GREEN BAY – In a move that was obvious to everyone – including, by his own admission, head coach Mike McCarthy – the Green Bay Packers promoted quarterbacks coach Tom Clements to offensive coordinator Thursday evening.
Clements replaces Joe Philbin, who became the new Miami Dolphins head coach on Jan. 21.
“Tom has been an integral part of our success and our staff, making it an obvious decision to promote him to offensive coordinator,” McCarthy said in a statement released by the team. “He has earned this opportunity and we look forward to continued offensive success in 2012.”
Just as he did when his first offensive coordinator, Jeff Jagodzinski, left to become the head coach at Boston College at the end of the 2006 season and McCarthy promoted Philbin, the head coach opted to promote from within. While some believed young position coaches like tight ends coach Ben McAdoo and wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett might be promoted instead, Clements is the only offensive assistant with NFL offensive coordinator experience
Before McCarthy hired him as quarterbacks coach upon his arrival in 2006, Clements was the Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator in 2004 and 2005. Before that, he served as the quarterbacks coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers (2001-2003), the Kansas City Chiefs (2000) and the New Orleans Saints (1997-1999).
The Steelers were reportedly interested in interviewing Clements for their offensive coordinator vacancy. Clements also interviewed for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head-coaching job last month before the team hired ex-Rutgers coach Greg Schiano.
“I’m happy that it’s happened and I’m happy for Joe (Philbin) that he’s a head coach, and I’m glad I was able to step into his place,” Clements said in a statement released by the team. “I’ve been a coordinator before, only for a few years. I’ve always wanted to get back to doing that and I’m thankful that it’s here in Green Bay.
“I think it’s a great opportunity. We have a young team. We’ve had success over the past couple of years. We still have a lot of room to grow and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
McCarthy did not say whether Clements would continue to serve as quarterbacks coach as well, or if a new quarterbacks coach would be hired.
One person who figures to be thrilled with the news is Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is expected to be named the NFL MVP on Saturday night, on the eve of Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. Rodgers has been vocal in his support of Clements and in explaining how much Clements has meant to his and backup Matt Flynn’s development.
Speaking on his weekly radio show on ESPN Milwaukee and ESPN Madison on Tuesday, Rodgers hinted that Clements’ promotion was in the offing.
“I don’t want to speak for coach (McCarthy), so I’m not sure exactly if a decision has been made yet. I think (McCarthy) would probably figure something out here pretty soon,” Rodgers said. “He’s hired from within before, so I’m not sure if he’s going to do that again. I’m not sure if he did that how that would change Tom’s job description as far as, is he still going to work with the quarterbacks or not? (I’m) hoping we’ll be able to keep Tom on, and if we promote him great, if not keep him in Green Bay as my (quarterbacks) coach.”
Asked if he would lobby McCarthy on Clements’ behalf, Rodgers replied: “I think I’ve done it enough during the year on this show, talked about how important Tom is to me and our team and what an incredible coach he is. I’m also trying to get the message out that Tom and I are close friends and I want what’s best for him and his family. If that’s moving back to Pennsylvania – he was interested in the Penn State job – if that’s kind of the way he wants to go, then I wish him the best and it’s not going to change our friendship. He’s an incredible coach. He’s probably in his last decade or so of coaching and I wish him nothing but the best. And hopefully it’s in Green Bay with myself.”
Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders have asked permission to interview Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt for its defensive coordinator position, according to NFL.com’s Steve Wyche.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, a former Packers executive, did not respond to a text message asking whether he and new Raiders coach Dennis Allen had indeed been granted permission to interview Whitt. McCarthy also could not be reached for comment.
Whitt is viewed as a rising star in the defensive coaching ranks. At 33, he has the respect of perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson, who is more than two years older, and has been instrumental in the development of cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, although both players took steps back this season.
Speaking at the final assistant coach media availability of the year following the team’s NFC Divisional Playoff loss to the New York Giants, Whitt acknowledged that he would only leave for a defensive coordinator position or a head-coaching job.
Asked if he’d go back to coaching at the college level, Whitt replied, “I enjoy the NFL game and this is where I want to be. Unless it’s a head-coaching opportunity in college, I’m really not that interested right now.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today,” and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.