Sunday, January 15, 2006

Mike McCarthy's first big hire as head coach is the guy fired after the playoff collapse in Philadelphia in 2003. Wow, I'm really excited. Ex-defensive coordinator Ed Donatell was understandably fired after the Packers failed to stop Philadelphia on a late 4th and 26 conversion. Along with Donatell, Jeff Jagodzinski was fired as the tight ends coach. I'm sure everyone not working on the Packers sidelines or front office said "Who?" At the time, TE Bubba Franks was solid but had reached his consistant level of play while TE David Martin hadn't developed.

It is ironic that Jagodzinski ended up in Atlanta, just like Donatell. He was the tight ends coach in 2004, and TE Alge Crumpler developed into a very good tight end. In 2005 he took over as offensive line coach and the line was as good as it was in 2004, according to Football Outsiders. They are a pretty good run blocking line and not good in pass blocking. But with QB Michael Vick in Atlanta, any offensive line's pass blocking stats might be low because Vick is scrambling to make something happen and he isn't a great passer. The offensive line took a big step up from 2003 (only an average run blocking team) and into a top 10 unit when Alex Gibbs arrived. It was big news that Gibbs agreed to coach full-time in 2004 for Atlanta, but it was only a one-year return from his position as consultant. Gibbs can be credited for building the offensive lines in Atlanta and Denver. Jagodzinski can be credited for maintaining the quality on Atlanta's offensive line in 2005, but can't take credit for coaching them into a top 10 unit.

Jagodzinski is not running his offense or calling plays. McCarthy will implement his offense and call all the plays. What strengths does Jagodzinski bring to the Packers? He had worked with Franks and Martin previously and it cannot be expected that he will further improve their play. He spent two years learning what Gibbs knows about offensive lines, but that might not be very helpful. The lines in Denver and Atlanta are two of the best and two of the smallest lines in the NFL. In Atlanta, OG Kynan Forney is the big man at 307 lbs. In Denver, 4 of 5 linemen are under 300 lbs. The Packers have a big offensive line. Both LT Chad Clifton and RG William Whitticker are over 330 lbs. and no offensive lineman that played in 2005 was listed under 300 lbs. Gibbs is known for offensive lineman who are lighter and play with great footwork. It seems unlikely that any coach could turn the current Packers roster of offensive lineman into a unit that resembles Denver or Atlanta.

Are the Packers going to completely start over at offensive line? The Packers need to retool the middle of the line, but Clifton and RT Mark Tauscher are both good tackles. Can Clifton and Tauscher adapt to a new system? Will the Packers trade both players and start over? McCarthy had a big offensive line during his seasons with New Orleans and it would seem that Clifton and Tauscher both would fit in McCarthy's system. If the Packers aren't changing philosophy then what does Jagodzinski bring to the team? Why was he the only candidate interviewed?

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