GREEN BAY - New Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur has his offensive coordinator and if everything goes right, he might have his special teams coordinator as well.
A source confirmed an NFL Network report that former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will be hired to fill the same spot for LaFleur. The Journal Sentinel and PackersNews.com first reported Hackett was a candidate for the position and was in town Saturday for an interview.
In addition to Hackett, LaFleur interviewed former Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who accepted a job with the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
LaFleur and Hackett have not coached together in college or the pros, but Hackett (39, as is LaFleur) is the son of renowned former offensive coordinator Paul Hackett, who learned the West Coast offense from Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh and put his own touches on it.
The younger Hackett has been a coordinator for seven seasons, calling plays for Syracuse (’11-12), the Buffalo Bills (2013-14) and Jaguars (’16-18), serving under head coach Doug Marrone in each of those places.
Though he called plays in Jacksonville, he won’t have those duties with the Packers because LaFleur plans to do it.
In the meantime, LaFleur was in hot pursuit of Miami Dolphins assistant coach Darren Rizzi, making it possible he would land the NFL’s best available special teams coach. He and Rizzi are expected to meet Tuesday, according to a league source, and undoubtedly LaFleur would like to see a deal worked out if the two are compatible.
As the Journal Sentinel and PackersNews.com first reported Friday, the Packers were among half a dozen teams interested in Rizzi, who has been given permission to seek other jobs after coming in second in the search to replace fired head coach Adam Gase.
As this is Rizzi’s first interview, it’s possible LaFleur has the inside track. It’s unlikely the Packers would bring Rizzi to town if they weren’t willing to meet his asking price, which is expected to be high given his previous success.
There is a big drop off between Rizzi and the rest of the special teams coaches who are looking for jobs, so the Packers would be scoring a huge coup if they were able to land the 48-year-old coach.
Rizzi was a college head coach at New Haven (1999-2001) and Rhode Island (2008) before Dolphins coach Tony Sporano brought him aboard in 2010 to coach special teams. The next two head coaches, Joe Philbin and Gase, keep Rizzi on the staff and Gase promoted him to associate head coach in 2017.
In Rick Gosselin’s special teams rankings, the Dolphins under Rizzi ranked in the top 10 four times and only ranked in the second half of the league once — in Rizzi’s first year.
The 2018 rankings aren’t out yet, but they ranked 11th in ‘17, seventh in ’16, 16th in ’15, 12th in ’14, eighth in ’13, fourth in ’12, second in ’11 and 24th in ’10.
The Packers were awful on special teams under veteran coach Ron Zook last year and have been mistake and penalty prone during much of coach Mike McCarthy’s tenure.
Because of the team’s draft-and-develop philosophy, the special teams coach was constantly trying to put together competitive units from mostly a pool of low draft choices and undrafted free agents.
Only once in McCarthy’s 13 years did the Packers rank in the top 10 (2007) in Gosselin’s special teams rankings and only two other times (’11 and ’12) did they rank in the top half of the league.
There were two 32nd finishes, one 31st and two 29ths.
Rizzi doesn’t have any overt connections to LaFleur, so the two are probably going to spend some time together figuring out if they’re a good fit. LaFleur has a lot on his plate with open positions at offensive coordinator, offensive line, wide receivers and probably quarterbacks coach.
But getting a special teams coach might be his biggest hire.
The Jaguars fired Hackett in November after a 24-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills. The loss dropped the Jaguars to 3-8. They had lost their previous three games by just 13 points and averaged 20 points a game during the four-game span, but the entire season was letdown from the previous year.
Hackett was credited for getting the most out of quarterback Blake Bortles, but he never get him to play on a consistent level. The Jaguars beat the New England Patriots in Week 2 and started out the season 3-1, but star running back Leonard Fournette injured his hamstring and the Jaguars offense fell apart.
When he was fired, the Jaguars ranked 21st in and 28th in points per game, which was much worse than the previous year when the offense ranked sixth in yards and fifth in scoring.
In addition to hiring Hackett and pursuing Rizzi, LaFleur has shown interest in Dolphins assistant head coach/offense Shawn Jefferson, according to a source. It is believed LaFleur is looking at him as a wide receivers coach.
Jefferson played 13 seasons in the NFL and caught 470 passes for 7,203 yards and 29 touchdowns.
He coached in Detroit for seven seasons, Tennessee for three and Miami for three. He coached wide receivers for all three organizations.
LaFleur interviewed New York Jets receivers coach Karl Dorrell on Sunday for the same position as Jefferson.
Very soon, LaFleur will have to turn his attention to the offensive line. Veteran coach James Campen was granted permission to talk to the Cleveland Browns and accepted a position there Sunday as associate head coach/offensive line.
Assistant offensive line coach Jeff Blasko was highly regarded by his players, but it’s unclear if he will be given consideration for the position.
On the defensive side of the ball, PackersNews.com confirmed that defensive run game coordinator/inside linebackers coach Patrick Graham is expected to join the Miami Dolphins. New England linebackers coach Brian Flores is expected to become the Dolphins head coach once the Patriots season is over and Graham is expected to join him.