New Packers coach Matt LaFleur moving quickly to fill key assistant positions
GREEN BAY - New Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur continues to interview candidates for his staff, but a week into his tenure he still has some key positions to fill.
LaFleur completed interviews with Miami Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi and wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson on Tuesday and was preparing to interview Washington linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti and San Francisco 49ers assistant offensive line coach Adam Stenavich on Wednesday, sources said.
In addition, LaFleur may be looking for a quarterbacks coach, too. Frank Cignetti, who held that position for one year under former coach Mike McCarthy, is not being retained, a source said.
So far, six of McCarthy’s 21 assistant coaches from 2018, have been fired or taken jobs elsewhere. They are:
- Offensive run game coordinator/line coach James Campen (Cleveland)
- Wide receivers coach David Raih (Arizona)
- Defensive pass game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr.
- Defensive run game coordinator Patrick Graham (Miami)
- Special teams coach Ron Zook
It’s also likely that interim head coach Joe Philbin will not be retained, He has been allowed to interview with other teams, but he has two years remaining on his guaranteed contract and could sit out this year, according to a source.
The only hire the Packers have announced so far is offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.
Given the Packers’ poor special teams units last year, finding someone to replace Zook would seem to be a priority.
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LaFleur was able to convince Rizzi, who is the best special teams coach available on the market, to come to Green Bay for an interview. However, Rizzi left Tuesday evening without accepting a deal, which could mean the Packers didn’t knock his socks off with their offer and he wants to consider his other options.
Rizzi was a finalist for the Dolphins head-coaching job and probably isn’t going to come cheap, especially given his record as a special teams coach. In Rick Gosselin’s special teams rankings, the Dolphins under Rizzi ranked in the top 10 four times and ranked in the second half of the league only once during his first eight seasons (2018 rankings are not available yet).
One of the teams interested in Rizzi is Packers' NFC North rival Detroit.
Another key position LaFleur has not filled is offensive line coach. LaFleur allowed Campen to accept a job as associate head coach/offensive line with the Cleveland Browns and started off his attempt to replace him with an interview with Stenavich.
A Marshfield, Wis., native, Stenavich was on the Packers’ practice squad in 2006 and in training camp the following year. He never made a 53-man roster in his career and joined the staff of his alma mater, Michigan, in 2011 as a strength and conditioning intern.
After two years as a graduate assistant on coach Brady Hoke’s staff, he served as offensive line coach at Northern Arizona in 2014 and San Jose State (2015-16). In 2017, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan hired him as an assistant offensive line coach, serving under veteran line coach John Benton.
Stenavich, 35, would be making a big jump to full-time offensive line coach, but it’s likely Shanahan, one of LaFleur’s mentors, recommended him for the position. The offensive system Shanahan runs in San Francisco is like what LaFleur plans on running and so he will need an experienced teacher to install the scheme.
Another option for LaFleur would be to promote assistant offensive line coach Jeff Blasko to the full-time position. Players were complimentary of the job Blasko did assisting Campen last season and some expressed hope he would return.
With Cignetti out of the picture, LaFleur will have to decide if he wants Hackett to coach the quarterbacks in addition to his coordinator duties or if he wants to hire a full-time quarterbacks coach. LaFleur will call the plays, so Hackett should have more time to spend with a position.
The Packers coach has interviewed two assistant coaches for his wide receivers spot, the latest being the Dolphins’ Jefferson, who played 13 seasons in the NFL and caught 470 passes for 7,203 yards and 29 touchdowns.
He coached receivers in Detroit for seven seasons, Tennessee for three and Miami for three.
In addition to Jefferson, LaFleur has interviewed New York Jets receivers coach Karl Dorrell.