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Packers coach Matt LaFleur gushes over Jerry Gray hire, coaching promotions

Jim Owczarski
Packers News

After a 13-3 regular-season campaign and a trip to the NFC championship game, Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur made some changes on his coaching staff. Secondary coach Jason Simmons left to take a similar position in Carolina and LaFleur fired wide receivers coach Alvis Whitted in January.

In their places, LaFleur hired veteran coach Jerry Gray to take over the secondary and promoted Jason Vrable to coach the receivers. Vrable spent last year as an offensive assistant for the Packers and Gray had coached the Minnesota Vikings secondary for the last six seasons before being fired at the end of last year. A four-time Pro Bowl cornerback for the Rams, he served as defensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills (2001-05) and the Tennessee Titans (2011-13). 

Quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy also earned a promotion, adding passing game coordinator to his résumé. LaFleur also hired longtime college and NFL offensive line coach Butch Barry as a senior analyst.

LaFleur and the Packers also created a full-time minority coaching fellowship that was announced May 6. Former Packers wide receiver Ruvell Martin earned that position.

LaFleur and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine spoke recently about some of the new additions and promotions:

Ruvell Martin

LaFleur: “He’s an unbelievable communicator. You know, shoot, he played seven years in the National Football League, so I just thought that he’s been a guy that I’ve been trying to get into the coaching business for a while, and he finally thought the timing was right for him and his family. I’m just really excited to get him back up to Green Bay.”

Jerry Gray

LaFleur: “I’ve had the ability to (be in) a lot of our guys' meetings and I’ve been super impressed with Jerry. Obviously, he was a hell of a player. Former first-round pick. Multiple Pro Bowls. Then when you combine his coaching experience with that, I think he’s just a tremendous resource for our defensive staff. He’s been in a lot of different systems, he's been a coordinator so he sees it through that coordinator’s eye and understands how all 11 work together. He does such a good job of connecting with our players in a short period of time that they’ve had a chance to sit down and talk. I’m really excited about just what he brings not only to that room but our entire football team.”

Minnesota Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray during the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Aug. 9, 2015, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

Pettine: “Jerry was the first name brought up (to replace Simmons). And I had never worked with Jerry directly before but it was a lot of one and two degrees of separation, guys that had worked with him and just raved about him, about his work ethic, his demeanor with the players. That he can maintain that professional distance, that he can give them some tough love but not at the same time where it’s a real adversarial relationship. But he has such a positive reputation as a teacher, it’s great to have his experience in the room. I happened to be down in Florida at the time when it was all happening and found out he was at the Pro Bowl so I drove up and we were able to spend a couple hours together and I knew within minutes that he was the right guy for the position.

“So far that’s been obvious to everybody that’s interacted with him. It’s great for me just having his coordinator experience. It’s also great for me because he’s now the oldest guy on the coaching staff. So I don’t have that title anymore. But no, he’s seen a lot of huddles broken both as a player and as a coach and his experience is wealthy.”

Jason Vrable

LaFleur: “He was in quality control for us. He was in the wide receiver room. I’m so impressed with his work ethic, how detailed and thorough he is. He knows what we’re trying to get done, he knows why we’re trying to do everything. He is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around. I think these guys, as they get to know him, and most of our guys are back and they do know him, so I think they’ll have a lot of confidence in him that he’ll be able to show them the why and the how to do whatever it is that we’re asking them to do.

“I think he’s done an outstanding job. Like I said, I’ve sat in a lot of meetings and he’s so well prepared. This guy watches as much tape as probably anybody I’ve been around. He always has just examples for the guys to help teach and show these guys what it is we’re trying to get accomplished.”

Luke Getsy

LaFleur: “(The promotion) is just something that you do when people put in the time, the effort, the energy and you want to reward good work. As far as like how we interact, I don’t think it’s going to have a big impact, but Luke, shoot, he designed most of our third-down packages. I think he’s got a really good grasp of what we’re trying to get accomplished, so I just thought it was the right time for that natural progression.”