GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers have a new outside linebackers coach — one who is quite familiar with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and his scheme.
The Packers announced the addition of Mike Smith to their defensive staff Friday evening, reuniting him with Pettine, one of his close friends and someone Pettine has both coached and coached with.
So far, the Packers have only announced two other hires on the defensive side of the ball: Pettine, who returns for a second season as defensive coordinator after being hired by former coach Mike McCarthy, and inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti. Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery and secondary coach Jason Simmons are both expected to return but neither move has been announced at this point.
Smith replaces Winston Moss, who was the team’s associate head coach and outside linebackers coach under McCarthy. Moss was fired by interim head coach Joe Philbin shortly after McCarthy’s Dec. 2 dismissal.
Smith spent the last three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, first as assistant defensive line coach in 2016 and ’17 and this past season as outside linebackers coach. The Chiefs finished the regular season tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the league lead in sacks (52).
A seventh-round pick out of Texas Tech by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2005 NFL draft, Smith played outside linebacker for four seasons in Baltimore, where Pettine was the outside linebackers coach during those four seasons. Smith’s playing career was cut short by a major shoulder injury sustained during the 2006 season, when he was making his first NFL start and on the first play from scrimmage was upended and dislocated his left shoulder, also tearing his labrum, rotator cuff and biceps tendon.
Smith broke into NFL coaching in 2010 as a coaching intern for the New York Jets under coach Rex Ryan and — you guessed it — Pettine, who was the Jets’ defensive coordinator. After another year as a coaching intern, he was promoted to outside linebackers coach in 2012.
"He's a relentless worker," Pettine told the New York Daily News in 2011 for a feature story on Smith. "He knows the system. He's played in it. That's one of the reasons why it was a natural draw for him to come here. He's one of us."
Now retired linebacker Aaron Maybin, a 2009 first-round pick, praised Smith on Twitter after the news of Smith’s hiring in Green Bay. Maybin had a career-best six sacks in 2011 while working closely with Smith.
“Happy for my guy,” Maybin wrote. “(He’s a) great coach with a passion for his players. The best year in my career was spent working with him every day.”
The 37-year-old Smith then spent the 2013, ’14 and ’15 seasons at Texas Tech, his alma mater, serving as a defensive coordinator, outside linebackers and defensive line at different times in those three years before returning to the NFL with the Chiefs in 2016.
Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford, who had a career-best 13 sacks this year, praised Smith earlier this season after Smith took over the outside linebackers. Ford's running mate, Justin Houston, finished with nine sacks.
“It’s helped tremendously,” Ford said. “Mike is great. He is a student of the game. Everything is repetitive. Every day, we do the same thing and we are getting better at smaller things. It is crazy, we’ve played for so many years, and Justin and I talk all the time with our steps being awful at times.
“We are just so athletic and strong we can just get away with it. But now, having that coach, Mike is phenomenal.”
Jason Wilde covers the Packers for ESPN Wisconsin. Listen to him with former Packers and Badgers offensive lineman Mark Tauscher weekdays from 9-11 on “Wilde & Tausch” on your local ESPN station.
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