GREEN BAY - On Feb. 27, the Green Bay Packers issued a news release announcing the finalization of Mike McCarthy’s coaching staff for the 2017 season. The only changes were minor: Jeff Blasko was named assistant offensive line coach, Tim McGarigle was named defensive quality control coach and David Raih was named offensive perimeter coach — whatever that meant.
A few days later, at the NFL scouting combine, McCarthy was asked to define the amorphous title bestowed upon Raih, who spent the prior season as assistant offensive line coach. McCarthy’s answer confirmed the media’s suspicion.
“I couldn’t find a title that fit his responsibility so I made it up,” McCarthy said. “Don’t tell anybody that.”
When the chuckles subsided, McCarthy offered a more thorough explanation: Raih would be spending less time with the offensive line and more time with offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett, quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt and McCarthy himself. In other words, Raih would be working with three coaches who focus on the perimeter of the field.
Hence the title.
“The struggle was it’s a promotion but without him having his own position, so what do you call that?” McCarthy said. “ … Russ (Ball) 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.”
But until it played out during practice, there was still some nebulousness to Raih’s exact role. Things have become clearer since the start of training camp, and Raih is spending a significant amount of time alongside Van Pelt each day. He is working closely with the younger quarterbacks, especially Joe Callahan and rookie Taysom Hill, to accelerate their learning curve and lessen the burden on Van Pelt, whose primary focus always will be starter Aaron Rodgers.
In joining Van Pelt, who is in his fifth year with the Packers, Raih has kept the coaching ratio steady following the departure of associate head coach/offense Tom Clements. Clements left to pursue other interests after serving as a significant resource in the quarterback and offensive meeting rooms since 2006, especially for Rodgers.
“Coach Raih is a real smart guy,” Callahan said. “He knows the offense inside and out. He’s constantly working with me, Taysom and Brett (Hundley), constantly reviewing protections, routes and going through our reads. It’s great to have another coach in that QB room. He’s a funny guy and fun to be around on top of everything. He’s done a great job as the perimeter coach this year.”
Raih, 37, played quarterback at Iowa from 1999-2003 but lettered only once when the Hawkeyes won the Big Ten title in 2002. A pair of surgeries on his throwing arm shortened Raih’s career, and after graduating from Iowa he went to work as a sales representative for Zimmer Inc., a company that manufactures orthopedic devices.
He re-entered football as a coaching intern at UCLA in 2008-09 and has been in the profession ever since. Prior to arriving in Green Bay, he made stops at Iowa (graduate assistant) and Texas Tech (wide receivers). He began his tenure with the Packers as a coaching administrator in 2014.
This year, Raih can be seen mixed in with the quarterbacks during individual drills and fundamental periods. He serves as an extra set of eyes for the younger players and even participates from time to time. On Thursday, he donned receivers gloves to catch passes during a read-option drill.
“I love being around Dave Raih,” Rodgers said. “Dave Raih’s got a ton of energy. He’s good up in front of the room. He’s going to be a potential coordinator-plus, I think, in this league if he wants to. But he knows football and he works his butt off. He’s been a great addition to the staff. … So I’m really happy to have him around a lot. Just another voice who’s played the position.”
Said Callahan: “He’s been through this before, he’s seen things through our perspective. I think that just helps us out even more when it comes to learning the offense, picking up defenses.”
Added Hill: “It’s a unique position, right, and a unique skill set. So unless you’ve done it, unless you’ve felt the pressure, unless you’ve been in a huddle and had to command a huddle, it’s hard to coach that. Because he’s done it and been around a lot of places, it’s easy to relate to him.”
Raih has been a particularly valuable resource for Hill, the undrafted rookie from Brigham Young who signed with the Packers earlier this year. Hill has the steepest learning curve of any of the quarterbacks in camp given the brevity of his time in Green Bay. Everything from the playbook to the protection schemes to the footwork are new to him, and Raih has taken Hill under his wing to ease the process along.
“It’s been great for me because coach Raih is kind of — I feel like coach Raih is there to help me, honestly,” Hill said. “I think coach Van Pelt has a ton going on with what he’s doing with Aaron and some of the other vets. Coach Raih has been really good about coaching me along the way and making sure I’m staying up to speed with everything that’s going on. Having coach Raih in there for me has been extremely helpful to get in, learn the offense and get in a position where I can go and compete and get reps because I know what I’m doing.”
Though his title may be fake, Raih seems to have found a niche.
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