GREEN BAY — One week removed from the disappointing end to their 100th season, the Green Bay Packers have gone a long way toward finding their next head coach — both literally and figuratively.
Team president/CEO Mark Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst and director of football operations Russ Ball have crisscrossed the country in their search for Mike McCarthy’s successor, traveling to interview their first round of candidates — with their jet-setting continuing on Sunday.
So far, according to multiple league sources, the Packers have completed interviews with ex-Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell; ex-Colts head coach Chuck Pagano; Packers interim head coach Joe Philbin; New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels; Patriots linebackers coach/defensive play-caller Brian Flores; New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr.; Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell; Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken; Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur; and ex-Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase.
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak was also on the team’s initial list of interview requests, but to this point, the Packers have not sat down with the ex-Titans head coach, one source said. According to ESPN.com, Munchak is most interested in the Denver Broncos’ head-coaching job and has decided to be selective about which interviews he’ll do.
Of course, because the Steelers also missed the playoffs, the Packers weren’t facing as much of a time crunch as they were with McDaniels, Flores, Carmichael and Campbell, all of whom had to be interviewed before the end of the NFL’s wild card playoff weekend, in accordance with NFL rules. Teams searching for head coaches cannot have first interviews with candidates who are assistants on the staffs of the AFC’s and NFC’s top two seeds now until after the Super Bowl.
But, now that those games are in the books, the Packers could interview candidates from the teams that played on wild card weekend.
For instance, Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who was off limits as his team prepared for its season-ending 16-15 playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Fangio reportedly will interview with the Broncos today.
Another coach who participated in wild card weekend is Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, who interviewed with the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, one day after the Colts defense shut down the Houston Texans and quarterback Deshaun Watson in a 21-7 AFC wild card victory.
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It’s unclear if the Packers are done with their preliminary interviews, or if they have a few more candidates they want to talk to before turning their focus to picking the candidates they liked best and bringing them to Green Bay for second interviews. But the Packers do plan to bring several candidates to Green Bay for more in-depth conversations at some point, one source said.
The Packers didn’t utilize a search firm as part of their interviewing process.
Both Gase and LaFleur are intriguing candidates given their experience as offensive-oriented coaches.
The 40-year-old Gase, who went 23-25 in three years in Miami, interviewed earlier with the Arizona Cardinals and the New York Jets. He was in his first year as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator when Peyton Manning threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns and won his fifth NFL MVP award as the Broncos reached the Super Bowl.
Gase followed ex-Broncos head coach John Fox to the Bears in 2015 and helped quarterback Jay Cutler to the best statistical season of his career, as he completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 3,659 yards with 21 touchdowns against only 11 interceptions (92.3 rating).
“That connection was made pretty quickly,” Cutler said in 2015 of his connection to Gase. “I think Adam does a great job of giving the quarterback answers and making sure that we’re in a good position and trying to limit as many bad positions as possible throughout a game.”
LaFleur, meanwhile, was a college quarterback at Saginaw Valley State and worked with Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay in Washington, when he was the Redskins’ quarterbacks coach and McVay was the tight ends coach. While McVay became Washington’s offensive coordinator in 2014, LaFleur went to Notre Dame to serve as the Fighting Irish’s quarterbacks coach, then coached the Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks in 2015 and 2016, helping Matt Ryan to an MVP season. In Atlanta, he coached with Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, now the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach.
LaFleur rejoined McVay in Los Angeles as the Rams offensive coordinator in 2017, but McVay was the offensive play-caller. He moved on to the Titans this year so he could call plays.
“Matt is a great coach,” McVay said after LaFleur joined the Titans. “It is a big loss for us. Matt is a great teacher, a great leader, a great motivator. I think he sees the game from the quarterback’s standpoint just from his history of playing.”