With the expiration of Mike Pettine’s contract, it seemed likely the Green Bay Packers would be looking elsewhere. Since then, it has been all but confirmed that the Packers defensive coordinator job is now open.
While Pettine’s defense was top-10 in a few categories, it really doesn’t mean much when the Packers’ cupcake schedule is taken into account. Add in two underachieving NFC Championship Game performances, and it was pretty clear he was on his way out.
With plenty of talent on the Green Bay defense and a team built to win now, this Packers defensive coordinator opening is one of the most coveted vacancies in the NFL. With Matt LaFleur likely needing a DC with head coaching experience again to run that side of the ball, these are three prime candidates to fill the position.
Candidates for Packers Defensive Coordinator Opening
The name Marvin Lewis used to carry some weight, before his postseason struggles as the Cincinnati Bengals head coach. Lewis was the defensive coordinator during the height of the early 2000s with the Baltimore Ravens. Say what you will about his abilities as a head coach, but his abilities as a defensive coordinator are unquestioned. Even as a head coach, his teams in Cincinnati never quite had the weapons to make a run anyways. Add in the stupid penalties from players like linebacker Vontaze Burfict, certainly not everything is on him.
With Lewis at the helm for the Ravens, his team set the record for giving up the fewest rushing yards and points in a single season. They also held the New York Giants to just seven points in Super Bowl XXXV. While those performances were from quite a long time ago, he certainly has the tenure to show he can make it in the league, at the very least on the defensive side of the ball. He is currently a special assistant to the head coach at Arizona State University and would likely jump at the opportunity to prove himself in the NFL once again.
Why not? Let’s see some swagger back in the Packer defense. Let’s see some brash and bold quotes again. Outside of AFC Championship appearances in 2009 and 2010 with the New York Jets, Rex Ryan has very little to show for himself in his head coaching experience. The one thing he can show a lot for is his abilities as a defensive coordinator. The Packer locker room loves to have fun and I’m sure he’d fit right in. The only question is whether he’d be okay leaving his comfy analyst role with ESPN to return to the spotlight and coaching under the head coach after being “the guy” for so many years.
Between 2005 and 2012, Rex Ryan-led defenses were never lower than sixth in the NFL overall. His defenses have allowed just a hair over 281 yards per game as well. That is second only to the iconic Dick LeBeau of Pittsburgh. Any guy mentioned in the same breath statistically as LeBeau is the real deal. As much as he loves being an analyst, the Packers could likely really sweeten the pot for him to join the league again. When you’re putting up stats like that on defense, you don’t deserve to be in a chair on TV. You deserve to be in the press box or on the sidelines coaching for as long as you want. He loves his players and the Packer fans would love him too, as he’d bring a mean defense back to Green Bay for the first time in a very long time.
Would a prospective defensive coordinator list be complete without including the legendary Wade Phillips? While only together for one season with the Los Angeles Rams, Phillips and LaFleur do have experience working with each other. On top of that, let’s not forget that his Rams defense stifled the New England Patriots to just 13 points in Super Bowl LIII. He has been a defensive coordinator or higher since 1981 and surely knows what he’s doing.
We have also seen him turn defenses completely around in just one year at the helm. The Packers don’t have much time left with Rodgers, so their philosophy is title or bust. There is no better man to trust than a man who has been in similar positions for almost the last 40 years. It seems like Packer fans are pretty keen on him possibly joining as well on social media.
Phillips has coached four players who have been Defensive Players of the Year and two players who have been Defensive Rookies of the Year. Sure, when you coach for 40+ years, you get plenty of solid players. However, to win these accolades as consistently as his players do, this is no coincidence. Pair him with an improving defensive line, a solid, yet underperforming, linebacking corps in the playoffs and the best cornerback in the league, he could very easily add another award to the mantle. He could easily help rejuvenate the linebacking corps and the few holes in the secondary to provide a terrifying defense to complement Aaron Rodgers’ terrifying offense.
Wade Phillips has been a defensive coordinator almost longer than LaFleur has been alive, and he has the stats to back him up. It doesn’t get much easier of a decision than that.