GREEN BAY – While Aaron Rodgers may not be thrilled with the idea of tight ends coach Ben McAdoo becoming his new quarterbacks coach, the four men who coached the Green Bay Packers’ tight ends all went on to become head coaches – three of them in the NFL. Not only that, but one of those men – Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid – followed the same path as McAdoo is embarking upon.
So while the development of Reid, Mike Sherman, Jeff Jagodzinski and Joe Philbin as coaches doesn’t guarantee that McAdoo will achieve similar success, McAdoo, 34, has long been considered a rising star on the Packers’ staff, and now he’ll have a chance to prove that he, too, has a bright NFL coaching future beyond the tight end position.
“Everyone is given an opportunity,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said back in 2006, after hiring the then 28-year-old McAdoo as his tight ends coach. “Marty Schottenheimer gave me the opportunity to be the (Kansas City Chiefs’) quarterbacks coach in 1995. And I think that worked out OK.
"I've never looked at a guy's age -- like, ‘That guy is too old' or ‘That guy is too young.’ I think it's (about) maturity level and where they're at in their career. I know their strengths and their weaknesses. ... If a guy doesn't have a lot of experience in a certain area, we can develop (it)."
That has been McCarthy’s mantra – along with promoting from within – since his arrival, and he’ll continue that approach with McAdoo, who has never played or coached the quarterback position. Last year, McCarthy moved running backs coach Edgar Bennett to wide receivers coach after the departure of experienced receivers coach Jimmy Robinson, then shifted assistant offensive line coach Jerry Fontenot to running backs.
NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora first reported McAdoo’s hiring on NFL.com Wednesday afternoon, and an NFL source confirmed the news Wednesday night. The Packers have not yet announced the move, which many had expected after quarterbacks coach Tom Clements was promoted to offensive coordinator last week. Clements replaces Joe Philbin, who left Jan. 22 to become the new head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
A Packers spokesman said Wednesday evening that the team will not announce any staff changes until the full staff is completed.
LaCanfora reported on Tuesday that the Packers had blocked McAdoo from interviewing for offensive coordinator jobs with the Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which certainly hinted at the possibility of McAdoo moving over to quarterbacks.
Rodgers, who was named the NFL MVP on Saturday, said on Tuesday that he would prefer a veteran quarterbacks coach, preferably one with experience playing the position at the NFL level. Speaking on the season finale of his weekly radio show on ESPN Milwaukee and ESPN Madison, Rodgers had a lukewarm response when the possibility of McAdoo getting the quarterbacks job was raised.
“I think that’s an interesting conversation I hope I’m in the loop for,” Rodgers said. “Because going into my eighth season, it’ll be interesting to see what direction (McCarthy) wants to go in, if he wants to bring in a former quarterback with experience to kind of help me with my transition into the middle part of my career, being more of an established player in the league now.
“I’m not sure what the dynamic would be with a coach who hasn’t coached the (quarterback) position before. But Ben is a very talented coach and if they do make that decision I’m sure he’ll make a very smooth transition.”
McAdoo’s focus won’t solely be on Rodgers, however. With backup Matt Flynn set to become an unrestricted free agent in March and likely to be starting for one of the NFL’s other 31 teams, McAdoo must help develop another capable backup to replace Flynn, with No. 3 quarterback Graham Harrell getting the first opportunity.
A Pennsylvania native like McCarthy, McAdoo worked with McCarthy in New Orleans in 2004 and in San Francisco in 2005 as an offensive quality control assistant before McCarthy hired him to coach tight ends in 2006. Last season, McAdoo may have had the most challenging room of any position coach, with three young veterans – fourth-year starter Jermichael Finley, second-year backup Andrew Quarless and second-year blocking tight end Tom Crabtree – along with rookie draft picks D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor.
Both Finley and Crabtree gave glowing endorsements of McAdoo when reached Wednesday.
“I think it’s a great fit,” Crabtree said. “Obviously I’m not a quarterback, that’s not my area of expertise, but knowing Ben’s knowledge of the offense in general and how detailed he was with us as a group with fundamentals and technique. I’m sure it’s going to be much the same at the quarterback position. His knowledge when we’re breaking down a defense for an upcoming game, finding little things that could help us, stuff like that is going to transfer pretty well, I think.
“I can’t speak for Aaron and what he wants. I’m sure he’s probably bummed about losing Tom, but at the same time, he’s getting a great guy in Ben. He knows the system, he’s been with us for awhile. He’s a guy that everyone, Aaron included, is going to be comfortable with. His knowledge of the game and his attention to detail, it’s really unmatched. I think it’s a great move for him and for us as a team. I wouldn’t want him ending up somewhere else if he was an offensive coordinator.”
Added Finley: “I felt it would happen, but I didn’t know for sure. You know how the Packers do it, they like to promote from within as much as possible. Ben is one of those guys, he hasn’t played the game, but he’s a coach who details his work and he’s going to make sure that A-Rod is prepared and knows everything he needs to know. He’s like Joe Philbin: He’s going to prep you for a walkthrough, then do the walkthrough, then go out to practice.”
While Crabtree said he had “no idea” who would replace McAdoo as tight ends coach, the likely candidate is Joel Hilgenberg, a former NFL offensive lineman who was the Packers quality control coach in 2011.
“You know the Packers; they’re going to keep their coaches within the program,” Finley said, adding that he doesn’t know if Hilgenberg will get the job or not. “They like the guys within the program, within the system. I would think it’s somebody who’ll get promoted. I want someone who’s savvy, and like A-Rod said, knows the position.”
Added Crabtree: “The way our group is, we’re a laid-back enough group and young and eager-to-learn group – we obviously don’t have a say in it – but no matter who it is, we’re going to welcome him to the room with open arms. I’m excited to see what happens.”
Ever since Mike Holmgren hired Reid as tight end coach back in 1992, the position has been a pipeline of coaching talent.
After coaching tight ends from 1992 through 1996, Reid shifted to quarterbacks coach in 1997 and 1998, then was hired by the Eagles in 1999. Reid, who just finished his 13th season in Philadelphia, had never coached quarterbacks before Holmgren made the move in ’97. Quarterback Brett Favre went on to win his third consecutive NFL MVP award during Reid’s first year as QBs coach.
Holmgren hired Sherman to replace Reid in 1997, then took Sherman with him as his offensive coordinator in Seattle in 1999. After one year with the Seahawks, Sherman was hired to replace Ray Rhodes as Packers head coach in 2000 and went 59-43 in his six seasons as Packers coach. Philbin hired Sherman as his offensive coordinator last month after the Packers blocked him from interviewing McAdoo.
Jagodzinski was hired by Rhodes as tight ends coach in 1999 and retained by Sherman, holding the job through 2003. Jagozinski returned to Green Bay as McCarthy’s offensive coordinator in 2006 before leaving after one season to become the head coach at Boston College.
And Philbin, who served as tight ends coach in 2004 and 2005, moved to offensive line coach 2006, then was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2007 after Jagozinski’s departure. The Dolphins hired Philbin last month without any head-coaching experience.
And now, it’s McAdoo’s turn.
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.