GREEN BAY - Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said Thursday he has not made a firm decision on whether to apply for the Green Bay Packers head-coach opening, but he said not much has changed since stating earlier in the year that he preferred to remain a coordinator.
Pettine would probably get a lot of support from players and fans given the work he has done with the Packers' defense, but having experienced what it’s like to be a head coach for two years in Cleveland, he doesn’t appear compelled to do it again anytime soon.
“I've said all along, and I know some people might scratch their heads given what our record's been, but just from a personal standpoint, just the year this has been, getting back in, and the enjoyment being around the players, being around the coaching staff, building a plan, going out and practicing it, teaching it, implementing it, it's what I love to do and I don't know if I necessarily see that changing anytime soon,” he said.
Pettine, who was out of football for two seasons after being fired from the Browns in 2015, stabilized the defense and made the best of an injury-filled season. The Packers will finish up against Detroit on Sunday without seven of their 11 starters from Week 1 due to injury.
The Packers improved from 22nd to 14th in yards allowed per game and from 26th to 22nd in points allowed.
Pettine is under contract with the Packers next year and said he would do exit interviews with his players Monday and begin preparing reports on the season. Like the rest of the assistants, he does not know whether the Packers will want him to remain.
In Pettine’s case, if the Packers hire an offensive-minded coach to replace the fired Mike McCarthy, they may want Pettine to stay on. If they hire a defensive-minded coach, it would seem likely the Packers would give him an opportunity to seek a job elsewhere.
The big question is whether the club would allow him to seek a job somewhere else right away so that all the coordinator openings aren't filled by the time the Packers make a decision on their new coach.
“It falls into the no-control-over piece as well,” Pettine said. “I’m sure the Packers have a plan of how they’re going to go about their search, and we’ll, all of us, will respect that process and see how it plays out.”
Looking to move up
Defensive passing game coordinator Joe Whitt made it clear that he would like to be a coordinator and a head coach in the NFL.
It’s not known if Whitt is under contract for next season. If he is, the Packers could block him from interviewing for a coordinator’s position somewhere else. However, if his deal is up, he could interview anywhere.
McCarthy promoted Whitt last year after the change in coordinators and he oversaw a pass defense that ranked 11th in the NFL despite cornerbacks Kevin King, Davon House and Will Redmond and safeties Raven Greene and Ibraheim Campbell landing on injured reserve.
He played often with rookies Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson at corner and veteran corner Tramon Williams at safety.
“How many guys have played in the secondary that were not in training camp?” Whitt said. “There’s more of those guys than that were actually in training camp.
“I give credit to (secondary coach) Jason (Simmons) for doing a great job of getting the group to play as one. The numbers aren’t great, but the energy and the communication and those type of things have been solid. If we can keep healthy bodies, it would be a little bit different.”
Special teams coach Ron Zook knows his unit didn’t have a good year and he will probably pay the price for it.
But the 64-year-old Zook said he is comfortable with whatever happens.
“I’ve been in this business a long time,” he said. “Fortunately, I’m good. Obviously, I want to keep coaching if that allows me. But if it doesn’t, I’ll do something. I feel very comfortable with where I’m at in life and what I’m doing.
“But like I said I want to keep coaching, I enjoy it. This is a great place obviously and we’ll see what happens. But I don’t have near the anxiety that some people might have.”
Jackson a corner
Asked if Josh Jackson might be a safety next year, Simmons said it would be a waste to stick him in one spot because he has been able to play all over the field as a corner.
Jackson has started nine games and played 68 percent of the snaps this season, playing all the corner positions. He does not have an interception and has missed too many tackles, but for a rookie he shows promise.
“The good thing about him is that he’s so versatile,” Simmons said. “He can do so much. I don’t want to say he’s a safety because I don’t want to limit the fact he can play corner. He can go out there and match guys outside. We’ve asked him to go out there in what we call the Autobahn, that fast track out there and he’s guarded guys vertically and done a good job doing so.
“So, whenever you have a guy that’s so versatile, we use him in that capacity and move him around a lot. I can’t box him into one position.”