7

March

Packers to Let Ryan Grant Test Free Agency

The Packers will let RB Ryan Grant test the free agent waters but still have interest in retaining the 29-year-old.

The Green Bay Packers appear content in letting Ryan Grant enter free agency without a new contract.

But that doesn’t mean the team won’t have an interest in bringing back the veteran running back once the market is set, says Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Packers have told RB Ryan Grant that they are interested in bringing him back, but they aren’t expected to make an offer before free agency starts, and Grant will explore other options starting March 13.

Alan Herman, who represents Grant, told Silverstein that the door is still wide open for Grant to return to Green Bay.

He will hit free agency. But they gave us an indication they would like to have him back. I have to sit down with Ryan in the next few days and see what he wants to do. I haven’t talked to him about it yet. I’m sure he’s open to that (returning). On the other hand, being a free agent is enticing.

There may not be a huge market for a 29-year-old running back who doesn’t have an elite trait.

However, both the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks have history with Grant at the coaching or front-office level and could desire a backup running back for their respective starters.

Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was Grant’s offensive coordinator for his entire career in Green Bay and knows everything the veteran back could bring in a secondary role. Miami appears set at running back with 1,000-yard rusher Reggie Bush and youngster Daniel Thomas, however.

Seahawks GM John Schneider was a part of the Packers front office that sent a future sixth-round pick to the New York Giants for Grant back in 2007. Seattle just inked Marshawn Lynch to a multi-year deal but might have a need for a veteran backup.

Overall, it seems unlikely that any team would be willing to offer Grant a big contract and starting potential. When Grant gets to free agency and finds out that truth, returning to Green Bay might be his best situation.

As Silverstein states, Grant’s desire to play in a Super Bowl could also “affect his decision.” The Packers likely represent one of the top options for Grant to get to a Super Bowl.

Injuries kept Grant out of the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

20

January

Miami Dolphins Hire Packers Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin To Be Next Head Coach

The Miami Dolphins have hired Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin as their next head coach.

According to both Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN, the Miami Dolphins will hire Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin to be their next head coach. Terms of his contract are reportedly already agreed upon and a press conference is slated for Saturday.

Philbin, who has held the role of offensive coordinator since 2007 in Green Bay, beat out Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Miami secondary coach and assistant head coach Todd Bowles for the position. All three men went through two rounds of interviews with GM Jeff Ireland and owner Stephen Ross.

Some, including ESPN’s John Clayton, figured McCoy was the front runner after the final round of interviews were completed. Philbin was a favorite of Ross, and that might have trumped any hiring that Ireland wanted to make.

Philbin’s hiring completes what has been a whirlwind couple of weeks for the 27-year coaching veteran. While in the process of interviewing in both Kansas City and Miami, Philbin’s 21-year-old son Michael fell through the ice on the Fox River in Oshkosh and drowned. That tragedy also conincided with the Packers preparation for their Divisional Round game against the New York Giants, a contest in which the Packers lost 37-20 last Sunday. Philbin was present at the game and served in his full capacity despite Michael’s funeral being on the Friday before the game.

Now, Philbin will take over a franchise that has been through several coaches and quarterbacks over the better part of the last decade. The Dolphins finished 6-10 in 2011.

Philbin also becomes the first of what could be many Packers assistant coaches to move on from their time in Green Bay. It’s entirely possible that Philbin could take several assistants from Mike McCarthy’s staff with him to Miami, including quarterbacks coach Tom Clements. However, the Packers may also want to promote Clements to their offensive coordinator position that is now vacant with Philbin’s departure. Either way, buckle up—because we could see a good chunk of the Packers coaching staff in other locales next fall. The Oakland Raiders, who are now run by former Packers director of personnel Reggie McKenzie, have yet to make their own head coaching hire.

16

January

Packers vs. Giants: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 37-20 Loss to New York

The Giants pointed their ship to the NFC Championship Game with a 37-20 win over the Packers. (Photo: Darron Cummings, GBPG)

The Green Bay Packers (15-2) picked an awful time to play their worst game of the 2011 season, and the New York Giants more than capitalized on it Sunday in knocking the defending champions out of the playoffs with a 37-20 win at Lambeau Field in the NFC Divisional Round.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. Capping a tough week

There was some this week, including Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who opined that the Packers could be more focused on Sunday in light of the terrible tragedy that struck that the Packers family early this week. But maybe those people underestimated how difficult the transition could be from a Friday funeral to a Sunday football game.

The Packers made their fair share of mental mistakes on the offensive side of the football—dropped passes, missed throws, back-breaking fumbles—that were very uncharacteristic of the Packers in 2011. Could that have partly been due to a week of grieving for the Philbin family and missing their offensive coordinator? Professional football players get paid a lot of money to separate the two, but these guys are human beings, not football robots.

2. Rusting the machine

Hindsight is 20/20, but you’d have to think Mike McCarthy will do some self-reflection on his decision to sit starters during the final week of the season. His team Sunday looked like one who hadn’t played a full game together in three weeks. The Packers offense, in particular, was never able to find the kind of rhythm that seemed so easy to achieve during the regular season.

Depending on who you ask, the Packers dropped five to eight passes on Sunday. Every single one of them was a momentum-killer. They also lost three fumbles—as many as they had all season—on their way to a season-high four turnovers. Finally, and maybe most importantly, the quarterback was far from his best on a night when the Packers needed him to be.

Would playing the starters in Week 17 have made a difference in any of those? Maybe, maybe not. But the Packers certainly looked like a rusty football team on Sunday. Execution all-around was in short supply.

3. More of the same

13

January

2012 NFC Divisional Playoffs: Green Bay Packers vs. New York Giants Preview: Moving On

After a very difficult and emotional week, the Green Bay Packers have a playoff game to play.

With the passing this week of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin’s son Michael, the Packers had a tough go during the lead up to  a game they must win or see their outstanding 15-1 season come to an end.

Throw in the unfortunate trash talk thrown in the direction of Lambeau Field by their opponents, the New York Giants, and the Packers have had one of the most unusual weeks before a playoff game in franchise history.

Last week, the Giants defeated the Atlanta Falcons 24-2 at home in an NFC Wild Card matchup.  The Giants played their best defense of the season with the only points for the Falcons coming from an Eli Manning intentional grounding penalty while he was in his own end zone.  The Giants gained a lot of confidence from that performance and led some of their players to guarantee victory against the team that finished the regular season with the best record in the league.

Let’s take a look at New York.

Key Giants Players

QB Eli Manning Manning is a very streaky quarterback.  When he’s hot, he’s incredibly tough to beat and especially so for a struggling Packers defense.  When Manning is off, however, he’s a gift that keeps on giving to opposing defenses.

It’s definitely been more of the good Manning than the bad this season and with a powerful pass rush on defense, Manning can relax and not feel like the weight of the entire team is on his shoulders.  He’s developed a rapport with his receivers and this was on display in the Packers’ 38-35 squeaker of a victory in New York earlier in the regular season.

WR Victor Cruz Perhaps no one else has come out of nowhere this season like Cruz has.  After playing in only three games last season thanks to a hamstring injury, Cruz exploded on the scene this season catching nine touchdowns for 1,536 yards, a Giants franchise record.

Throw in the talents of Mario Manningham, and the Giants have a spectacular one-two punch at receiver.  While they’re not quite there with the Packers receiving corps yet, the Giants can give any struggling secondary a fit and the Packers do fit into that category unfortunately.

11

January

McCarthy: Emotional but Healthy Packers Ready for Giants

You could hear it in his voice, you could see it in his face.

The emotion and heartbreak following the sudden death of Michael Philbin, son of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, was on full display as Packers head coach Mike McCarthy addressed the media Wednesday afternoon.

McCarthy got choked up while trying to answer several questions about a tragedy that has visibly shaken the Packers family to its very roots.

“It gives everyone a punch in the heart of reality,” McCarthy said, attempting to hold off tears the best he could.

This was no act, mind you—the Packers typically unyiedling head coach is clearly feeling the weight of a tragedy that is hitting home in a big way.

And as you’d expect, emotion is going to play some kind of factor in the Packers Divisional Round matchup with the New York Giants on Sunday.

Asked if tragedy could result in a more focused team, McCarthy thought it could.

“I think it can,” McCarthy said. “It would be premature for me to comment on it, but the energy was outstanding today, the focus was outstanding.”

McCarthy continued, “It hits you hard how blessed we are to have this opportunity professionally.”

McCarthy was unsure if Philbin would be with the Packers on Sunday. He said he’ll return “when he’s ready.” Philbin was with his family on Wednesday away from the Packers practice facility.

At this point, it’s anyone’s guess if Philbin will return. No one would blame him if he can’t go Sunday.

The Packers’ roster, at the very least, should be the healthiest its been all season Sunday against the Giants. No player missed practice Wednesday, and the limited participants—Randall Cobb (groin), Chad Clifton (hamstring) and Robert Francois (knee)—were all close to being full.

“I feel very good about the health of our football team,” McCarthy said.

Running back James Starks (ankle) returned, and Greg Jennings (knee) was a full participant. Both are expected to play.

The Packers face the Giants this Sunday at 3:30 CT from Lambeau Field.

——————

Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

9

January

Son of Packers OC Joe Philbin Found Dead in Fox River -

Authorities in Oshkosh have found the body of 21-year-old Michael Philbin, the son of Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin who had been missing from the area since 2 a.m. Sunday morning. Philbin was visiting friends at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh but hadn’t been heard from or seen since late Saturday night.

Earlier this afternoon, a body matching his description was recovered from the Fox River. Multiple media outlets have reported that the body has indeed been identified as Philbin’s son and that Packers players have been notified.

Just like that, with the snap of a finger, football in the Packers family becomes a secondary issue.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy somberly addressed the media at around 3:00 p.m., an hour or so before confirmation of a positive identification had been made. McCarthy said the Packers organization has a “family first philosophy” that will be respected in this case. Media access to the Packers locker room wasn’t made available as standard after McCarthy’s Monday press conference.

If Philbin has to miss Sunday’s game with the New York Giants—and no one would even think to blame him if he did—McCarthy also said the Packers have a contingency plan in place to deal with his absence. Philbin was in Oshkosh Monday.

Philbin has been with the Packers organization since 2003, when he was hired as an offensive line assistant. He was promoted to offensive line coach in 2006 and later in ’07 to offensive coordinator. Philbin had been in Miami and Kansas City over the last week interviewing for head coaching positions.

Philbin and his wife, Diane, have five other children.

The Packers play the New York Giants at 3:30 on Sunday.

We at AllGreenBayPackers.com—and I speak for everyone involved—would like to wish the Philbin family our dearest condolences during this time of crisis. 

7

January

Legacies of Mike McCarthy, Ted Thompson Coming Into Focus As Green Bay Packers Assistants Draw Interest Around The NFL

If someone were to ask either Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson or head coach Mike McCarthy about their legacies, both men would likely scoff at the question and say that they’d rather wait until retirement to reflect on that and instead say they are focused on the present.

They’re right.  Still, with the Packers coming off a regular season in which they won the most games and scored the most points in franchise history as well as making a push for a second consecutive world title, the legacies of both men are coming into focus.

There is no further proof of this than the interest both Thompson and McCarthy’s assistants are drawing around the NFL.  Before last season, I wrote an article wondering if McCarthy would soon be the next head coach to form a “coaching tree” like Bill Walsh and Mike Holmgren.  Both men had assistants go on to long and successful head coaching careers and with McCarthy’s development of Aaron Rodgers, it seemed like a distinct possibility.

Well, with the Packers in position to win a second straight Super Bowl with one of the most potent offenses in the league such a tree is indeed beginning to sprout.

The first example is offensive coordinator Joe Philbin.   Whenever an offense breaks all sorts of records, the offensive coordinator naturally is the one people begin to look at.  Philbin has drawn interest from the Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams.

However, Philbin is working for an offensive minded coach in McCarthy who also is the play caller.  Given how much of a hand McCarthy has in the Packers offense, that could work against Philbin.

The more intriguing candidate on the Packers staff may be quarterback coach Tom Clements.  Rodgers often publicly has credited Clements as well as McCarthy for how he has become the best quarterback in the NFL.   Throw in the incredible play of Matt Flynn in Week 17 against the Lions and Clements could be a hot commodity in the offseason.

Let’s not ignore Thompson either.  His masterful building of the Packers has made the franchise a model for the rest of the league. Thompson and his team have proven you don’t need a lot of splashy free agent signings and can create a championship (and perhaps dynasty)-caliber team mainly through the draft.