The Armchair Quarterbacks: 10/4/18

Listen to our very own Joe Miller and Rob Reischel of BobMcGinnFootball and Forbes every Thursday night from 5 to 5:30pm as these “Armchair Quarterbacks” breakdown the Green Bay Packers week by week!

Segment 1: Takeaways from last week’s Packers game against the Bills. (0:00)

Segment 2: Reactions to Rodgers’ comments on the team’s play-calling. (6:40)

Segment 3: Rob breaks down this weekends Packers/Lions game. (15:55)

NFL Scouting Combine: Day 1 observations

Indianapolis – The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine is underway and the path to the draft is officially underway for not only the Green Bay Packers, but the other 31 teams in the NFL, as well. On Wednesday Packers’ general manager Brian Gutekunst and coach Mike McCarthy both met with the media.

Here are three observations from the first day of the combine:

Aggressiveness in free agency

There has seemed to be a renewed sense of optimism since Gutekunst was given the job as the successor to former Packers general manager Ted Thompson in January. The Packers, at times, thrived under the ‘draft and develop model’ that Thompson preferred. This past season it seemed as if the model failed the Packers, especially with the injury to quarterback Aaron Rodgers in early October.

In the absence of Rodgers there were few bright spots offensively. Wide receiver Davante Adams was tremendous with backup quarterback Brett Hundley, and the running back positon was solid with rookies Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Other than that, there wasn’t much to write home about.

Last offseason the Packers attempted to make a splash by signing free agent tight end Martellus Bennett. That move didn’t work out as Bennett underperformed and was waived after injury issues midway through the season.

Most of the renewed hope among fans is that the free agent market will be something that the Packers will be aggressive in this offseason. That was the talk of the day on Wednesday at the combine.

“Obviously, there’s limits on what you can do, but we’d like to be really aggressive and see what we can be in every conversation,” Gutekunst said of the upcoming free agency period. “Now, whether that leads us to signing a bunch or not, we’ll see. Like I said, there’s limitations there, but we’d like to be as aggressive as we can to try and improve our football team. At the same time, it’s a smaller market, it’s a little bit riskier market, so I think as my mentor and predecessor would say ‘you have to be very cautious as you enter that.’ But I think we’d like to look at every option we can.”

“We like the word ‘aggressive,’ but I think it’s like anything, you have to be in touch with reality of the process,” McCarthy said. “The process of veteran free agency is different today than it was prior to Brian [Gutekunst] being the GM.”

Aaron Rodgers’ contract

Obviously, Rodgers is the quarterback of the present and future for the Packers. That’s not earth-shattering news to anyone that pays attention to the NFL in any capacity. Rodgers thought of by the Packers as the best player in the NFL. He’s currently on a contract that expires after the 2019 season. Both he and the Packers would like that to change as there have been talked between the parties of an extension.

“I don’t know if there’s pressure [to get an extension done], but we certainly would like to get it done sooner rather than later,” Gutekunst said. “When you have the best player in the NFL it’s not going to be inexpensive, you know what I mean? Obviously, Aaron is a high priority, he’s a great player. That should take care of itself at some point.”

The answer Gutekunst gave was sparked by a question about the salaries that other high-end quarterbacks are anticipated to receive in free agency. Rodgers’ track record proves that he deserves to be shown a payday. It will certainly be interesting to see the amount of guaranteed money he receives if and when a contract extension with the Packers becomes finalized.

New life on defense

After nine seasons at the helm of the defense for the Packers, defensive coordinator Dom Capers was let go following the season. The Packers struggled on that side of the ball and McCarthy felt that a change was needed.

“Obviously, the last nine years I felt that internally we were able to take the resources that we had, build the vision, the plan for the upcoming season,” McCarthy said of the defensive side of the ball. “Obviously, I felt differently this year and the result was all of the coaching changes.”

Green Bay hired Mike Pettine as the replacement to Capers. Pettine has had stops as a defensive coordinator with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. He also has two-year stint as head coach of the Cleveland Browns to his name.

While McCarthy shot down the idea of the hiring of Pettine being a total culture change, it is something that was needed.

“I don’t get too far away from the reality of how our operation is every day and that is the culture. Our culture is what makes it go. That’s how you sustain success. It definitely has been changed, on a lot of levels it has been adjusted, too.”

What Packers coach Mike McCarthy had to say at the NFL Combine

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy met with the media on Wednesday afternoon at the NFL Combine as the team begins preparation leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Here’s everything he had to say.

Q: Challenges of such a long relationship with quarterback Aaron Rodgers:
MCCARTHY: I think it goes all the way around. The way you interact with everybody in your program. Obviously, you have the 1 on 1 component. We’re both driven and focused on the same thing. As I watch Aaron now compared to his younger years, he’s the oldest guy in the locker room. It’s a different relationship for him in there then it was in the early years. Just staying in tune with that. From a pure football standpoint, as far as the scheme, just continue to grow that too. In specifics, what we’re going through now as an offensive staff is we’re spending a ton of time in the passing game particularly, doing a 12-year study, looking at his first six years compared to the last four, particularly the last three. Kind of breaking it down the first seven and last three and just seeing the differences in everything involved in that. Because this is the time when he goes away but when he returns in April, that initial meeting of these are the things we’ve done, here’s the history, the past, these are the changes and so forth. That part of it is always fresh for him. He likes a challenge so we make sure we continue to challenge him as we grow as a football team.

Q: Have you done similar studies in the past?
MCCARTHY: We have, I would say the last five or six years have been in the four-year realm. So, the chance to go back and take all 12 years, particularly the video of it and watch the origin of the concept, the original installation of it, how it evolved, what we got away from, what we stayed with. In this league, the evolution of scheme is the challenge and the focus that every coach goes through whether it be offense, defense, or special teams. The ability to stay on the front end of that curve and try to hopefully stay a step of so in front of your opponent in that particular challenge is where we’re always focused on. We have tremendous history with both Aaron and Brett [Favre] in ’06 and ’07. It’s really probably been as good for the coaches as it will be for the players when they get back. It’s brought us back to the basics in more ways than one.

Q: On the Free Agency plan for this upcoming period:
MCCARTHY: We like the word ‘aggressive,’ but I think it’s like anything, you have to be in touch with reality of the process. The process of veteran free agency is different today than it was prior to Brian [Gutekunst] being the GM. It’s a whole different breakdown and approach, really. That’s the first part of it, so you have the evaluation stage and then the application of it is really what it’s all about. It’s not just one thing that directly leads to another. We don’t want to lose good players, that’s something we’ve always focuses on, particularly our own. We’ve spent pretty much our 12 years here really focusing on improving from within but we need outside resources, we’ve determined that. At the end of the day it’s a market, it’s a market that every team is involved in and we’ll see what happens.

Q: How has the new front office structure been going?
MCCARTHY: It’s different, different structure, there’s meetings, communication is weekly. The reality of what I’m doing specifically, with new coaching staffs, predominantly, probably the last five weeks have been bunkered down with the offensive perimeter group going through the passing game and Mike Pettine has done the same with the defense. We’re kind of in a ‘year one format,’ kind of what you go through when you go into a place with a new staff. Unfortunately, we had an early start with a couple extra weeks before the Super Bowl. Our approach is the same. We’ve always made sure that when players get back on April 16th that we’re ready to go. Every minute that they’re available they’re our priority.

Q: Is the NFL Scouting Combine a fresh start no matter what happens the previous season?
MCCARTHY: I think more for the interaction for the media and the rest of the world, maybe. Really, you get a little time off, the assistant coaches had a little time off. Obviously, we were involved in staff changes. It really kicked off once we turned that first tape on and started to scheme evaluation for me. That’s really the day that the page is turned and you’re able to move forward. This is part of that new journey of 2018.

Q: On Mike Pettine’s scheme, 4-3 or 3-4?
MCCARTHY: Frankly, if you asked Mike if he plays the 4-3 or the 3-4 he’d say ‘yes.” That’s the reality of what a good defensive system is. The ability to utilize your players. We’ve never had that luxury of saying ‘we need this specific kind of player.’ I think when you’re picking where we’ve picked for as many years as we have, and with our prior focus on veteran free agency, we have to acquire good players. In our system, on offense, defense, and special teams we have to take advantage of those players and make sure we’re playing to their strengths and that’s no different with Mike.

Q: On the running back position and Ty Montgomery’s position:
MCCARTHY: First thing, Jamaal [Williams] and Aaron [Jones] did a lot of good things. Probably the most important statistic for me when evaluating players as far as you move forward to the next season is availability. I have a depth chart board in my office and it has their picture, original tag, number, and play time. Play time is a reflection of availability. None of our running backs this year were available for the whole season. That’s the first hurdle that they need to meet. In Ty [Montgomery]’s particular case, his availability the last three years has been his challenge. He’s a multi-positional player. He’s a running back, to answer the question, but he gives us great flexibility to use him so many different ways, so that won’t change. We’re going to need all those guys next year, so that’s going to be our approach.

Q: How can Mike Daniels benefit from a schematic change?
MCCARTHY: There will be some. It’s important for every coordinator through their positon coach, to play their scheme and more importantly their vision and make sure the play style is consistent. Mike’s playing style is a huge asset to not only our defensive line, but our whole football team. Schematically, I think you really just need to play to Mike’s strengths. Create the opportunities, and I think anytime you can get Mike in a one-on-one situation you’re probably going to see more production. I think it’s important. We’re not scorching the Earth or throwing out the baby with the bath water with our defensive approach. There’s some history there with our past defense that Mike [Pettine] will be able to carry over with his scheme. We’ll build off of that but the specifics of what he’s doing, but more importantly how he’s doing it, and even more importantly than that why he’s doing it, will make all of our defensive players, particularly Mike Daniels, better.

Q: On needing a culture change on defense:
MCCARTHY: I think that’s a big statement. I mean, culture change, I think you have to look at more of the definition of it is, from my perspective, my approach is you have an evaluation that you do each and every year. You have filters that you run your data, conversations, and all the input that you take from within, or even outside the organization in some small level. With that you assess. Obviously, the last nine years I felt that internally we were able to take the resources that we had, build the vision, the plan for the upcoming season. Obviously, I felt differently this year and the result was all of the coaching changes. I don’t get too far away from the reality of how our operation is every day and that is the culture. Our culture is what makes it go. That’s how you sustain success. It definitely has been changed, on a lot of levels it has been adjusted, too.

Q: Assessing Brett Hundley and his evaluation from 2017:
MCCARTHY: I think when you look at Brett [Hundley], like anything, you look at what he was able to accomplish. Now his live reps are on video. We felt that he could have been better prepared as far as our whole operation. You look at the evaluation as far as where he started, how he ended his season. He definitely improved throughout his opportunities there. I feel very good about that. I believe in Brett Hundley. I do fully recognize that he has a lot of football in front of him. He has a big upside and our structure and our coaching staff, we need to make sure that we maximize that. We also need to learn from the other parts of the offense that we didn’t do as good as we would have liked. We’ll learn from that and apply it forward. I do believe that Brett as a big upside and looking forward to getting back to work with him.

Q: On the health of Aaron Rodgers:
MCCARTHY: I can’t answer that. I feel confident that he’ll be ready to go. I had a short meeting yesterday with Dr. Pat Mackenzie and his assessment of everything is that everything looks good.

Report: Packers hire Cignetti as quarterbacks coach

The Green Bay Packers have hired Frank Cignetti as  their new quarterbacks coach, according to a report by Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein.

Cignetti was the New York Giants quarterbacks coach last season and has over nine years of coaching experience in the NFL. He has also spent a number of years at the college ranks as a quarterbacks coach and an offensive coordinator.

Cignetti is just the latest hire the Packers organization has made over the past few days, joining  new GM Brian Gutekunst, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, and  defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

Report: Packers hire new defensive coordinator

The Green Bay Packers are set to hire former Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine as the team’s new defensive coordinator, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.

Pettine’s most recent coaching job in the NFL was as head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 2014-15. Prior to that he was the defensive coordinator in Buffalo in 2013 and for the New York Jets from 2009-12. His stops in Buffalo and New York were both with Rex Ryan as head coach.

His time as a defensive coordinator has been impressive. In the five seasons he has spent has a defensive coordinator his units have finished no worse than 10th in total defense in the NFL. That 10th ranked defense was his lone season in Buffalo. While in New York his defenses were no worse than eighth, including a first ranked defense in 2009.

As head coach in Cleveland, Pettine finished with an overall record of 10-22 in two seasons. He did go 7-9 in his first year on the job, however the Browns fell to 3-13 in season two. After a 7-4 start as a head coach, Pettine went 3-18 over his last 21 games.

Pettine spent the 2017 season as a defensive consultant with the Seattle Seahawks.