The Green Bay Packers have started interviewing candidates for their head coaching vacancy. Former Lions coach Jim Caldwell and former Colts head man Chuck Pagano have each interviewed for the position according to published reports. It is not clear if any other candidates have been interviewed for the position which opened up when the Packers fired Mike McCarthy after the Packers loss to the Arizona Cardinals on December 2.
Caldwell is a native of Beloit, Wisconsin, and has previous NFL head coaching experience in Detroit and Indianapolis. His regular season record as a head coach is 62-50 and he led the Colts to Super Bowl XLIV where they lost to the Saints. His overall playoff record is 2-4. He also led the Lions to the playoffs in 2014 and 2016 and is the first Detroit head coach to finish his tenure with the team with a winning record since Joe Schmidt who coached the club from 1967-1972.
Whether or not Caldwell ultimately gets the job, he gives insight into the type of candidate Mark Murphy, Brian Gutekunst and the Packers brass are looking for. Caldwell has an offensive background and started in the NFL as a quarterbacks coach under Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay.
Caldwell has worked with veteran quarterbacks over the course of his NFL coaching career. He coached Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. He was on John Harbaugh’s staff in Baltimore when the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII behind the quarterbacking of Joe Flacco. In Detroit, Caldwell worked with Matthew Stafford who put up big numbers under Caldwell’s guidance.
The players responded positively to Caldwell in Detroit. If fact, he was fired after the 2017 season despite finishing with a 9-7 record. The Lions are just 5-10 under Matt Patricia this season.
In 2014, Lions players were impressed by their leader. “He’s always got something new for me,” defensive end Darryl Tapp told The New York Times. “You can’t be stale in this league.”
General Manager Martin Mahew added, “There’s a different mentality to this football team of what it takes to be successful. Jim’s had a dramatic impact on the psyche of this football team.”
Pagano on the other hand, is a defensive coach who served as defensive coordinator of the Ravens in 2011 before taking over as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts from 2012-2017. The Colts went 53-43 under Pagano during the regular season and 3-3 in the playoffs. His most successful season was in 2014 when he led the Colts to an 11-5 finish and reached the AFC Championship Game where they lost to the Patriots.
While leading the Colts, Pagano coached both Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. He also worked with Mike Pettine, currently the Packers defensive coordinator when the two were with the Ravens and with Packers interim head coach and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin when they were in Indianapolis.
Pagano has had health issues. He missed part of the 2012 season due to his battle with acute promyelocytic leukemia. He is presently in remission since 2012
Pagano’s coaching style earned the respect of his players. Cornerback Lardarius Webb told The Chicago Tribune that Pagano is like “father or older brother who is very, very smart. I wish I could be with him the rest of my life,” Webb said. “I like him, man. He knows football and he knows people. He treats me with the utmost respect and I do the same with him.”
The Packers coaching search is far from finished. As of right now, the team can only interview unemployed coaches like Caldwell and Pagano, or college coaches who are not preparing for Bowl games. The number of candidates the Packers can interview will go up at the conclusion of the regular season and then again as teams are eliminated from the playoffs.
Caldwell and Pagano were both successful and respected in their previous tenures. The Lions have taken a big step back since Caldwell’s departure. Pagano was let go after a season in which Luck, his starting quarterback, was unavailable for the entire season and the team’s record reflected that.
Still, the interviews with these two former NFL coaches show us what Mark Murphy and company are looking for in a head coaching candidate. Expect several more interviews to take place in the coming weeks before the next head coach of the Green Bay Packers is finally named some time in January or early February.