GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Joe Philbin went 24-28 before he was fired as the Miami Dolphins' head coach four games into his fourth season. Mike Pettine was 10-22 before he was fired as the Cleveland Browns' head coach after two years.
Both tenures were viewed as large-scale failures.
Not to Mike McCarthy.
The coach of the Green Bay Packers, now in his 13th season in that capacity, hired both of them this offseason -- Philbin as offensive coordinator and Pettine as defensive coordinator. It's the first time he's had two former NFL head coaches as coordinators (he had one, Dom Capers, running his defense from 2009 to '17). His special-teams coordinator, Ron Zook, was two-time college head coach at Florida and Illinois.
"We'll have staff meetings and he'll typically ask the coordinators to stay afterward, Ron included, and bounce some ideas off of us," Pettine said. "Ultimately, he makes the decision. He'll ask, ‘How did you do this or how did you handle this schedule-wise, or what are your thoughts on this?' Or, ‘Hey I want to cut this short and add this.'
"I think our experience there, having gone through it, is helpful for him. It was always nice for me back in Cleveland when I had, not necessarily guys that were head coaches, but guys that were experienced in the league that you could lean on. Don't be that guy that thinks you know all the answers or you're not going to be very successful. It's surround yourself with nice people, experienced people, and you rely on them."
It appears McCarthy has done that more than ever.
Given his offensive background, it makes sense that he wants a defensive coordinator with head-coaching experience; he had that with Capers, a two-time NFL head coach. On the offensive side, however, this is the first time he's had that in a coordinator.
McCarthy did not give up play-calling duties, but that doesn't mean Philbin's impact is minimal. Those who worked with both in the past -- Philbin was on McCarthy's staff from 2006 to '11, the last five years as offensive coordinator -- say one of the Philbin's best attributes is that he's not afraid to say no to McCarthy, whether it's during game-planning meetings, strategy sessions or even on game day.
"I think it's important; opposites attract," McCarthy said of Philbin earlier this offseason. "I think we're very different in a number of different ways, and I think it's always been very healthy for our approach to offense."
While half the NFL coaching staffs have a former head coach serving in a coordinator role, only four teams have former head coaches in both coordinator roles -- Dallas (with Scott Linehan as offensive coordinator and Rod Marinelli as defensive coordinator), Cleveland (Todd Hailey as OC and Gregg Williams as DC) and the Chargers (Ken Whisenhunt as OC and Gus Bradley as DC).
McCarthy also has given his coordinators more responsibility in front of the team.
"I do think having coaches with head-coach experience, with that title you have a little more of a voice," receiver Randall Cobb said. "And I think definitely both of those guys' voices have been heard through different things that we're doing."
McCarthy made sure of that from the get-go. In the first team meeting of training camp, he gave Pettine, Philbin and Zook the chance to address the entire team, something McCarthy had never done. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers called Pettine's speech a "near all-timer."
"I haven't been in any of Pettine's meetings, but he gave a speech early in camp that you could tell the way that he spoke that he has that background and he has that leadership capability and he puts the accountability on his guys," Cobb said. "Same with Joe. He was here my rookie year, and you could get a sense of the way that they command the room and the leadership qualities they have."
For Rodgers, the return of Philbin helped soothe the sting of losing quarterback coach Alex Van Pelt, who much to Rodgers' chagrin was not retained. Rodgers won the first of his two MVPs and his lone Super Bowl with Philbin as his coordinator.
"I think he commands the front of the room like nobody else we've ever had here," Rodgers said of Philbin. "I mean, he really does. He has a great presence about him. He keeps guys interested and alert during meetings. He calls on them all the time, and not to pick on them or embarrass them. It's to make sure they're paying attention, and to make sure they know what's going on and they're engaged in the meeting and not doing other stuff or thinking about other things. He makes it fun, though. I mean, Joe really does. He's a fantastic teacher of the game, and a great coach. It's been a lot of fun having him back."
For McCarthy, it also means having two coaches who know exactly what he deals with on a daily basis. This week, for example, will be especially hectic for McCarthy. There's Thursday's preseason finale at Kansas City followed by Saturday's roster cuts and then the start of preparations for the regular-season opener.
"When you're an assistant coach you don't really realize what happens to the head coach once the whistle blows at the end of the Kansas City game, the decisions that have to be made, getting pulled in so many different directions in evaluating this player and that player," Philbin said.
"Mike has always done a great job of this -- treating the players that have been here for so long and invested so much not just shoo them out the door. So, I think I have a better appreciation for the demands of the job and maybe we can set things up so it's a little bit more efficient for him and hopefully -- nothing's easy -- but it may be a little easier."