McCarthy develops large, diversified coaching staff
There are many ways to build a coaching staff in the NFL.
Every head coach has a philosophy. The number of assistants and job titles vary from team to team. Gus Bradley and the Jacksonville Jaguars employ as many as 25 coaches, while Bill Belichick and the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots are carrying only 16.
Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy finalized his staff last week. The 95th team in franchise history will be coached by 22 assistants, including four strength and conditioning coaches, and one coaching administrator.
Offensive coordinator Tom Clements' promotion to play-caller made the Packers one of the few NFL teams that possess two associate head coaches. Linebackers coach Winston Moss has been entrenched in that role since 2007.
Like the rest of the league, the Packers' staff has exploded in size over the past 20 years. McCarthy has used the extra manpower to develop his assistants much like the approach general manager Ted Thompson takes with personnel.
More than half of the team's coaches have worked for only one NFL team, including offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett, offensive line coach James Campen and strength and conditioning coach Mark Lovat.
McCarthy values diversification, too. When experience is needed, McCarthy hasn't been afraid to bring in a veteran coach like Mike Solari or Ron Zook to augment a position.
"I think that the good thing about here is it's not necessarily about titles," said Jason Simmons upon his promotion to assistant special teams coach last week. "I know my title has changed, but they've grown me each year, given me more responsibility. Coach Mike allows us, as everyone knows, to address the team at points. He builds us as coaches. This has been great for me."
Simmons, 38, played in the NFL for 10 years. Coincidentally, his first coach happens to be his new boss, Zook, who officially was promoted to special teams coordinator last week. The two worked together in Pittsburgh in the late-'90s when Zook was coaching the Steelers' special teams.
Simmons came on board with the Packers in 2011 as a coaching administrator. He was promoted to a defensive and special teams assistant last year. Along with assisting defensive coordinator Dom Capers, Simmons was the third in command on special teams behind Shawn Slocum and Zook.
With McCarthy taking on a larger role with special teams, the Packers were able to carve out a new defensive position focused on aiding Capers. The job eventually went to former Oklahoma defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery. He'll serve as a defensive front assistant.
Montgomery, 35, quickly rose through the college ranks. Although he was seen as a top-flight recruiter, his ultimate goal was to reach the NFL. Now, he'll learn under Capers' wing much like he did in Oklahoma under Bob Stoops.
"It's a great opportunity to learn from one of the best and figure out how I want to run my defense when I get the opportunity to be a defensive coordinator," Montgomery said. "I'm going to learn what we do here and adapt and help where I can. We won't be worried about what I believe in and those things. I'll be buying into what we do here in Green Bay."
The makeup of McCarthy's staff is wide-ranging, from the 60-year-old Solari to 31-year-old offensive quality control coach Luke Getsy.
Solari was the most intriguing addition to the Packers' staff. He comes to Green Bay after coaching one of the league's most productive offensive lines in San Francisco for the past five years. When the 49ers revamped the coaching staff after Jim Harbaugh left for Michigan, it allowed Solari a chance to take a step back and survey the NFL landscape.
Instead of running his own room elsewhere in the NFL, the veteran coach decided to reunite with McCarthy. The two served as assistant coaches together in Kansas City in the 1990s under Marty Schottenheimer.
"The thing that was important to me was the people," Solari said. "This time here I did something unique and something different. I was really patient with where I was going to go because I wanted to make sure it was a good move and not jump at the first thing, and take my time and make sure I was with a very good staff.
"My level of time in the NFL, I thought the most important thing was to be patient, make a great decision."
Despite the success under McCarthy, there hasn't been a lot of upward mobility with the coaching staff other than Joe Philbin being hired as Miami's head coach in 2011. Another McCarthy understudy, Ben McAdoo, allowed his contract to expire and left to coordinate the New York Giants' offense.
The Packers routinely have blocked assistants under contract from interviewing for coordinator posts elsewhere, but McCarthy has been increasingly loyal to those who have stayed. He's showered several assistants with titles and promotions and fired only two coordinators (Bob Sanders and Slocum) in 10 years.
The 22 men who will develop the 2015 team come from all different backgrounds. The Packers hope this collection of coaches will be enough to groom the franchise's fifth Super Bowl championship squad.
"I've said it before and told the football team on the day it was my time to talk to the team, I came here for one reason, to have the opportunity to win a Super Bowl," Zook said. "I think with the situation we have with the Green Bay Packers, it doesn't guarantee it, but you're going to have a chance.
"I know this — the best chance we have of winning is everybody buying in and doing the same thing. Mike has the white hat on, we're all following Mike."
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