Back in late March, it was announced the Detroit Lions would be featured on this year’s installment of HBO’s “Hard Knocks”. Hard Knocks follows NFL’s teams through training camp and documents pretty much anything that will please the viewers. Dan Campbell, head coach of the Lions, has undoubtedly been the star of the series so far with his speeches and terse sayings (“one a** cheek and three toes” for example). Surprisingly, Campbell will start the season as the 2 most experienced head coach in the division, only trailing Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur. The two newcomers in the North will be first-time head coaches Matt Eberflus for Chicago and Kevin O’Connell for Minnesota. We’ll look into each head man’s supporting coordinators and look how each came to fill the role they occupy today.
Green Bay Packers:
Led by Matt LaFleur entering his fourth season as the Packer’s head coach, LaFleur will have to adjust to new offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich. Adam Stenavich, who was promoted from offensive line coach/run game coordinator, will take over the role previously held by Nathaniel Hackett. Hackett bolted for Denver, where he will take over as head coach of the Broncos. Stenavich has five years of coaching experience, previously spending time in San Francisco has an assistant offensive line coach from 2017-2018 before joining the Packers in 2019 as their line coach. Stenavich will not be calling plays for the offense, as that role will be held by LaFleur. On the defensive side, the Packers will welcome back Joe Barry. Barry and LaFleur had previously worked on the staff as Sean McVay’s 2017 Los Angeles Rams, so the familiarity is there. Barry was the Linebacker’s coach for the Rams from 2017-2020 and has 20+ years of coaching experience in the Pro’s. Barry will look to keep steady a defense that finished the 2021 year tied for 9th in PPG. In a much needed move, the Packer’s hired Rich Bisaccia as their special teams coordinator. Bisaccia, who served as the interim head for the Los Vegas Raiders a season ago, was thought of highly as a head coaching prospect after his solid leadership during the Jon Gruden fiasco and leading the Raiders to the playoffs. The Packers desperately need to clean up their special teams (just look at last year’s NFC Championship) and Bisaccia will hopefully be the guy to start the cleaning.
Dan Campbell, better known as MCDC, will be leading the Lions into the 2022 season. Ben Johnson, Aaron Glenn, and Dave Fipp will be by his side as offensive, defensive, and special teams coordinator respectively. Johnson is starting his first season as offensive coordinator and will look to unlock a Lions offense that has brought in some new weapons. Johnson does bring some experience, having spent the last 3 seasons with the Lions as their offensive quality control and tight ends coach. Johnson also spent more than 6 years holding various offensive roles for the Miami Dolphins. Aaron Glenn will be entering his second season as the Lions defensive coordinator. Glenn followed Dan Campbell over from New Orleans when he was hired as head coach in 2021. Glenn will be facing a big year, as the Lions had a poor defense from 2021. This could be a make or break year for Glenn, who will be hoping to keep his role for next season and beyond. Fipp will be entering his second season as the Lions special teams coordinator. Fipp has plenty of experience in the role, having spent 2013-2020 as the Eagles special teams coordinator. According to Rick Gosselin’s special teams rankings from the 2021 season, the Lions finished as the 7th best unit. Fipp will look to continue keeping the Lions special teams an important factor in winning games.
The Vikings will be moving on from Mike Zimmer after a somewhat impressive eight season stretch where he compiled a 74-59-1 record including a 2-3 playoff record. Kevin O’Connell will be tasked with getting this team over whatever hump the Vikings have not been able to get over the past couple seasons (hint: it’s been coaching. They have the talent). O’Connell filled out his staff with coordinators Wes Phillips, Ed Donatell, and Matt Daniels. Wes Phillips, the son of all time great Wade Phillips, will need to help unlock this Vikings offense which seems to have plenty of talent. Phillips has plenty of NFL coaching experience, having been coaching in the league since 2007. Phillips will get his first crack at a coordinator gig, however O’Connell will be the head play designer and caller. Ed Donatell, the new defensive coordinator, will come into the Vikings organization with over 40+ years of coaching experience and eleven of those years as coordinator with the Packers, Falcons, Commanders, and Broncos. The Vikings defense was ranked 24 last year and was particularly awful in the two-minute situations. Donatell will need to resurrect this defense if the Vikings wish to be contending in the NFC this year. Lastly, Matt Daniels will be tasked with coordinating the special teams unit. Daniels has been coaching in the League since 2018, where he has held numerous special teams roles. According to Rick Gosselin, the Vikings finished 15 in special teams from a year ago. Let’s see if Daniels will either get his unit below or above average for next year.
The Flus will be leading the Bears into the 2022 season. The disaster that was the Matt Nagy era is finally over in Chicago, as he was replaced by another Matt. Eberflus will be riding into his inaugural season with the Bears with Luke Getsy, Alan Williams, and Richard Hightower co-piloting. Getsy did not have to travel far, as he is coming in from Green Bay as their former QB coach. Getsy did great things with Aaron Rodger (or I’m thinking he would do good with any QB coach) and the hope is he can help in the development of Justin Fields. This will be a tough season for Getsy to scheme plays, as the offense is void of talent. Williams too did not travel far, as he hails from Indianapolis serving as their secondary coach. Williams coached under Eberflus when he was their coordinator, so the comfort-ability is there. Williams will have some interesting pieces to work with in names such as Trevis Gipson, Eddie Jackson, Robert Quinn, Roquan Smith (possibly), and promising rookies Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon. Hightower will be coming back to Chicago as the special teams coordinator, where he served as an assistant to Chris Tabor. Tabor was a beloved coordinator in Chicago (at least by me) during his time in Chicago, so he will have big shoes to fill. Let’s see how Hightower fills in the role, where he previously served as the 49er’s coordinator from 2017-2021.