Packers may have to wait on defensive coordinator candidates

Tom Silverstein
Packers News
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Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is a candidate for the team's head-coaching job.

GREEN BAY – While Green Bay Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy finished up interviews with in-house candidates for the general manager position, coach Mike McCarthy was preparing to conduct his for the defensive coordinator spot.

The search to replace coordinator Dom Capers may take a little longer because McCarthy needed to seek permission from other clubs to speak to candidates who are either under contract or whose contracts are about to expire.

One of the most talked-about candidates, Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, was likely to get a call from the Packers, according to a source, but until Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. the team would need permission from the Bears to talk to him.

Under NFL rules, teams must seek permission to speak to all assistant coaches until the second Tuesday following their last game if the job opening represents a lateral move.

In Fangio’s case, once 12:01 a.m. Tuesday hits, he’s free to talk to anyone because he is not under contract in 2018.

Because Fangio is a candidate for the Bears' head-coaching position and possibly defensive coordinator under a new head coach, the Bears are unlikely to grant the division-rival Packers permission to speak to him. Thus, McCarthy simply can wait until Tuesday to make contact and set up an interview.

A source said Fangio is likely to speak to McCarthy at some point during the search process.

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The same rules apply to Los Angeles Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, another potential candidate. Bradley’s deal expires this year and McCarthy won’t need permission from the Chargers to speak with him come Tuesday.

McCarthy was expected to interview safeties coach Darren Perry, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. and assistant head coach/linebackers Winston Moss this weekend. Perry has been blocked from interviewing with other teams by McCarthy several times during his nine seasons with the team and may be the leading candidate among the in-house options.

However, Whitt Jr., has been with McCarthy since 2008 and could sway the coach’s opinion with an outstanding interview.

According to an NFL Network report, McCarthy sought permission to interview Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who is also a candidate to replace fired Lions coach Jim Caldwell. However, the Lions denied McCarthy permission, and so the only way Austin will get to talk to him is if the Lions hire a coach who doesn’t retain him.

On the offensive side, it appears Edgar Bennett, who was stripped of his offensive coordinator’s position and offered the wide receivers spot, won’t accept the position. A source familiar with the situation said Bennett was not happy with the demotion and likely would seek a new start.

McCarthy has not reached out to former New York Giants coach Ben McAdoo for the offensive coordinator’s position, but that remains a possibility. McCarthy’s priority is filling the defensive coordinator’s position and probably wouldn’t risk losing McAdoo if he waits until that task is completed.

Murphy interviewed director of football operations Eliot Wolf and director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst on Thursday and had been scheduled to interview vice president of football administration and finance Russ Ball at some point late in the week, possibly Friday.

All three are candidates to replace Ted Thompson, but sources continued to say Ball was the front runner and Murphy’s choice long before he announced Thompson was going to be replaced.

The NFL Network reported that the Packers filed paperwork for permission to interview Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider, but were denied because it would be a lateral move.

The Packers could argue that Schneider is not a “high-level” employee based on Seahawks coach Pete Carroll having considerable authority. They would have to certify a dispute with Commissioner Roger Goodell, who would then rule on Schneider’s position. Or the Packers could offer to trade a draft pick to the Seahawks for the right to hire Schneider.

According to an ESPN report, Murphy sought permission to interview Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, but McKenzie made it known he wasn’t interested in the Packers' job. McKenzie’s role with the Raiders isn’t clear in light of Jon Gruden’s hiring as head coach, but McKenzie may have felt Ball was a lock for the position and that he was being considered only because he was a minority candidate.

The Packers must interview one minority candidate as part of the Rooney Rule. So far, there have been no reports of Murphy interviewing anybody but the three in-house candidates.

McCarthy’s declaration Thursday that he and the GM must be a good fit together has been interpreted by many people inside and outside the organization that he has concerns about working with Ball. The two were close friends, but a source said they have drifted apart as Thompson took Ball under his wing in the personnel department.

One source said Ball has spent a considerable amount of time in recent years watching tape with Thompson, learning from him the finer points of talent evaluation. Ball often sits in for Thompson at team and league meetings, which may make Murphy’s comfort level with him greater than it would be with Wolf and Gutekunst.

McCarthy’s concern, based on his comments Thursday, are with the front office doing everything it can to provide him with talent. Under Thompson, free agency was ignored and trades were almost non-existent, so the only avenue for improvement was through the draft.

If Ball adopts the same practices as Thompson, McCarthy would be right back where he was, dependent exclusively on the draft for roster improvement. If Wolf and /or Gutekunst were given a free hand to pursue free agents and trades, McCarthy might feel more comfortable with Ball as general manager. 

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