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Do the Packers Miss Joe Philbin?

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Do the Packers Miss Joe Philbin?

The 2012 season is a mere two games old but this year’s iteration of the Green Bay Packers offense lacks the stop-us-if-you-can mentality it possessed much of last season.

As expectations run high for a team that brings back almost every offensive player from a season ago, one possible cause for this year’s lack of luster is former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin has taken his talents to South Beach and is now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

A myriad of factors play into making an NFL offense function at a high level, but is it possible that Philbin’s absence is the reason the Packers offense has struggled so far this season?

Granted, the Packers have faced two quality defenses in San Francisco and Chicago, but regardless of the opponents, the Packers offense appears to be somehow different. Maybe it is confidence, maybe it is preparation, but for some reason, this unit is not the same.

With head coach Mike McCarthy routinely filling the role as game-day playcaller, outside observers were left to question Philbin’s influence on the offense. In charge of implementing the overall offensive scheme each year, game plans each week, and numerous other tasks, Philbin’s responsibilities with the team were not only enormous but also essential.

Communicating the whys and hows of the Packers offense to young players each year cannot be overstated. One of the major reasons Philbin was promoted to a head coaching job in the NFL was his ability to easily communicate complex ideas while maintaining a calm, likeable demeanor among players and colleagues.

Philbin’s successor in Green Bay, former quarterbacks coach Tom Clements, is undoubtedly an excellent coach, but has he had the same effect on the Packers offense that Philbin did?

Under Clements, the offense simply does not look the same. Receivers’ routes are not as crisp, players are not on the same page, and throws seem to be missing their mark. Add in Aaron Rodgers regressing to the behavior of publicly berating his receivers and signs point to something behind the scenes affecting this team.

Another result of Clements’ promotion to offensive coordinator is being a step removed from Rodgers. As quarterbacks coach, Clements attended the entirety of every quarterbacks meeting and lived and breathed every moment of Rodgers’ day on and off the field.

Under former tight ends coach, and new quarterbacks coach, Ben McAdoo, the reigning league MVP’s interception total is already a third of what it was all of last season. The picks and are not all necessarily Rodgers’ fault, but they are indicative of the offense’s general funk.

Against the Niners and Bears, the Packers offense managed to cobble together 14- and 17-points, respectively (both games included touchdowns not scored by the offense). For a team that averaged 35 points last season, including 42 and 30 in their first two contests, something is amiss.

Alternative explanations exist for the lack of production. The fatigue of playing two games in a five-day span, losing Scott Wells, your literal and figurative center, in free agency or the absence of Greg Jennings in the Chicago game are all possible reasons for a departure from last season’s dominance. But overall, the issue appears to be a general malaise across the entire offense, which would suggest a coaching issue rather than a player issue.

Even in its current rut, the Packers offense is still a formidable force. And in time, Clements’ offense should find its stride. Just as the many new faces on the Packers defense will take time to gel, so too will the Packers offense under its new coordinator.

Perhaps next Monday's matchup against the Seattle Seahawks is just what the Packers need to get the offense back on track.

Whether or not it is Joe Philbin or Tom Clements at the helm, however, this offense needs to find its rhythm, and a way to convert a third-and-1.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (58) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Tarynfor12's picture

"Add in Aaron Rodgers regressing to the behavior of publicly berating his receivers and signs point to something behind the scenes affecting this team".

Are you attempting to infer Rodgers being upset with Jones the same as Cutlers rants and body butts of his OL?

There is a distinct difference between a QB(CUTLER) who doesn't know the 'limits' of his fellow players(OL) and a QB(RODGERS) who knows when a fellow player(JONES) isn't playing up to them.

Did both get angry and yell..yes...but one is justified and one is totally not.

Evan's picture

To say nothing of the fact that Cutler makes so many idiotic mistakes himself that he should be the last person calling anyone out. That's the biggest difference for me.

maxginsberg's picture

I'm not comparing Rodgers and Cutler at all. My point was to illustrate that Rodgers used to yell at his receivers on the field pretty regularly. That behavior has stopped, but in the Bears game it came back to rear its ugly head.

Tony's picture

I wouldn't call it "ugly"... it was a blatant mental error by Jones that led to a pick, and Rodgers was rightfully pissed off. It's not like Jones NEVER makes mistakes and this was a first.

Whereas with Cutler, Webb just isn't good enough as a player to stop Matthews. Cutler was adding insult to injury by ripping into -- and making physical contact with -- Webb.

philip's picture

I agree Tony. Rodgers was yelling at Jones for apparently running the wrong route. Jones is a talented receiver who has, for some reason, never totally grasped the mental side of the game. Rodgers usually tries to give his receivers a second chance if they make these mental mistakes (see Jordy's drops in XLV), but perhaps he's just getting frustrated with the unfulfilled talent that Jones possesses.

Tony's picture

They played Chicago and San Francisco at home. When was the last time the Packers scored 35 against the Bears?

This is kind of a troll-y post. Who is this guy?

Charlie M's picture

When was the last time the Packers scored 35 against the Bears?December 25, 2011

bryce's picture

That wasn't the real Bears though. That was the "everyone got hurt and we're out of it anyways" Bears.

dullgeek's picture

I have wondered this since the Packers loss in last year's playoffs. The offense was decidedly different than what was on the field a mere 2 weeks earlier. And the one differece that I could come up with was the lack of Philbin's presence after a tragedy.

After last season I figured we'd find out this year if the offense continued to flounder. I am not yet ready to conclude that Philbin's absense is the issue because they've faced some very good defenses. But if the Packers offense struggles against Seattle's defense and especially against New Orlean's defense, I'll conclude that Philbin's absense is a pretty big deal.

Regardless of the size of Philbin's influence, coaching changes are going to come with a change in how information is communicated within the organization. Which means that it may take a while before we see the unstoppable offense we'd gotten used to last year.

I am hopeful in two areas:
First, that there's enough time in the regular season for new coaches to establish themselves and get back to fully utilizing the weapons that they have on offense.

Second, that the defense will continue its strong performance from last week and allow the offense the time it needs to re-establish it's groove.

Evan's picture

Don't sleep on Seattle's defense.

philip's picture

agreed. I didn't get Max's comment that Seattle might be just what our offense needs to get going. They manhandled the cowboys yesterday, and that's a good offense the 'boys have.

maxginsberg's picture

The comment about the Seahawks defense was more of a hope than anything else. I'm hoping the Packers offense finds its rhythm against the Hawks.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Sports radio is all abuzz out here this morning about the hawks and their D... Rightfully so I might add.

I just listened to the Pete Carrol show. The hawks offense is all about the running game and setting up play action off it. This is nothing ground breaking, but our D best be ready to be tough in the trenches Monday night, because that's where Seattle wants to win.


PackersRS's picture

After not playing a single top 10 defense last year, it appears we will play every top 10 defense this year... SF, CHI, SEA, AZ, HOU, NYG.

The offense needs to step up. Rodgers included.

EP66's picture

Good point....remember they have Flynn helping them also to break down the schemes...

EP66's picture

Good point...they have Flynn helping them to break down schemes also....

Dan Scharpf's picture

Maybe this was planned, knowing the schedule and changing things up so they would not have tape.

Fish/Crane's picture

oh oh...but maybe it's not an "all in" Flynn

Bearmeat's picture

I posted this thought in the last thread, and I think it's relevant here too, so I'll repost. Granted, losing an OC without skipping a beat is not the easiest thing in the world to. But it can be done. It's been done before.

It’s not just us – why are ALL the ‘Elite’ passing offenses in the NFL are all struggling?

Because the replacement refs have never had to call illegal contact on secondaries in Div II/III college games before. NFL rules have been ‘set back’ at least 15 years with the change in refereeing styles, and as a result, Defenses have regained the upper hand.

It is not a coincidence that Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Stafford and their respective offenses are all struggling.

Running the football and stopping the run have once again become the most important things an NFL team has to do. Scoring is down. Running yardage is up.

IMO this will even out over time. But it sure makes teams like San Francisco seem better right now.

Beep's picture

I totally agree the replacement refs are tipping the balance back to defenses right now. Precision timing passing plays are much more difficult when WRs are getting bumped after 5 yards.

Despite that, AR has not looked nearly as sharp as we have come to expect.

Evan's picture

I think this is a great point.

PackersRS's picture

I think I agree.

One thing though. The OL has been bad. While having to block for longer does affect it, they've been bad on run blocking, and on short passes.

And Rodgers has been off target.

So I tend to think that the offensive woes are a sum of it all. With regular refs calling regular season football the offense would've scored more, no doubt, but the problems are there.

Evan's picture

I thought the o-line looked good (at least much better) against Chicago. Benson had room to run and even though they did give up 5 sacks, at least 2 of those were Rodgers' fault. I remember one in particular where Lang had Peppers stuffed and Rodgers moved up in the pocket, right into Peppers' arms.

Bearmeat's picture

RS - True. However, when I rewatch the games, a number of ARod's downfield throws that have seem overthrown would have been just right had the secondary not been able to bump and chuck and grab past 5 yards.

Max is right that the fear of the big play has made the offense tick in the past. Maybe that fear is going away with these refs.

IMO GB's OL will continue to improve dramatically. Newhouse was better from game 1 to 2. Ditto Saturday. I'm not worried about the other three..

Nerd's Laptop's picture

Agreed, and the coaches need to take this into consideration in prepping their offenses. And defenses.

Ted and Mike were very savvy in creating a team oriented around the passing game. The NFL had changed.

But now it's changing again.

D.D. Driver's picture

This offense looks like the one we saw against the Giants in the playoffs.

bryce's picture

They've played two good defenses. Everybody calm down.

Oppy's picture

This guy right here- Bryce? This guy gets it.

Two extremely sound defenses to start the year, I'm not pointing fingers at the OC quite yet.

bryce's picture

Thanks Oppy.

Not to mention, the offense will be fine. Can we just be stoked for one second that the defense looked legit?

Cole's picture

It is in large part due to the refs. They barely call anything, which is kind of nice, but it also hurts teams like green bay who rely on precision passing. Thank god we have Benson. I'll look for a heavy dose of running against the hawks, especially with their DB's head-hunting the whole game.

woodson4president's picture

Anybody else notice drew brees struggling without his coach this season? Maybe Philbin is what we are missing on O.

Evan's picture

Yes, and I love it. But as bearmeat pointed out, elite QBs are "struggling" all over the NFL so far this season.

Look at the top QB ratings so far.

1. Matt Ryan (136.4 - 1 game)
2. Peyton Manning (129.2 - 1 game)
3. Alex Smith (115.9)
4. Sam Bradford (112.4)
5. RGIII (111.6)
6. Rivers (110.7)
7. Christian Ponder (110.6)
8. Cam Newton (100.9)
9. Big Ben (99.5)
10. Romo (97.4)

Only 4 from the top 10 in 2011 are in the top 10 so far this season.

Bugeater's picture

Although the core peronnel has remained the same, there have been some significant changes to the offense that can point to evolutionary aches and pains. The offensive line has undergone a big peronnel change, not least of all replacing the center and left tackle, and is still in the process of gelling. Don't forget that the only way an OL can be dominant is if it plays as a single unit. They aren't quite there yet, but will be soon. It's just a matter of playing time. Durng the preseason they continually shift personnel to find the best players, so really they've only been the final unit for the last month or so. Still early for a complex component to come together properly.

Add to that the addition of Benson, the increased roll of Cobb, and trying to figure out whether or not Finley is a player that can be counted on anymore and you have the current and then further add the adjustments in the coaching roles and it seems reasonable that the O hasn't hit it's stride yet. When it does (not IF, but WHEN) this will be a distant memory.

Tony's picture

I really wish there was a way to quantify what Philbin did for the team. I always saw him as an assistant that more or less helped out McCarthy. McCarthy is the play caller and the QB guru, right?

Not saying Philbin wasn't integral to the offense's success. I just wish there was a way to find out HOW integral.

Colleen's picture

Frankly, I was glad to see Rodgers yell at Jones. That was dumb on Jones' part and he needed to be called out on it and promptly. That said, I hope it isn't something Rodgers will feel he needs to do frequently.

dullgeek's picture

I'm not a fan of the public scolding, no matter who is doing it. Mainly because you want the focus for Jones (or any player that deserves being corrected) to be on correcting the error. Adding a public scolding to the mix means that Jones has two things to focus on: correcting the error and "saving face". Personally, I'd rather that Jones focus entirely on correcting the error and spend no time on trying to saving face.

Certainly getting a public scolding can be motivating. But IMHO it often motivates something other than what you were hoping to motivate.

Just my $0.02

philip's picture

Sometimes the only way some people will correct an error is if they are publicly called out. Maybe Jones doesn't take constructive criticism very well and you have to really get on him.

The reality is we don't personally know these guys and what they respond to. You don't hear anyone on the team complaining about what Rodgers did, do you? Then leave it to the people who are intimately involved with the team to decide whether it was appropriate. (By the way, McCarthy defended the action)

dullgeek's picture

Sure. Each person responds differently. But I think it's exceedingly rare when people respond positively to public humiliation.

Tarynfor12's picture

When your job is played in a public forum,so should the humilation.

JJ disrespected the team by not being ready(playbook) and the team via Rodgers,let him know about it.

dullgeek's picture

@Tarynfor12: If your goal is to assign blame, sure. But if your goal is to correct the error as quickly as possible, then get rid of all the unnecessary stuff. The vast majority of the time, public humiliation is not necessary to fix the error.

As far as what JJ did. I don't think that was a set play. It looked like a reaction play, and the error was the indecision. JJ looked like he was going to cut back then changed his mind. And that's what AR was angry about. It didn't seem like it was drawn up that way.

PackersRS's picture

If I had to bet, that was just emotion getting the better of Rodgers.

If he had the choice he wouldn't do it again, but struggling for most of the game then throwing an INT was the last drop.

dullgeek's picture


PackersRS's picture

Rodgers was on the wrong side, BTW. You keep it in the locker room. Even the benches are not fair game anymore, with all the cameras.

I thought McCarthy did it very aptly, placing the blame on playcalling (himself).

toolkien's picture

The Packers are scoring a little above average for the strengths of the two defenses they have faced so far (based on 2011 strengths for opponents and based on their average points scored since 2009 against defenses in general). What the Packers miss facing is crummy defenses. Fortunately, once they get passed the Texans, there are plenty of those to feast on.

James's picture

It's a tad presumptuous, after only two games and playing a few of the better NFL defenses, to make the assertion that losing Philbin is what is wrong with the Packer's stagnant offense.

As others have said, things won't get any easier next week in Seattle. Their aggressive 'D' and noted home field advantage are going to make it difficult for Rodgers and company to get on track.

If after playing the Saints in week 4 and the offense continues their sluggish play, then you might be on to something with your theory.

BrianD's picture

Rodgers hasn't been perfect like last year but he's still making difficult throws on a routine basis. His receivers are leaving a lot of yards (and scores) on the field with drops.

lebowski's picture

Remember, it's not just Clements replacing Philbin. We also have a new qb coach, a new running backs coach, and a new tight end coach. I'm pretty sure the philosophy hasn't drastically changed, but each new assistant is going to want to put his own 'stamp' on the offense. Look at the mess the Badgers have become with all their new assistants.

Derek in CO's picture

I never understood how a TE coach like McAdoo can spend how many seasons just focusing on TEs, then just step right into coaching QBs like it's no big deal. I think it makes a huge difference. No way a guy can just take on that role and nobody will notice anything different. Look at the Badgers without Chryst.

DrewTheDraftGuru's picture

It comes down to this: identity crisis. The Packers are trying to figure out how to incorporate Benson. I'm sure Clements has his differences from Philbin, but the mind behind the offense is McCarthy; make no mistake about that.

I do think Jennings has something to do with it. Last year Philbin's offense struggled while missing Jennings. CHI's defense has always played the Packers well, too, and as you mentioned the 49ers defense is good. I'm not worried one bit.

Bigdog's picture

I remember how the offense struggled early in 2010 because they were making a concerted effort to get the ball RO JMike early. The O started to click when 88 went down for the year. I think they are again trying to get the ball to 88 too much - lets just get the ball to the WRs and all will be good. 88 caught balls last year but was not the focal point like in 2010 and again this year. Go Pack!!

Tommer's picture

People forget 2010 wasn't all roses either. We had a lackluster start in the first half against the Bills and couldn't get in the end zone against the Jets. We choked against the Redskins and Dolphins. This team is just as talented to get stronger throughout the year and gain momentum heading into the playoffs.

KurtMc's picture

+2 on the drops issue and incorporating Benson into the O.

Look, a few drops by the TE who is supposed to be uncoverable, your top WR from last year, and a RB who does know the play book. 12 is trying to do too much. Give it time.

Although, I am not letting 12 off the hook, when he bypasses the open short yardage guy, looking for the big play.

A_Lerxst_in_Packerland's picture

Good point - #12 has had a few opportunities to complete higher percentage passes that he has, um, passed up for the big play attempt.

Lots to consider, and I'm sure the answer is no single thing, but a mix of many of the fine points brought up. I truly believe they'll get this offense thing running back at its potential before long.

Pack12's picture

There is a tendency by the media to make quick judgments and exaggerate before having enough proof that there is a problem. Just last week there was an article on this website about firing Dom Capers because of poor defense. What happened Thursday against the Bears? The Packer defense was outstanding. Is the Packer defense now a non-issue? I will withhold judgment until I see a trend. The same goes for the offense. There have only been two games and I have to admit that the offense is not in sync yet but why don't we wait and see what happens in the next few games. One thing I know, a team is never as good as it looks or as bad as it looks.

mark's picture

Haha, it's the DON WITH DOM thread, re-purposed for the offense!

So thankfully next week, when the offense drops 40 points on MNF we can all chill out again...

PackerBacker's picture

Exactly what I was thinking. Max is taking the reins this week in the crow-eating contest (hopefully).

Clay Maker's picture

Some of this could also be attributed to less precise officiating. These officials seem to be letting the defensive backs play much more physically and aggressively. For a finesse offensive team, this is not an easy adjustment. It will be interesting to see how the offense performs with regular referees.

Spiderpack's picture

I appreciate your comments Max. And I think you're right-on. One thing that occured to me immediately following the first game is how Rodgers did not have the same presence of mind and composure as he has in the past--this was very noticeable in his body language & expressions on a 9ft Hi-Def screen, but also has been reflected in his play and decision making. Rodgers has spoken very highly and deeply of his relationship/companionship with Clements and it seems clear to me that there is a bit of a void there in ARodge's mind. Here's hoping Rodgers can overcome this as the season progresses, I honestly think he can, and I'll bet he is aware of all this within himself.

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