Winston Moss: The pillar in the middle for the Green Bay Packers


Winston Moss

AP photograph

If Coach Mike McCarthy had to miss a game for some unforeseeable reason, do you know who would temporarily take over the team on game day?

Not Dom Capers, nor offensive coordinator Tom Clements. Not even the charismatic outside linebackers coach, Kevin Greene.

It would be inside linebackers coach, Winston Moss.

Yes, that’s correct – the other linebackers coach – the one many know little about. He was named the assistant head coach back in 2007—only his second year coaching with the Green Bay Packers – and he has held the position admirably since.

Moss just may be the Packers’ best-kept secret on their very talented coaching staff. In 2011, the Philadelphia Eagles showed interest in hiring Moss as their defensive coordinator, and last offseason the Oakland Raiders had Moss at the top of their list for their head coaching vacancy. He was even flown out to the West Coast for an interview.

Moss was at the center of a movement last offseason where many NFL teams showed interest in the prolific Green Bay coaching staff. However, Moss returned last season to coach his seventh year in Green Bay, and Moss kick starts his eighth season with the Green and Gold with a tall task indeed.

Desmond Bishop (55) is carried off the field after being injured in the first quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Jody Gomez-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay organization is trusting Moss can turn a young inside linebacking group into a solid anchor for the Packers’ 3-4 defense. This will be difficult for the veteran position coach, considering Green Bay released D.J. Smith and veteran inside thumper, Desmond Bishop, this offseason. The Packers will definitely miss Bishop’s playmaking ability and physical presence in the middle of the field. Can Moss train up the next playmaking inside linebacker at the position?

He did it in 2010, when Nick Barnett went on injured reserve with a wrist injury and Brandon Chillar missed time with a shoulder injury. Under Moss’s tutelage, Bishop emerged as an impact player on the field, posting 103 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles, and replacing the void at linebacker left by Barnett. The Packers finished that year fifth in the league in total defense and went on to win the Super Bowl with inside linebacker play being a pillar to the defense’s success.

Moss had to repeat magic in the 2012 season when Bishop was lost for the season in the preseason opener with a serious hamstring injury and top reserve D.J. Smith was placed on injured reserve following an ACL injury suffered against the Houston Texans in week six.

Suddenly, the adversity of the 2010 season was repeating itself in 2012 and the Packers looked awfully thin at inside linebacker.

Brad Jones (59) breaks up a pass to Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) during the second half at Soldier Field. The Packers beat the Bears 21-13. Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Moss held the group together. Under his guidance, Brad Jones stepped up and put together a solid season (77 tackles, 2 sacks, and 4 passes defensed). A.J. Hawk even looked like an improved player from his setback in 2011. Moss challenged Hawk in the 2012 offseason to take the next step and become a leader at the position. Hawk responded by posting 120 tackles and 3 sacks, and appeared to play with more energy and aggression than he did the season prior.

So, who is Winston Moss? Why is he so effective in coaching young talent and getting the best out of his players?

Moss was a standout linebacker prospect at the University of Miami, where he led the Hurricanes to a national championship in 1983. He was drafted in the second round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1987 and started at outside linebacker in their 4-3 defense in his first four seasons in the NFL. Moss demonstrated good pass rushing ability for a 4-3 outside linebacker by posting 5.5 sacks in 1989 and 3.5 in 1990.

Moss also played four seasons for the Oakland Raiders (1991-94), and finished his career with the Seattle Seahawks (1995-97). In his NFL career, he posted 20.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, in 159 starts. Moss was a three-time defensive captain, leading a Raiders defense that went to the divisional playoffs in 1993. Moss never made a Pro Bowl, but he was a reliable NFL starter for 11 seasons.

Winston Moss during his days with the Raiders.

US Presswire photograph

After retiring as a player, Moss didn’t take any time off from football as he joined the Seattle coaching staff as a defensive quality-control coach in 1998. This was Moss’s avenue into what would be a fruitful coaching career.

Moss later joined the New Orleans Saints in 2000 as the linebackers coach. Moss made a name for himself in New Orleans and also made an important connection with offensive coordinator, Mike McCarthy. The two coached together down in New Orleans for five seasons, and in 2006 when Mike McCarthy was hired as Green Bay’s head coach, he brought in Moss to coach the linebackers.

Since then Moss has coached three Pro Bowl alternates (Barnett, Hawk, and Bishop) and has developed young talent at inside linebacker for the past seven seasons.

With the release of Bishop and Smith, many fans are concerned about the inside linebacking position heading into the 2013 season. However, under Moss’s guidance I think the position is in good hands.

Moss is the real deal and has the track record to prove that he’s the man for this difficult job. He has been a consistent pillar for the Packers coaching staff and I expect nothing to change in the 2013 season.

Expect Moss to get the best out of his young players this season and for more young talent to emerge at the position.

Here is a video of Moss describing the 3-4 defense: