GREEN BAY — Matt LaFleur’s first staff is beginning to take shape, but the Green Bay Packers’ new head coach still has plenty of work to do before it’s complete.
LaFleur is continuing to interview candidates this week, including prospective offensive line coaches and special teams coordinators.
The Packers made official Wednesday what had been widely reported earlier in the week: Nathaniel Hackett will be the team’s offensive coordinator. LaFleur now has two of his coordinators officially in place, with the return of Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator.
But the Packers are still in the market for a special teams coordinator, as Miami Dolphins assistant Darren Rizzi completed his interview but remains in demand from multiple teams and should have his pick of which job to take, according to one NFL source. The Packers fired special teams coordinator Ron Zook in one of LaFleur’s first staff moves.
Meanwhile, LaFleur’s search for a new offensive line coach to replace well-respected veteran line coach James Campen, who was allowed to leave and was named the Cleveland Browns’ associate head coach/offensive line coach earlier this week, goes on.
A league source confirmed that LaFleur interviewed Wisconsin native and current San Francisco 49ers assistant offensive line coach Adam Stenavich for the offensive line job on Tuesday.
Stenavich, who is a former Packers practice-squad offensive lineman, currently works for 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who allowed him to interview with the Packers after turning down LaFleur’s request to interview his brother, Mike LaFleur, and Mike McDaniel, from Shanahan’s staff. Mike LaFleur is the 49ers’ passing-game coordinator and McDaniel is their run-game coordinator.
The 35-year-old Stenavich, who is a Marshfield native, was on the Packers’ practice squad in 2006 and went to camp with the team in 2007 before being waived on the final roster cutdown that summer. He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Michigan in 2012 and jumped to the NFL before the 2017 season with the 49ers.
ESPN.com reported that the Packers also have expressed interest in veteran line coach Rick Dennison, who could be headed to the Minnesota Vikings to reunite with former Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak. The Vikings hired Kubiak as their assistant head coach/offensive advisor earlier this week.
The Packers are looking for a new line coach after giving Campen the opportunity to interview elsewhere after LaFleur decided to go in another direction. Campen said during an interview on ESPN Wisconsin Wednesday morning that LaFleur wants a line coach more familiar with his offensive scheme, and Stenavich, having worked for Shanahan, and Dennison, having worked for Shanahan’s father Mike in Denver, each fit the bill.
Asked if he would have stayed in Green Bay, Campen replied, “Not with the offer that I had (from Cleveland).” Of course, because Campen was under contract for the 2019 season, he wouldn’t have gotten that offer from new Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens if the Packers had not told him he wasn’t being retained.
“The chance to advance (as an associate head coach) would have been very difficult to turn down, and I would not have done that,” Campen said. “Now, you don’t know those things until someone’s allowed you to go out and seek another (job) or get an interview or what have you. … And I really connected with Freddie Kitchens, big-time.”
Campen said he spent four hours with LaFleur last week before departing for Cleveland, though, and came away impressed with him
“Matt LaFleur, the way he’s handling himself over there and trying to do things the right way with being a first-year guy, he’s doing a really good job,” Campen said. “He’s been up-front and honest, he communicates very well with all the shuffling around and people coming in and out. I’m very impressed with his demeanor.
“Hey, he wants his own people at the offensive line position, and I totally understand that and respect that. But before I got on the plane to go to Cleveland — because I didn’t even know if I could go until they signed the release — I fought like hell to be here (in Green Bay). I did. But I have no hard feelings. He’s going to be very successful. He’s in this position for a reason. He’s going to do just fine.”
ESPN.com reported that running backs coach Ben Sirmans will be back. Sirmans, a former teacher who did excellent work with converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery two years ago and was instrumental in the development of 2017 draft picks Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones, just finished his third season with the Packers.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti will not return under LaFleur — an unsurprising move given Cignetti had no connection to the new coach. Cignetti, who joined ex-head coach Mike McCarthy’s staff last year after Alex Van Pelt was not retained, had worked with McCarthy earlier in their careers in New Orleans.
Another ex-Packers assistant, former offensive coordinator Tom Clements, interviewed with the Arizona Cardinals for their offensive coordinator job, NFL Network reported. Clements was out of football the past two years.
The Packers are also still in the market for a linebackers coach, having parted with outside linebackers coach Winston Moss after he was fired by interim head coach Joe Philbin shortly after McCarthy’s dismissal. Inside linebackers coach Patrick Graham is expected to join the Dolphins’ staff as defensive coordinator under presumptive head coach Brian Flores.
The Dolphins cannot officially hire Flores, who runs the New England Patriots’ defense but doesn’t hold the coordinator title, until his team is either eliminated from the playoffs or after Super Bowl LIII.