Packers’ Philbin to dust off play-calling skills against Falcons
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Time for Joe Philbin to assume an important new responsibility with the Green Bay Packers, and it’s not just the duties that come with taking over as interim head coach.
It’s been a while since Philbin has called plays.
“Trying to think. Might have been about 20 years, maybe,” Philbin said.
Now he takes over the job on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons following the Packers’ firing of Mike McCarthy, who also called the plays.
The previous time Philbin had that task?
“I think it was at Northeastern if I’m not mistaken,” said Philbin, who was offensive coordinator of the Northeastern Huskies in 1995-96.
He does have a wealth of experience. A 16-year NFL coaching veteran, Philbin’s college coaching resume goes back to Tulane in 1984. He’s in his second stint as offensive coordinator in Green Bay, having held the job when the Packers won the Super Bowl in the 2010 season, and when the offense set franchise records the next season.
Philbin was head coach of the Miami Dolphins from 2012-15. He spent two seasons on the Colts’ staff before returning to Green Bay this year. He has been heavily involved in planning, installation and putting together play scripts. He met regularly with McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers.
This week, though, will be a little different.
“Sometimes, because I wasn’t calling the plays, I could kind of peek ahead a little bit so we could move forward a little bit,” Philbin said. “I think that will be the biggest difference. I’m not going to be looking at our next opponent until the game is over.”
“And then obviously just sequencing the calls the right way and hopefully they work when we call ’em,” he added.
McCarthy was fired after a 20-17 loss on Sunday at home to the lowly Arizona Cardinals. His specialty was offense, but the once-prolific production had slacked off. Empty third downs and a lack of potent plays have been season-long issues. Rodgers’ completion percentage is his lowest in three seasons, though he has still thrown just one interception this year. Drops by receivers especially plagued the Packers on Sunday.
“I just think you really need to be better in situational offense if you want to win games, so we’re going to pay a little more attention, even more attention, to that the next couple weeks,” Rodgers said, “because we’ve got to fix that if we want to win games.”
The change does present a unique wrinkle to how Falcons coach Dan Quinn prepares his defense. He can get his team ready for the unique skillsets of Rodgers and top receiver Davante Adams. But he can’t study Philbin’s tendencies when it comes to calling plays.
“The analogy I told the team today,” Quinn said, “if we all had the same playbook, we wouldn’t all call plays in the same way or the same style even though it’s all part of it.”
It helps to have a quarterback of Rodgers’ caliber to have input on concepts and schemes, Quinn said. But there isn’t a lot of background into figuring out Philbin’s tendencies in clutch situations, such as on third down. Quinn calls those “Got to have it moments.”
“Those, hey, you better be ready to call your best stuff because those aren’t scripted. Those are off the cuff,” he said.
An intangible is the familiarity between Rodgers and Philbin, who was on staff for the quarterback’s rookie season in 2005. They’ve worked together during highly productive seasons. They apparently share a similar sense of humor.
“A lot of dry humor. Joe is, every time he talks he reminds us about how simple this game is,” Rodgers said. “It comes down to the little things and he’s always reminding us and harping on those things.”
NOTES: RG Byron Bell (knee) and RT Bryan Bulaga (knee/illness), who both left in the second quarter against Arizona, missed practice. … CB Bashaud Breeland (groin) and S Kentrell Brice (ankle/concussion) were limited. … Little-used RB Tra Carson (rib) and starting CB Kevin King (hamstring) were placed on injured reserve. King’s rookie season last year ended on the injury list because of a shoulder issue. … The team claimed DL Fadol Brown from the Raiders and rookie CB Natrell Jamerson from the Texans. Originally a fifth-round draft pick by New Orleans, Jamerson played in college at Wisconsin.