Finding The Right Fit on Defense


GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN – JANUARY 09: (L-R) General manager Brian Gutekunst, head coach Matt LaFleur and President and CEO Mark Murphy of the Green Bay Packers speak to the media during a press conference introducing Matt LaFleur as head coach at Lambeau Field on January 09, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty […]

In Mike Pettine’s first season as the Packers defensive coordinator, Green Bay finished 18th in the NFL in terms of yards given up per game, and 22nd in points allowed.  

The defense also finished the 2018 season tied for third worst in the league, when it came to takeaways with only 15.  That’s less than one a game. 

Not exactly a ringing endorsement on your resume if you’re trying to keep your job, but when you consider how many starters missed games due to injury, those numbers don’t quite tell the whole story. 

Which is just one of the many reasons Matt LaFleur didn’t have to go outside the organization to find his DC in Pettine.  

Matt LaFleur,

“There’s a history.  I’ve gone against his defenses before. 

I think they present alot of challenges for offenses.

Just the guys I trust in this business, all have great things to say about Mike Pettine.

My brother worked for him in Cleveland and has a lot of respect for him.” 

And apparently, the feeling was mutual between the new head coach and one of four coaches to carry over from the Mike McCarthy regime.

In fact, neither of the two had to look very far for references.

Mike Pettine,

“Knowing Matt as I know him, having hired his brother in Cleveland and just knowing what I know of him, that was an easy decison for me. 

I just got the sense there was a lot of common ground and shared philosophy on how we want to do things and what were looking for in players and the philosophy in coaching. So when he was named the coach it was a pretty easy decision for me.”  

On the surface, Pettine might seem like a complex coach with an old-school demeanor, but his cerebral approach from year one to year two is very simple.
Mike Pettine,
“Take a big jump.

 we spent alot of time last year with having to shuffle in alot of players.

Year one of a system its really hard to get into the graduate level details of the jobs. 

You come to the realization that we spent so much time last year on coaching players what to do, and not enough time on how to do it, and thats usually typical of a year one.

So we are just looking forward to having guys who are experienced in the system.” 

If LaFleur would have gone in a different direction, the Packers would have brought in their 3rd defensive coordinator in 3 seasons. 
And now the work continues, instead of starting over.
Matt LaFleur,
“I just think that continuity going into year two for the defense is going to be critical because theres always a learning curve in year one.
I’m excited to see what the defense can do in year two moving forward.”
Mike Pettine,
“I think we have a much better sense of who we are, and what are skill set is, and what we want to get done.
So the nice thing is you dont reset it back to year one, you have a little bit of momentum and you’ve built a pretty solid foundation with the guys that youre going to have back.  

It’s a combination of a lot of things, but we feel really good about where we are as a staff and you know just going through last years cutups and teaching the defense to the new guys and taking notes on what we would change, things we need to do moving forward.

But it is nice to have that continuity and we feel like we are so much further ahead than we were a year ago.”

Even though the two men are on the opposite ends of the coaching spectrum when it comes to age and experience, trading advice back and forth won’t be an issue.
Matt LaFleur,
“The fact that he’s been a head coach. and sat in this seat. it really affords you an opportunity to bounce ideas off of him.”
Mike Pettine,
“The good thing that I bring from my experience in cleveland, i have a thick book of what not to do.
So I’ll steer him clear of some of the pitfalls of being a first time head coach.
We’ve had meetings and gone through some things and he’s asked questions on how you’ve done it before or if there’s something I see that hes working on or ive had experience with.
Or a suggestion or something that I might have been a part of or thats been helpful, I’ll bring it up.
So in a working relationship so far its been very smooth.”

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