The firings continue at Lambeau Field, and now it’s the offensive side of things that is getting the pink slips. Along with longtime coach Edgar Bennett, it appears that quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt is among those that were let go yesterday. This means Aaron Rodgers will be working with yet again another quarterback whisperer.
While the buck clearly stops with head coach Mike McCarthy, Brett Hundley’s dismal performance in Rodgers’ absence has cast light on Van Pelt’s abilities to develop (or not) a young QB. And it also calls into question the effectiveness of Green Bay’s famed Quarterback School.
Let’s face it, Hundley was no Aaron Rodgers. He panicked frequently in play action, always veering to the right as he tossed the ball out of bounds to kill the play. He wasn’t accurate beyond 15 yards. And then there was the the simple fact that Hundley rarely found the end zone, and passing TDs were as rare as hen’s teeth.
While it wasn’t entirely Van Pelt’s fault (a lot of this also falls on Bennett for game planning and McCarthy for play calling), the Packers had an inexperienced QB that never seemed to rise to the occasion and keep the team’s chances for a playoff berth alive while Rodgers healed from his collar bone fracture. That was one of the most glaring deficits the Packers had this year. The QB they put behind center was simply no good.
Perhaps it was the organization’s stubbornness to try to play Rodgersball in an Hundley world. But the statistics do not lie. Hundley had a room temperature quarterback rating, and only managed 9 passing TDs during the entire time he was quarterback. Yes, it wasn’t a full season, but when you have a QB that scores 9 TDs in 3 to 4 games, you have a problem with your QB.
So what about this infamous QB school. McCarthy and his quarterback whisperers are supposed to turn lumps of coal into flawless diamonds. Or so we thought. Then again, they didn’t have to entirely reinvent the wheel Aaron Rodgers. But he’s in rarefied air. There was talk of this magical box that created flawless QBs after Matt Flynn put up an amazing game against New England in 2010 and then dropped 6 aerial TDs on the lowly Detroit Lions as season later. But those flashes of brilliance were just that–a quick flash in the pan. And then nothing. And what about Graham Harrell? Or Joe Callahan who is shockingly even worse than Hundley? Or Scott Tolzien?
I’m beginning to think this famous QB school is nothing but a myth. There is no magic formula to create QBs that have a passer rating of 135, can drop 35 TDs a season and have a magic chemistry with the receivers. It only works when you have Aaron Rodgers and you’re taking the credit for his innate talents.
So yes Van Pelt is the one to be shown the door. Not because he wasn’t good with Rodgers. There has nothing to suggest that they did not work well together. In fact, Van Pelt likely had something to do with getting Rodgers out his performance funk the past two years and banish his case of the yips.
No, Van Pelt was the sacrificial lamb because he couldn’t turn lead into gold. He couldn’t turn a mediocre QB at best into a contender. Fair or not, that’s just the way the NFL works. We were all calling for coaches’ heads on platter. McCarthy gets one more show me year before it is his. So this year it is Van Pelt.
So who will replace him?
McCarthy has been fiercely loyal to a fault. He likes familiarity, and may draw from that familiarity to help Rodgers return to the fold next season and raise up his understudies. While I don’t have too many worries that Rodgers–when he’s finally 100% healthy–will be an issue, it is the QB2 and QB3 development that should give us the most pause. The Packers need a QB coach that will not only guide Rodgers back to his level of excellence, that coach needs to make sure that the quarterbacks behind Rodgers are not hot garbage and are actually ready–not just on paper–to stand behind center and not just try not to lose, but try to win and move the team forward.
That is where Van Pelt failed.
So back to that McCarthy need for familiarity. It’s no secret that Ben McAdoo and Joe Philbin are currently floating out there in the ether as candidates for offensive coordinator. Both did amazing things in Green Bay. Both were quite effective quarterback whisperers as well.
But neither has been all that successful since leaving Green Bay.
According to Rob Demovsky, both are being considered for the open offensive coordinator position. I would not be surprised if both return. One as the offensive coordinator (honestly I think Philbin is the superior choice for that position) and the other to return as the quarterback coach. Yes, it would be quite the step down for one of them. One would need to eat a heaping serving of humble pie and not just take a demotion. They were both head coaches, remember. It’s no big deal taking a step back after being canned and going from head cheese to offensive coordinator. But it is entirely a different thing going from head coach to a position coach.
Then again, it’s not every day that one gets to be a position coach for one of the best to have ever played the game. When you look at it that way, it’s really not that bad of a consolation prize.
Perhaps bringing McAdoo or Philbin back to coach Rodgers and his understudies is just the thing the Packers need.--------------