Joe Philbin's Return to Green Bay Runs Deeper Than Football

For the newly-returned Joe Philbin, a second stint with the Green Bay Packers goes far, far beyond football.

It goes beyond making coach Mike McCarthy look like "the smartest play caller in the league," which Philbin attributed his duties to being in his first press conference on Wednesday. It goes beyond being able to work with quarterback Aaron Rodgers again, who spearheaded four of Philbin's first five seasons as the Packers' offensive coordinator (2007-2011), ranking in the top 10 in the NFL for points scored and total yards in all five years.

It goes beyond getting back to the basics, which McCarthy mentioned the team would do this offseason with the renovated coaching staff, all of which were announced also on Wednesday.

For Philbin, his emotional ties to the state of Wisconsin run deep. They have since the death of his son in the city of Oshkosh six years ago. 

Philbin's son, Michael, was found in the Fox River on January 9, 2012. Just under a week before Philbin had a divisional playoff game to coordinate against the New York Giants -- a 37-20 loss that weighed minuscule compared to the inconsolable feeling of losing a loved one.

11 days later, Philbin would be hired on as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, sporting a 24-28 record for the next four seasons before spending 2016 and 2017 with the Indianapolis Colts as an assistant head coach and offensive line coach. But after his contract expired at the culmination of the season, it made all the sense in the world to bring Philbin back to Green Bay.

Only if he was comfortable enough with it.

"That was probably my first question," said McCarthy on Wednesday. "But, he thought it was time to come back, and we're real excited about having him and his family here."

This isn't Philbin's first time back in the state since departing in 2012. While with the Colts in 2016, he traveled with the team to Lambeau Field for a week 9 game that the underdog Colts won, 31-26. Arriving in town on a Saturday and leaving by Sunday night, however, pales in comparison to once again making your home in the state on the foundations of heartbreak for the foreseeable future.

"There's a lot of people in the organization that I have strong feelings for, and that were very, very good to me and loyal to me," Philbin said in his first interview since being once again announced as the Packers' offensive coordinator. "t's a great feeling to be back, and I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity and work with a great coaching staff and great leadership within the organization."

Philbin's reunion may seem foreign at first. Only four players on the Packers' offense remain from the 2011 season which was Philbin's last with the team: Rodgers, right tackle Bryan Bulaga and receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

Cobb, who was a rookie in Philbin's final season, is now entering his eighth. He still provides Philbin with a chess piece that can be formatted into a variety of different formations and packages, which may very well be something the reunited offensive coordinator schematically has a little fun with.

It's just one of the many new wrinkles the Packers could have in a re-designed offense. Had it not been for the 7-9 campaign -- largely due to a broken collarbone incident in mid-October -- then the Packers' coaching staff would probably look a little like more of the same as opposed to fresh.

"Not only is the defense building a new playbook, so are we on offense. We're tightening that approach, and it's been great," said McCarthy. "You have new input, you have new experiences that are in the room. You have a different way of saying the same thing. It's been exciting - the energy is over the top."

A new beginning for an offense that many deemed as highly-predictable and simplistic over the last couple of seasons seems like a necessity at this point, and it all starts with the emotional return of Philbin. He has the backing and support from those close to him, both his family and the Packers' coaching staff, who may even be family in Philbin's eyes.

"It's very, very emotional for all of us," Philbin said. "At the end of the day, we care and love a lot of people here, and a lot of people care and love us. It's not easy, but, this is what's so special about Green Bay.

"Ultimately, you want to contribute and you want to help the people you care about and want to feel good. I feel very good about that when I put my head down at night."

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (15)

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NickPerry's picture

January 25, 2018 at 05:25 am

I for one am so glad Joe Philbin is back, I think he's a hell of an OC so welcome back Joe! I'm also excited about all the "New Blood" the Packers have brought in on both the Offensive and Defensive Staffs. New blood means new ideas. I'm not so worried about WHERE they cam from, like some of our posters seem to be suggesting. Lets not jump to conclusions whether or not a coach is any good because of WHERE they coached.

New offensive and defensive playbooks, new offensive and defensive ideas, and hopefully some new results. like another Lombardi Trophy in our Trophy Case.

Eat your heart out Minnesota!! We don't have the room to hang No Stinking Banners!!!! We HAVE a Trophy Case AND Trophies to actually put inside it!!!

Oops sorry guys...I got a little sidetracked on that last paragraph!!

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croatpackfan's picture

January 25, 2018 at 07:48 am

I will forgive you for the last paragraph... ;-)

As Packers new DC said - you aren't coaching schemes, you are coaching players. You might have the best schemes, but if you do not have players to play that schemes, you did nothing...

I believe new ideas are always good when they comes... And there is no way you can grading one person by looking what bunch of guys, with same responsibilites, was able to do...

Mike Pettine... I liked hire from the moment I learned Mike McCarthy had conversation with him. I start to beg God Packers would hire him for DC. I did not like the idea of Vic Fangio, despite his quality...

I believe Packers needs new ideas. new approach, new paths, new sights...

Mike Pettine confirmed me I was right to cheer for him when he told one big sentence: "I do not have problems working with people I did not knew. It is better, because if you work all the time with the same personnel, you become stale with ideas..."

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worztik's picture

January 25, 2018 at 09:39 am

Nick... you are so right about your feelings regarding Joe... I felt his pain at the time and prayed for him and his family! I am very excited to see what 2018 brings and I’m hoping, through the grace of GOD, that I will be around for a number of years as we once again become America’s Team!!! I for one, however, always saw the PACK as America’s Team... always did; always will!!!!!!

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John Kirk's picture

January 25, 2018 at 06:52 am

I was happy for him to get an opportunity to leave after that unspeakable tragedy but wondered how he'd be able to be successful in Miami after that.

Hard to believe he is back and you could feel his pain in addressing the question of the incident. I feel for his wife and daughter, too. Facing old feelings of trauma isn't easy for anyone.

It does feel right that he's back. This is his home where everybody knows his name. Almost tear worthy when he spoke to giving a hug to the mail guy and the girl who answers the phone. Those two people meant something to him. Also enjoyed him sharing the elderly lady who tapped him on the shoulder in church and told him she was happy he was back. This seems cathartic for him.

Glad he's back. What a classy man. Impossible not to root for him.

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Since'61's picture

January 25, 2018 at 07:09 am

I'm glad that Philbin is back and I give him a ton of credit for being able to return. I'm not sure that I could do so under similar circumstances. I wish him and his family peace and all the best.

The Packers offense has always been good because of Rodgers but it has never been the same since the 2011 season. With some help from Pettine's defense this team can go a long way. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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jww061356's picture

January 25, 2018 at 07:19 am

I think Philbin being back is good for another reason; I sense that McCarthy feels he is a confidante, something he lost a bit when Philbin left for Miami. I also think he will be a sounding board for McCarthy, and possibly the only guy that McCarthy will listen to in critical situations. The Packers need that back in the building, and I think it will pay dividends.

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RCPackerFan's picture

January 25, 2018 at 07:19 am

One of the biggest reasons why I am looking forward to having Philbin back is due to his in game adjustments he is known for. He also was known for challenging McCarthy. I'm really liking this reunion!

I am excited to see what changes are going to be made. The words redesigned offense really gets me excited. If they can do things that other offenses are doing to get guys open more, watch out with Rodgers at QB.

One of the things that I'm really can't wait to see is how they plan to use Cobb and Montgomery. Both guys can be used in many different ways and can be key players in the new designed offense.

Watching the Saints play and they run their offense you really have no clue what is coming. They run tons of different types of screens. While you can't live off of that, I would like to see more of those types of plays put into GB's offense. I'd also like them to learn how to use their RB's in the passing game more. Using them as receivers and running actual routes vs just swinging out wide every time puts a lot more pressure on defenses. The Packers have Montgomery and Jones who would really be perfect at this.

I'm really looking forward to next year.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 25, 2018 at 10:49 am

Perfect. Maybe even Janis as well. Looking forward to an explosive playbook

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Handsback's picture

January 25, 2018 at 07:36 am

I think Philbin will bring the offense back to their roots of pressure applied by a passing offense that attacks the defense downfield verses the more patient ball control that we have seen over the pass years.

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dobber's picture

January 25, 2018 at 08:07 am

I don't mind the ball-control passing game. If you're short on downfield threats and have a guy who takes care of the ball as well as #12 does, this is how you win football games, and how the Packers have won games behind ARod for the last few years. He gets his shots, but he gets what the defense gives him, moves the chains, and tries to keep his defense off the field.

I would argue this is also the direction the league is going: emphasizing RBs and TEs on short routes and taking what the defense gives you. This season 7 of the top 20 players in terms of receptions were TEs or RBs...in the last 5 years, that number has exceeded 4 once.

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Razer's picture

January 25, 2018 at 07:56 am

I too like the return of Philbin. I also like the idea that they are going to revamp the playbook. I think that it is needed and I think that there is a lot more under the hood of this offense.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 25, 2018 at 10:53 am

Spot on! That's the part that's been so frustrating. There is so much more under the hood of this offense.,even when it was lean. We've become far less than creative.

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Savage57's picture

January 25, 2018 at 09:08 am

Welcome back, your dreams were your ticket out. Or something like that.

Since he's been gone the Packers offense has gone from one that was a dynamic, in-motion offense that produced mondo YAC to whatever the hell you call the more recent stop, squat in a soft spot and catch a pass standing still moments before you get drilled.

I also look forward to the return of Screen Bay.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 25, 2018 at 10:45 am

Absolutely thrilled that Joe Philbin is back. There's never been a question in my mind that the offense started taking a turn down since he left. At this point I can live with McCarthy calling the plays if you got Phil to kind of keep his eye on things. So McCarthy can call the plays and hopefully Philbin creates most of them or is it at the minimum a safeguard against those play call stretches, and abominations like two yard flat plays to Richard Rodgers, assuming Rodgers is even on the roster. God I hope not. Bet Phil has ways to even use Janis.

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Charlu19's picture

February 01, 2018 at 02:45 am

PHILBIN!!! I'm pumped about this move! He was creative and is the architect of GB taking down a damn strong defense from Pit in the Super Bowl. He also did it with James Starks and a young stable of WR . Fucking pumped. This might be the most pumped I've been since we (ironocally) hired Capers.

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