Whatever role the lack of a full-time receivers coach played in the problems that plagued the unit in 2015, the Green Bay Packers ensured it won’t happen again with the changes they made to their coaching staff next season.
The Packers rejoined the rest of the NFL on Thursday when they introduced Luke Getsy as their new receivers coach, ending a one-year experiment that put quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt in charge of running both rooms.
The move was intended to give Van Pelt more responsibility and exposure after the Packers blocked him from interviewing for St. Louis’ offensive coordinator position. Instead, it seemed to overextend him and largely was blamed for the issues the NFL’s 25th-ranked passing offense experienced.
After assessing the structural failures, McCarthy’s response was to promote Getsy, 32, who served as the offensive quality control coach for the past two years. In his previous role, he worked closely with offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett and assisted Van Pelt in the quarterbacks room.
“We had a plan last year. It wasn’t executed obviously to the level we look to achieve,” McCarthy said Thursday morning. “I think more has been made of it frankly as an excuse. With that, the excuses are over. We’ve changed and adjusted frankly the job responsibilities back more to what we’ve done in the past. My outlook is hopefully it’ll be a much better process.”
After the decision was made to reinstall a permanent receivers coach, veterans Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb both threw their support behind Getsy getting the job. While it’s his first time leading an NFL room, it's a job many inside the organization felt Getsy was ready for after previously coaching receivers at Western Michigan and apprenticing in Green Bay the past two seasons.
Getsy will be tasked with helping reinvigorate a group that struggled after Nelson was lost for the season to a torn ACL last August. The deep passing game was non-existent without Nelson on the field, and both quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Cobb saw a noticeable decline in their productivity.
Furthermore, second-year receivers Davante Adams and Jeff Janis didn’t make the jump the organization was hoping for. Adams was inconsistent and struggled with drops, while Janis couldn’t be trusted in the offense. His only two extended appearances came in the wake of injury (Ty Montgomery's high-ankle sprain in Week 6 and Cobb's bruised lung during the divisional playoffs in Arizona).
In the end, it was the first time under McCarthy the offense finished outside the top 10 in passing and failed to produce a 1,000-yard receiver. The return of Nelson will be key next season, but a more personal touch on the position likely will go far in stressing fundamentals and developing the young receivers.
“My main focus is to make sure I can get the best out of every single one of those guys,” Getsy said. “Last year is last year. I know a lot of guys want to take another step and get back to maybe where they were or where they’ve been. My job is just to help each and every single one of those guys get to their peak.”
Getsy, a native of Munhall, Pa., played quarterback at Pittsburgh and Akron before beginning his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Zips in 2007. He had four stops over the next five years at the collegiate level before the Packers brought him in for an interview two years ago.
McCarthy, looking to infuse the coaching staff with young blood, hired Getsy as offensive quality control and David Raih as an offensive coaching administrator. Two years later, he already has promoted both coaches into prominent positions, with the 35-year-old Raih taking over as assistant offensive line coach.
After spending the last two years developing Getsy, the Packers are counting on the 32-year-old assistant coach to do the same with their receiving corps. Getsy, in working closely with Bennett this past year, saw how demanding the long-time assistant is with his players.
Now, he’ll try to pass that onto the Packers’ receivers like Bennett did from 2011-2014.
“They work their tails off,” Getsy said of the receivers. “I’m going to ask them to do a little bit more and hold them even more accountable now, but I’m excited. There’s going to be competition in the room. I’m excited about each and every one of those guys. Those young guys, they have a lot to learn still.
“They made you excited here in the last couple weeks of the season.”
While McCarthy stayed in-house with Getsy’s hire, he brought in former Cleveland Browns assistant coach Brian Angelichio to replace Jerry Fontenot as tight ends coach. Fontenot, a member of McCarthy’s first staff in 2006, was fired shortly after the season due to the ineffectiveness of his positional group.
It’s debatable whether Fontenot was given the necessary resources at the position to make a difference in the offense. Maybe that's why McCarthy brought in Angelichio, who turned water to wine in Tampa Bay and Cleveland with the emergence of Tim Wright and Gary Barnidge, respectively.
The Packers have three tight ends under contract, though third-year tight end Richard Rodgers (58 catches, 510 yards, eight touchdowns) is the only one with an NFL catch to his name.
“I’m excited to work with the guys and looking forward to getting the chance to meet them,” Angelichio said. “Just going through and continuing to watch the cut-ups, I’m certainly excited about the progress they’ve made and getting the chance to see them evolve through the season and looking forward to working with them this spring.”
McCarthy and the rest of his remade offensive coaching staff will travel to the NFL scouting combine next week in hopes of unearthing some prospects who could help the Packers rediscover their passing game.
“It’s a performance business. We all understand that. There’s a big picture that obviously ultimately I’m in charge of,” McCarthy said. “The opportunity to continue to move forward as far as teaching the players, getting the players to respond and getting them to perform at the highest level. I think sometimes change is necessary to try to improve that drive.”