GREEN BAY — Alex Van Pelt appreciated Aaron Rodgers speaking out on his behalf. But the ex-Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach knows he must focus on his new star pupil — Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton — and move on.
Van Pelt was Rodgers’ closest confidante on the Packers coaching staff, having spent the past four seasons as his position coach — the only quarterbacks coach Rodgers has had who played the position in the NFL. And Rodgers, who is entering his 14th NFL season and 11th as the Packers’ starting quarterback, is none too pleased that Van Pelt is no longer on the staff.
The two-time NFL MVP created a stir during Super Bowl week when he appeared on ESPN Radio’s “Golic & Wingo” and vented about Van Pelt’s departure, saying that coach Mike McCarthy moved on from Van Pelt “really without consulting me. There’s a close connection between quarterback and quarterback coach. And that was an … interesting decision.”
McCarthy announced during his season-ending Jan. 4 news conference that Van Pelt would not return, calling it “a personal contractual decision that him and I both mutually agreed on.” Multiple NFL sources said Van Pelt did not sign a contract extension before last season because he wanted to pursue an offensive coordinator job.
Van Pelt landed in Cincinnati on head coach Marvin Lewis' staff while McCarthy subsequently hired Frank Cignetti Jr., whom he worked with in New Orleans in 2000 and 2001, to coach the Packers quarterbacks. Cignetti’s challenge will be to win over Rodgers when the offseason program kicks off in mid-April.
Speaking in an interview with the Bengals’ team website, Van Pelt didn’t delve into specifics about leaving the Packers.
“It’s never easy to leave someplace that you’ve been, especially when you have a relationship with the people you worked with,” Van Pelt told the website. “So it’s tough.”
Asked specifically about Rodgers’ comments, Van Pelt emphasized the importance of focusing on Dalton, who has had his ups and downs in his seven years in the league, all as the Bengals’ starter.
“It was nice of (Rodgers) to acknowledge that,” Van Pelt said. “(But) I tell my family all the time that we’re never looking back, we’re always moving forward. So I had a great experience in Green Bay, I learned a lot of football in Green Bay. I had a chance to work with some really good coaches, so now my goals are to take everything I’ve learned and move forward and continue to grow.”
The Bengals are 63-44-2 in Dalton’s 109 career regular-season starts but have never won a playoff game during his tenure. In regular-season play, he’s thrown 167 touchdowns against 93 interceptions for a career passer rating of 88.7. Van Pelt said he believes Dalton “has potential to be an elite player in the league” but said that he won’t coach him exactly the same way he coached Rodgers.
“I think you play to the player’s strengths,” said Van Pelt, whose relationship with Bengals Lewis dates back to the University of Pittsburgh, where Van Pelt was the starting quarterback when Lewis was on head coach Paul Hackett’s staff. “Obviously Aaron can do a lot of things within the pocket to escape the pocket and have great success extending the plays. That’s just one part of his game. Where maybe we would emphasize that more in a Green Bay situation, whereas Andy is more of a pocket passer.
“I definitely think there is a certain way to train the quarterbacks, and the way they’ve done it with Green Bay in the past, they’ve had a lot of success with it. So I’d like to carry over some of those things that we would do here with Andy, and then mix in some things that suit him.”