INDIANAPOLIS - Ever since Dec. 13, 2015, when Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy reclaimed the play-calling duties he ceded 10 months prior, the distribution of powers in offensive meeting rooms was difficult to discern.
At the top of the pyramid stood McCarthy, who once again filled the two most important roles of head coach and play caller.
One step down was associate head coach/offense Tom Clements, the man who spent an entire offseason preparing to call plays only to have that duty stripped away before Christmas. Descriptions of his job have been nebulous ever since.
Deeper still were offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett and quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, both prominent figures in their own right. The coaching staff was, as McCarthy admitted Wednesday morning at the NFL scouting combine, fairly top-heavy on the offensive side of the ball.
“It was a different structure last year, one that will never be repeated again,” McCarthy said. “It was very helpful in game planning because we had a lot of experience in the room as far as having Tom in the role that he was in. I’m doing more this year.
“There’s always been one head cook regardless of how the positions line up on the organization chart or the coaching staff. The only time that I stepped out of the room or wasn’t the head cook was in ’15.”
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Nonetheless, a degree of clarity was proffered Jan. 26, when McCarthy informed reporters that Clements, who had been with the Packers for 11 seasons, would not be returning for a 12th. Clements chose to let his contract expire so he could “move on to some other interests,” according to McCarthy, and the decision actually was made a year in advance when negotiations took place in the winter of 2016.
McCarthy reiterated Wednesday that Clements was not fired or let go.
“This was his choice,” he said.
With Clements gone, the Packers plan to increase the responsibilities of their younger coaches in what McCarthy described as a natural progression. David Raih, who served as assistant offensive line coach in 2016, has been promoted to offensive perimeter coach where his role is more wide-ranging. And while receivers coach Luke Getsy was not promoted in terms of title, McCarthy said his involvement will expand as well.
“It’s an opportunity for these other guys that have been in that room to expand,” McCarthy said. “Yeah, it’s the process of how you develop a staff, and I think this is a very healthy way to do it.”
Of course, the nebulousness of Raih’s new title — offensive perimeter coach, huh? — was not lost on McCarthy, who admitted Wednesday he made it up after plenty of deliberation.
“Try to call it what it is,” McCarthy said. “That’s what I always struggle with. … What’s his job now? What does he do? You’re always trying to give guys more to do, but they can’t be changing your title every time a guy gets another responsibility.
“Russ (Ball, vice president of football administration/player finance) and I went round and round and round on what that position is, and we were like, 'let’s just call it what he does.' He’s going to be working with everyone on the perimeter.”
Aaron Nagler and Michael Cohen discuss their reactions to Mike McCarthy's media session at the annual NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. (March 1, 2017)
To put it simply, Raih is going to work with a number of position coaches not named James Campen, who runs the offensive line and served as Raih’s boss in 2016. That would classify as an interior job.
Instead, Raih will spend his time with Bennett, Van Pelt and McCarthy to complete a variety of tasks each week, some of which he began last season. Example: McCarthy said he works exclusively with Raih on Friday and Saturday of each game week to complete “different breakdowns and things” once the play-calling duties are in order.
“Perimeter coach is something we gave a lot of thought to,” McCarthy said. “It’s an advancement from assistant offensive line, and it really is a reflection of who he’s going to be working with. He’ll work primarily with myself and Edgar Bennett. He’ll be working with the other perimeter coaches and will have a lot more job responsibility.
“Dynamic young man. He has an interesting path, getting into coaching later in his life. He’s a little older than he looks, but he has a lot to offer. And it’s important as a head coach to make sure you create opportunities for your coaches to grow. David has earned this opportunity.”