Mike Pettine

Bears To Hire Mike Pettine

The Bears are going with a first-time defensive coordinator for next season but will bring in an experienced staffer to help the cause. Mike Pettine and the Bears agreed to terms on a deal that will make him a senior defensive assistant, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Pettine will stay in the NFC North, doing so as part of Sean Desai‘s staff. The Packers ended Pettine’s three-year stay as their defensive coordinator last month.

An NFL staffer since 2002, Pettine has been either a head coach or DC in 10 seasons. This will mark a step down for the 54-year-old assistant, but he will supply Desai with experience and considerable familiarity with the Bears’ top rival. Against the Bears last season, Pettine’s defense fared well in two blowouts. The Packers have since brought in Joe Barry to oversee their defense.

While Pettine’s Packers finale did not go especially well, his final two Green Bay defenses ranked in the top half in points allowed. DVOA was less kind to Pettine’s units, placing the most recent one 17th. Prior to his Green Bay stay, Pettine spent two seasons as the Browns’ head coach, one as the Bills’ defensive coordinator and four as the Jets’ DC.

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Packers, DC Mike Pettine To Part Ways

Mike Pettine will not return for a fourth season as Packers defensive coordinator, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). The veteran coach’s contract expired at season’s end.

The former Browns HC turned down an extension last year and is a free agent. Pettine worked under both Mike McCarthy and Matt LaFleur in Green Bay but failed to elevate the Packers into a consistent defensive unit during his stay.

The Packers are coming off an NFC championship game loss that featured a game-swinging Buccaneers end-of-half touchdown. Tampa Bay booked a ticket to Super Bowl LV on the strength of the 18-point lead it built in Green Bay, and Scotty Miller‘s 39-yard score with 1 second remaining in the first half led to the Bucs amassing that wide margin early in the third quarter. LaFleur criticized Pettine’s end-of-half play call after the loss. Overall, the Packers ranked 13th in scoring defense this past season. DVOA was less kind to Pettine’s troops, slotting them 17th overall.

Green Bay used first-round picks on three defenders from 2018-19 — Jaire Alexander, Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage — and gave lucrative deals to pass rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith in free agency. However, the 49ers bulldozed Pettine’s unit in the 2019 NFC championship game and the Bucs ran up a big lead in this year’s NFC title tilt. While Alexander broke out under Pettine’s watch and intercepted two passes in Sunday’s loss, the Packers will have a new defensive play-caller next season.

This move comes shortly after the Packers fired special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga. LaFleur’s staff will soon have two new coordinators, despite the Packers having gone 26-6 over the past two seasons.

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Coaching Notes: Pack, Rathman, McCardell

The Packers are making a change on special teams. They are firing ST coordinator Shawn Mennenga, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). A longtime college coach, Mennenga had previously served as Browns assistant ST coach before joining Matt LaFleur‘s staff in 2019. The Packers are expected to promote assistant ST coach Maurice Drayton to replace Mennenga, Pelissero tweets. At least one other team was interested in Drayton for such a role, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Drayton was in contention for this job two years ago.

Here is the latest out of Green Bay and from around the league:

  • Mike Pettine may not be locked in as Packers defensive coordinator next season. The veteran DC opted not to sign an extension last year, and Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com notes his contract is up. The Packers invested heavily in their pass rush and used three first-round picks on defenders from 2018-19 but dropped from 15th in defensive DVOA in 2019 to 17th this past season. Pettine is a holdover from Mike McCarthy‘s staff, having arrived in 2018.
  • Colts running backs coach Tom Rathman announced his retirement Thursday. The Colts hired Rathman in 2017, after his eight-year tenure as 49ers running backs coach ended. Rathman attempted to retire in 2019 and ’20, but the Colts successfully lobbied him to stay on, per The Athletic’s Stephen Holder (on Twitter). A decorated fullback who won two Super Bowls with the 49ers, Rathman coached running backs from 1997-2020. Sixteen of those years came in San Francisco.
  • Staying with the Colts, they are hiring former Jaguars QBs coach Scott Milanovich to replace Marcus Brady in that position, Joel Erickson of the Indianapolis Star tweets. Milanovich was Jacksonville’s QBs coach from 2017-19. Otherwise, he has spent his career in the CFL, having coached the Toronto Argonauts and, in 2020, the Edmonton Eskimos. The Colts promoted Brady to OC last week.
  • Longtime NFL wideout Keenan McCardell will resurface in Minnesota. The Vikings are hiring McCardell as receivers coach, per Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union (on Twitter). A longtime Jaguars pass catcher who broke into the coaching ranks in 2010, McCardell served as Jacksonville’s receivers coach from 2017-20 under Doug Marrone.
  • Ex-Colts DC Ted Monachino will be the Falcons‘ outside linebackers coach under Arthur Smith next season. Monachino, Indy’s DC from 2016-17, spent the past two years with the Bears. The Falcons also hired Jon Hoke to coach defensive backs. The older brother of Maryland HC Brady Hoke, Jon was the Terrapins’ defensive coordinator from 2019-20 but has coached NFL DBs for several seasons.

Packers To Stick With DC Mike Pettine?

While the Packers’ season came to a disappointing end in the Conference Championship, it sounds like their defensive coordinator won’t be a casualty. ESPN’s Rob Demovsky reports that Mike Pettine will return next season.

When head coach Matt LaFleur talked to reporters earlier today, he wasn’t willing to definitively commit to his defensive coordinator.

“Yeah, we’re still working through everything right now,” LaFleur said (via Grant Gordon of NFL.com). “Just trying to evaluate everything. Like you said, I think our defense did a lot of great things. Obviously the last game was really disappointing in terms of our performance. It just wasn’t good enough, especially when you get to a championship game like that. You know what’s at stake. Just all across the board, it wasn’t just the defense — our offense and special teams weren’t up to par as well.”

Apparently, LaFleur was willing to commit soon after the press conference ended. Demovsky writes that the head coach met with Pettine this afternoon, and it was decided that the defensive coordinator will stick around for the 2020 campaign.

Pettine joined the Packers organization prior to the 2018 season. Despite the Packers moving on from head coach Mike McCarthy, LaFleur decided to stick with the coordinator. Green Bay’s defense rebounded in 2019, finishing this most recent campaign in the top-10 for points allowed and takeaways.

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Torn Pec Feared For Packers LB Oren Burks

Packers starting linebacker Oren Burks is believed to have suffered a torn pectoral muscle, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky writes. More tests are expected to determine the next course of action, Demovsky hears. 

The second-year linebacker sustained the injury, originally believed to be a shoulder injury, in the first quarter of Green Bay’s preseason opener vs. the Texans. When asked on Thursday, Packers coach Matt LaFleur did not provide an update on whether the injury would cost the linebacker significant time.

“Honestly, I don’t really know anything right now,” LaFleur said. “It’s kind of wait and see, but I hope not.”

A third-round selection in 2018, Burks appeared in 14 games as a rookie, starting four. He logged 24 tackles and was expected to take over as a starting inside linebacker alongside Blake Martinez in 2019. Though Burks was slated as a starter, it is essentially a part-time role in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme, which calls for a hybrid safety at times to fill the role.

AFC Rumors: Chiefs, Raiders, Steelers

De’Anthony Thomas was arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia possession on Saturday, according to the Allen County (Kan.) Sheriff’s Office (via KMBC.com). The Chiefs wide receiver has since been released from Allen County Jail on bond. Thomas has played his entire NFL career with the Chiefs, signing a one-year deal to return to the team in 2018 after his rookie contract expired. The wideout’s latest Kansas City deal expired after this season. Thomas, 26, landed on IR in October.

As the Patriots venture to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII, here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Needs exist at many spots on the Raiders‘ roster, but they are expected to conduct a defense-heavy draft, Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. Oakland added several defenders in free agency last year, most of whom on one-year deals. The Silver and Black finished with an incredible 13 sacks — 17 fewer than the next-closest team (the Giants) this season and fewest in a season since the 2008 Chiefs, who also traded their best pass rusher that year (Jared Allen), recorded just 10 — and lack long-term answers at just about every position defensively. The Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper trades garnered the Raiders, whose own first-round pick became No. 4 overall, the Nos. 24 and 27 selections.
  • The Steelers exercised Bud Dupree‘s fifth-year option last May but have not decided on his long-term status with the team, per Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Dupree collected 5.5 sacks this season and has 20 in his career but has not lived up to his first-round billing. Dupree’s option price is $9.23MM. It would not be surprising if neither Dupree nor 2016 first-round pick Artie Burns inked second contracts with the Steelers, Fittipaldo writes. Burns’ fifth-year option decision is due in May. Considering Burns played just 308 snaps this season and will carry an option cost of close to $10MM, it would be incredibly surprising if Pittsburgh exercised it.
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster suffered an injury in Sunday’s Pro Bowl. While the Associated Press notes the injury that caused the Steelers wideout to leave the game was just a bruised knee, the second-year wideout was limping en route to the AFC team bus. Smith-Schuster may be on the verge of becoming Pittsburgh’s centerpiece receiver, should Antonio Brown be dealt. It doesn’t sound like he’ll be in danger of missing OTA time, however.
  • Included in Seth Wickersham’s must-read ESPN.com piece about the Jimmy Haslam-era Browns: a near-deal that would have added to the Browns and Texans‘ unique quarterback pipeline. After Cleveland chose Johnny Manziel in the 2014 first round, then-Browns GM Ray Farmer had to calm down a “furious” Brian Hoyer. The Texans soon called to offer their No. 33 overall pick for Cleveland’s then-starting quarterback, but Farmer declined the deal to get control of a draft that had gone haywire (with Mike Pettine leading the way for Justin Gilbert and Haslam behind the Manziel move). Hoyer played one more season with the Browns and in 2015 signed with the Texans, who used that No. 33 pick on offensive lineman Xavier Su’a-Filo.

Packers To Retain DC Mike Pettine

The Packers will opt for continuity on the defensive side of the ball after hiring new head coach Matt LaFleur. LaFleur will retain incumbent defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, as he told Adam Schein of Mad Dog Radio (Twitter link). 

Early reports suggested LaFleur was open to keeping Pettine around, and that may have played into Green Bay’s decision to hire him as head coach. As a young offensive-minded head coach with little experience, LaFleur will surely lean heavily on Pettine, who is not only a longtime DC but a former NFL head coach. The Packers could use an arrangement similar to that of the Rams, where head coach Sean McVay handles the offense while defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has near total control on defense.

2018 wasn’t a banner year for Pettine and the Packers defense, as the club ranked 18th in yardage, 22nd in scoring, and 29th in DVOA. But Green Bay was working with young options in the secondary and lacked talent elsewhere. Pettine experienced prior success as the DC of the Jets (200-12) and Bills (2013), and even posted a 7-9 record as the Browns’ head coach in 2014.

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Packers Hire Titans OC Matt LaFleur As HC

It looks like the first head coaching search of the offseason might be coming to an end. The Packers are “zeroing in on” hiring Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, sources told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The team has since confirmed the hire via press release.

While nothing is official yet, Schefter writes that the Packers “have begun notifying other HC candidates that they’ve interviewed that they’re out and the team has made its choice.” Schefter then posted a follow up tweet noting that the team offered the job to LaFleur. It’s a rapid ascent for LaFleur, who last season wasn’t even calling plays. LaFleur was the Rams’ offensive coordinator for the 2017 season, but Sean McVay called the plays. He was the Falcons’ quarterbacks coach before that from 2015-2016, and learned under two of the league’s most highly regarded offensive minds in Kyle Shanahan and McVay.

He was then hired away by the Titans to become part of Mike Vrabel’s first staff, where he served as the playcaller. Despite Marcus Mariota being frequently hurt, LaFleur helped guide the team to nine wins, with Tennessee ultimately falling just short of the playoffs. LaFleur is only 39, and his hiring continues the trend of teams looking for young offensive gurus as head coaches.

Despite dealing with a nerve injury in his throwing arm that limited him for several games and knocked him out of several others, Mariota averaged the most yards per attempt of his career under LaFleur. While the offense wasn’t nearly as dynamic as the one LaFleur helped build in Los Angeles, it was a lot more creative and innovative than the one Mike Mularkey had been running in Tennessee. Aaron Rodgers had clearly grown frustrated with the offense during Mike McCarthy’s last years with the Packers, and LaFleur should at the very least provide a much needed breath of fresh air to the offense.

While the offensive side of the ball is set to undergo a total makeover, there might be some continuity on defense. The move means the team is likely to keep defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and the rest of the defensive staff in place, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN (Twitter link). Rapoport notes in a separate tweet that former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken was the “other really strong candidate” for the Packers, but the team settled on LaFleur without conducting a second round of interviews.

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Latest On Packers’ Staff, Coaching Search

Only two days until Black Monday and the coaching carousel is in full swing, with rumors flying left and right. The Packers have already fired head coach Mike McCarthy, but some of his assistants status’ are still up in the air. At least one significant change is coming, as one of the Packers’ longtime trainers, Pepper Burruss, is retiring, notes Rob Demovsky of ESPN (Twitter link). Burruss was with the team for 22 years.

Demovsky also notes in a separate tweet that defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is unsure whether he’s being retained, but that as of now he’s planning on his usual after the season work. Meanwhile, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets that Pettine wants to be back, but that he’ll likely be let go if the Packers hire a defensive minded coach.

It all suggests Pettine has a chance to be back, which might be a surprise to some, but he’s highly respected within the building. Holdovers from fired coaches’ staffs aren’t that common, but they aren’t unheard of either. Jim Bob Cooter was retained as the Lions’ offensive coordinator after Jim Caldwell was fired last year, and there’s plenty of precedent. While the Packers have mostly been linked to offensive minded coaches to pair with Aaron Rodgers, they’ve been rumored to be interested in at least one defensive guru, Pat Fitzgerald.

The team does indeed plan to pursue the Northwestern coach for their head coaching vacancy, sources told Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Rapsheet notes that Fitzgerald “has shut down countless interview requests from the NFL in the past”, but the chance to coach a team like the Packers and Rodgers may change his mind.

Rapoport also writes that while interim coach Joe Philbin will receive an interview from team president Mark Murphy and GM Brian Gutekunst, “it would be a surprise if he received the full-time job.” Instead, the team is expected to “conduct a wide-ranging search with perhaps 10-12 candidates.” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is another name that has come up frequently, and the team has already interviewed Chuck Pagano and Caldwell.

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Extra Points: Packers, UDFAs, Panthers, T.O.

After having been fired as the Browns head coach back in 2016, Mike Pettine is back in the NFL as the Packers defensive coordinator. While the 51-year-old acknowledged that he’ll appreciate the brief break prior to training camp, he also admitted that he’ll soon be itching to return to the field.

“That will last about a week, and then I’ll start thinking about football,” Pettine told Jason Wilde of SouthernMinn.com. “I have my own list of things to do, but I’ll be smart with it. I’ll do a little bit at a time. But it’s hard to completely detach from it. [But] that’s what’s great about that time — you can get around friends and families and take you away from it. But it’s always there, and by 10-12 days into July, I’ll be ready to start camp.”

Pettine’s defenses have generally been productive, as the coach has had previous success with the Ravens, Jets, and Bills. The Packers are hoping he can turn around a defense that finished 26th in points allowed last season.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFL…

  • NFL.com’s Gil Brandt observes (on Twitter) that there were 32 undrafted rookies to make bonuses of $15K or more. The top earners were Eagles running back Josh Adams, Giants cornerback Grant Haley, and Raiders kicker Eddy Pineiro, with the trio each making $25K. Generally, it’s assumed that the highest-paid undrafted free agents have the best shot of making the regular season roster.
  • The Panthers will not renew the contract of senior executive scout Don Gregory, reports Joe Person (via Twitter). Gregory had previously served as the organization’s college scouting director for more than a decade, but he served in more of a consulting role between Marty Hurney‘s two stints with the team.
  • Terrell Owens, who is set to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, believes he can still play football. Well, the 44-year-old could have his chance…in the Canadian Football League. David William Naylor of TSN tweets that the Edmonton Eskimos have added the receiver to their negotiation list. Teams are allowed to claim exclusive rights on players by placing them on the list, but players can easily be removed at anytime. It’s unlikely that Owens will stay on the list for very long, as the wideout hasn’t played professionally since 2012 (and he hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2010).
  • Speaking of the CFL, former NFL Ricky Stanzi has been released by the Calgary Stampeders (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com). The 30-year-old had a standout performance during the 2017 Spring League, and he ended up earning a contract with the Canadian team. The 2011 fifth-round pick had stints with the Chiefs, Jaguars, Texans, Giants, and Lions during his NFL career, although he never managed to take the field for a regular season game.