If your eyes were fixed on Aaron Rodgers throwing down his tablet in frustration Sunday, you might have missed which assistant coach picked it up.
Quarterbacks/receivers coach Alex Van Pelt, who worked from the coaches’ box in the first seven games, was back on the sideline during the 37-29 loss to Carolina. His move was made official Tuesday when he was listed back on the sideline in the team's weekly release with assistant offensive line coach Mike Solari replacing him in the coaches’ box.
Van Pelt coached from the sidelines in his first three seasons with the Packers, but moved upstairs when Tom Clements was promoted to offensive play caller this offseason. With Clements' return to the field, Packers coach Mike McCarthy chose Van Pelt to serve as the offense’s eyes in the coaches’ box.
Despite the offense’s struggles in the first half of the season, McCarthy has reiterated that he doesn’t plan on resuming play-calling responsibilities. However, he hinted at making a small change during his Packers.com podcast before Sunday’s game against the Panthers.
“Frankly, we’re going to make an adjustment this week and we can talk about it Monday,” said McCarthy at the time. “In hindsight, job responsibility, we go through a change – I probably might have asked too much from Tom. Tom is an excellent play caller; him and Aaron are connected. I don’t have a concern about that.”
The decision to slide Van Pelt back to the sidelines not only frees up Clements to focus more on play calling between possessions, but also gives Rodgers an assistant coach he’s familiar with to break down game pictures. That's what the FOX cameras picked up after Rodgers' interception in the waning moments of Sunday's loss to the Panthers.
It’s a task Van Pelt handled last year when he served strictly as quarterbacks coach. McCarthy relinquished play-calling duties after January’s 28-22 overtime loss to Seattle in the NFC title game to concentrate more on defense and special-teams operation. It led to various job descriptions being dispersed among the rest of the offensive coaching staff.
“I’m as involved in the offense and defense and special teams as I can be,” McCarthy said Monday. “I watch more film and keep doing what I’m doing. My job responsibility, job descriptions have been defined. And that’s not going to change.”
The Packers scored 22 points and produced 269 yards in the second half against Carolina, but will start the second half of their season the lowest they’ve been ranked in total offense (340.9 yards per game) and passing offense (225.2 yards per game) in 10 seasons under McCarthy.
“I think the operation has gone well,” Clements said. “I think I said it last week, too, we haven’t played consistently, as consistently as we’d like to. But the operation has been fine.”
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