GREEN BAY - In the spring of 2016, Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was a couple of months removed from being fired as the Cleveland Browns head coach.
He’d laid low that winter, but in the spring he got a phone call from a Kansas City Chiefs defensive assistant he knew. The assistant coach told Pettine he should come to Kansas City for a couple days of spring workouts, just long enough to be involved with the game again.
That assistant coach’s name was Mike Smith.
“He’s one of my best friends,” Pettine told PackersNews.com before last season.
Pettine returned the favor Friday.
With head coach Matt LaFleur’s blessing, Pettine hired Smith to be the Packers' outside linebackers coach. Smith spent the past three seasons with the Chiefs, who fired him along with defensive coordinator Bob Sutton after their AFC Championship game loss to the New England Patriots last week.
Smith was the Chiefs' outside linebackers coach last season. Part of his responsibilities, as the Packers pointed out in their news release, was coaching Pro Bowl pass rusher Dee Ford. It stands to reason the Packers might have interest in Ford, in the unlikely case the Chiefs choose not to use the franchise tag on their free-agent linebacker.
Before 2018, Smith spent two seasons as the Chiefs' assistant defensive line coach.
Smith was co-defensive coordinator at Texas Tech, his alma mater, in 2013 and 2015, working under Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury. He was also the defensive coordinator for the final nine games in 2014. Smith coached Texas Tech outside linebackers in 2014 and '15, and the defensive line in 2015.
A four-year linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens last decade, Smith began his NFL coaching career as an intern with the New York Jets in 2010-11. He was the Jets' outside linebackers coach in 2012. Pettine was the Jets' defensive coordinator each season.
Meanwhile, former Packers tight ends coach Brian Angelichio was named to the same position in Washington.
Pettine has credited that trip to Kansas City for mentally “clicking back into coaching.” Now, he has given Smith a similar chance.
“He and I have been tight throughout the years,” Pettine said before the season. “When I got with Mike, he and I always have great football conversations.”