez said.

Former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Monken interviewed with the Packers on Saturday night. Monken’s contract expired after this season concluded after a run as Tampa’s offensive coordinator from 2016-2018. He was also the head coach of Southern Miss from 2013-2015, improving from 1-11 in his first season to 9-5 with a bowl berth before returning to the NFL.

Monken oversaw a Bucs offense that improved in offensive ranking each season, finishing this year despite a dismal record as the No. 3 team in total yards and No. 12 in points. Between Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who shared starting duties in Tampa Bay, the Bucs’ QB’s threw for over 5,000 yards and 36 touchdowns.

And remember when Ryan Fitzpatrick lit the NFL world on fire early in the season? Monken took over play-calling duties in Tampa, and Fitzpatrick became the first NFL player to throw for at least 400 yards in three straight games. He also put up 2,366 yards and a 100.4 passer rating in eight starts this year.

"I'm telling you: He's got it. He's got the 'It Factor' as a head coach. He's smart enough. He's a big-time offensive coach,” Ryan Fitzpatrick told the New York Daily News . “He’s always a guy who’s very consistent in what he’s doing. That doesn’t mean that we were always best of friends and he always agreed with what I did, but if he didn’t or had a problem with what I was doing, then he was going to be direct about it and tell me and not beat around the bush. That’s one of the most important qualities that I think you can have as a coach.”

Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak

To see the impact Munchak has made in Pittsburgh, look no further than the jump the Steelers made since he took over the o-line in 2014: 42 sacks allowed to 24 sacks allowed this year. Pittsburgh allowed the fourth-fewest sacks this season despite the most dropbacks in the league. Before that, Munchak was 22-26 as Tennessee’s head coach from 2011-2013.

“You can tell he has more interest this time around,” said WPXI Sports Anchor/Reporter Chase Williams. Last year he was linked with the Cardinals, and when they called him back for the second interview, he said no. So for whatever reason, he’s more interested now. Maybe it’s to get out of the circus that has been the Pittsburgh Steelers, who knows?”

Despite the recent drama in Pittsburgh, Williams said Munchak is “old school,” “very down-to-earth” and “doesn’t seek out the spotlight,” which he said were matches for Green Bay.

“I think because Mike Munchak, he’s not a flashy guy. He’s not a Jon Gruden type that’s in your face,” Williams said. “And I think that would fit well in Green Bay, the blue-collar mentality there, and I think that’s just how he goes about his business, does the job. Isn’t about the bells and whistles. Is very matter-of-fact and I think that would fit well there.”

Munchak also played left guard for the Titans/Oilers franchise from 1982-1993, was a nine-time Pro Bowler and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

“You can tell that (his offensive line players) love him. He’s a great teacher. He loves to teach football,” Williams said. “You can tell how much they like him and you hear every single postgame press conference Ben Roethlisberger talk about his offensive line and how much they are part of their success, and that goes back to Mike Munchak.”

Former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano

Pagano went 53-43 in six seasons from 2012-2017 as the Colts head coach, but went just 3-3 in three postseasons for Indianapolis.

He and Flores are the only two coaches with a defensive background that the Packers are considering.

"He's a defensive coach. Pagano has always been defensive-minded for 30-plus years, a guy who works defense first. So to have an offensive run by maybe the smartest quarterback in the league and a young talent clearly in Luck who was something special at the time, always seemed to kind of miss. Hey, it was great that they made the playoffs those three years but there's always that what if?"

Packers interim head coach Joe Philbin

After being promoted to the interim role Dec. 2 following Mike McCarthy’s firing, the Packers went 2-2 under Philbin, with the lasting impression of Philbin’s tenure being a sour 31-0 loss to end the season at home against Detroit. After helping the Packers win Super Bowl XLV during his first stint as Green Bay’s offensive coordinator, he went 24-28 as the head coach in Miami from 2012 through the first four games of 2015.

"Interim coach Joe Philbin will receive a head-coach interview, but it would be a surprise if he received the full-time job," NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport said on Dec. 29 . "Instead, expect the Packers to conduct a wide-ranging search with perhaps 10-12 candidates, then bring in three or so for final interviews."

“I think one of the things I’ve learned is how important fit is,” Philbin said on Dec. 31 in his last press conference as the Packers’ interim head coach. “I think fit and alignment in this particular situation -- Mark Murphy, Brian, Russ and the head coach -- is absolutely vital. And if it’s not, it won’t work.”