Despite all evidence that Matt LaFleur has no interest in replacing Joe Barry, basically everyone thinks that it’s a foregone conclusion that there will be a new Packers defensive coordinator next season. In stead of writing a depressing article detailing reasons why that may not happen, let’s look at a few off the wall candidates who Matt LaFleur may be interested in.
Matt Rhule’s long-time defensive coordinator through Temple, Baylor, and Carolina is acting as an assistant for the resurgent Bears’ defense this season. Snow’s Panthers defenses were good – maybe better than Ejiro Evero’s 2023 team – and his Temple and Baylor teams relied on a strong defense to win.
Maybe the best testimony for Snow is that Aaron Rodgers made a point of remarking that Snow’s Panthers defenses just played differently than any other NFL defense and it was very hard to figure out what they were doing on defense.
Part of the reason for that is Snow’s 3 man front plus 3-deep safety defense. You don’t see 3-deep safety defenses in the NFL very often. Maybe a team will use a safety as an extra linebacker or to man the slot, but the defense Snow designed in the Big 12 to stop the spread uses three safeties in deep zones to take away the deep ball and disguise coverages. Snow was also known for his unique pressures and the high rate at which he blitzed. If the team wants to go a different direction post-Barry, Snow could be the way to go.
Knowles is in a pretty good spot right now. His Ohio State defense was probably the best in college football this season. He’s gone from Duke defensive coordinator to probably the leading mind in defensive football in about six years.
Like Snow, Knowles made his name developing a defense that stopped the high powered Big 12 defenses while he was at Oklahoma State. That success led him to the Ohio State opportunity where he has evolved the defense again into a hybrid monster that can stop a Big 10 team trying to run with heavy personnel one week and a spread offense the next.
The pitch to Knowles would have to be that he could leverage his unique defense into an NFL head coaching job after a few years and in the meantime not have to worry about the now insane job of recruiting or transfer portaling in college football.
There are rumors that the Patriots want Mayo to succeed Bill Belichick as head coach in New England, but if those aren’t true and the actual new head coach wants to clean house, Mayo would be an ideal coordinator candidate in Green Bay, and, again, one who would call a very different style of defense than Joe Barry.
The Patriots defense is ranked 11th in DVOA this season – despite how bad the team has looked at times – and Mayo is the de facto defensive coordinator alongside Steve Belichick.
The Pats D is built around versatile players who can stop the run and pass. They will run Dime personnel packages that stop the run better than the Packers’ base D and base defense that stops the pass better than the Packers 2-4-5.
Obviously, part of being able to do that is personnel and if Mayo was hired, I’d guess the Packers would completely change how they choose safeties and maybe linebackers going forward. Linebackers would be more likely to be run stuffers who can rush the passer a little and safeties would be more likely to be players who can play man coverage in the slot or play in the front-7 when needed.
Mayo would probably also up the man coverage and blitz rates – remember Brian Flores was also a linebackers coach for the Pats. Speaking of Flores, Mayo reportedly has the same type of leadership traits as Flores and is seen as a future head coach around the league. It would be nice to lose a DC to a promotion for once.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.