At the conclusion of the 2009 season, the Chicago Bears fired underperforming offensive coordinator Ron Turner. The Bears were only 19th in points scored and for the third straight year finished outside the top 10. Making matters worse, Chicago had given up a king’s ransom to the Denver Broncos just a year earlier for Jay Cutler, a disgruntled but talented quarterback.
With this as the backdrop, the Bears formally requested to interview Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements.
That request was ultimately denied by the Packers. League rules permit teams to deny permission to interview their coaches in all cases except when the interview is for a head coaching position. This time around, the Packers won’t be able to keep the Bears away. If Clements is ultimately the guy the Bears think can lead them into a new era of prosperity, he will be theirs.
Clements joined the Packers in 2006 as part of Mike McCarthy’s original coaching staff. Originally only the quarterbacks coach, Clements took over as offensive coordinator when that position became available following Joe Philbin’s departure for the Miami Dolphins last offseason.
Should the Bears hire Clements, it would be a significant blow to the Packers. While Mike McCarthy rather than the offensive coordinator calls the plays, the coordinator is nearly as responsible for the weekly offensive gameplan and halftime adjustments. For further proof, compare the offensive production of 2011 (Philbin’s last year) to 2012. While Green Bay still possesses a dynamic offense, Philbin’s loss was huge.
Clements loss could be greater.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has said repeatedly that he owes his greatest debt to Clements for developing him into the player he is today. While it’s unlikely Rodgers would regress if Clements was to leave, it may be difficult to find another coordinator who would command the same respect from Rodgers.
The presumptive “next man up” to fill Clements shoes would be current quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo. Rodgers openly campaigned for a different coach to take over at quarterbacks coach following Clements’ promotion as he felt a coach who had actually played the position could offer more. Rodgers will most likely accept McAdoo as the offensive coordinator, but there exists the possibility that McAdoo may not always be able to properly communicate with the team’s franchise player. That’s not a knock against Rodgers. It’s rare for a player and coach to have such an open, honest, and trusting relationship as the one he has with Clements.
The one thing that may prevent Clements from becoming the next head coach of the Bears is age. Coaching in the NFL is a difficult, stressful profession, especially as the head man. Clements will turn 60 prior to the start of next season, making his window as a viable head coach a small one for someone who has never previously held the position. Clements’ most likely competitors for the job are the much younger Mike McCoy (40), Joe DeCamillis (47), and Keith Armstrong (47). While the coaching profession masquarades as a meritocracy, it’s a far more political matter than many care to admit. Age could be the reason the Bears turn elsewhere.
Whether Clements is hired by the Bears or not, this is yet another sign that McCarthy’s coaching staff will see much upheaval in the coming seasons. No team can have as much success as the Packers without losing their top assistants. Whether it’s Clements, McAdoo, or well-regarded defensive coaches Joe Whitt, Darren Perry, Kevin Greene, and Winston Moss, there will be familiar faces moving on to bigger positions over the next few years.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Lombardi Ave. He has previously written for Hail to the Orange, College Hoops Net, Mocking the Draft, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter: @JBHirschhorn