Why is Joe Whitt Jr. Only a Cornerbacks Coach?
It is absurd that Joe Whitt, Jr. is the cornerbacks coach for the Green Bay Packers.
That may sound negative, but I assure you, I couldn’t have more good things to say about Whitt. Entering his eighth season in Green Bay, the Auburn graduate has been nothing short of a miracle worker for the Packers.
Success from the start
After coming aboard as a defensive quality control assistant in 2008, Whitt was the only defensive assistant to survive the coaching staff purge after that disappointing season. He was promoted to cornerbacks coach for the 2009 year, and the following seven seasons have been incredible.
His official Packers bio gives some amazing numbers. Since Whitt took over as cornerbacks coach, the Packers lead the league in interceptions (132) and opponent passer rating and rank third in opponent completion percentage.
Those numbers don’t just come from one or two amazing seasons, either. Whitt’s crew has been remarkably consistent on a year-by-year basis, nearly always ranking in the NFL’s top ten in opponent passer rating, completion percentage, and touchdowns allowed:
And while the Packers did benefit from some of Charles Woodson’s best seasons and a couple years from Nick Collins in that stretch, Whitt has made this happen largely with young players.
A master teacher
In his tenure, Whitt has been tasked with developing seven different cornerbacks drafted by the Packers, six of whom are still in the league. He has also had a significant hand in coaching up Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, two undrafted free agents who both made Pro Bowls during their time in Green Bay.
Whitt’s methods for developing young players have roots in an actual classroom.
“I shadow a lot of high school teachers,” Whitt explained in an interview with Yale. “I like to shadow an AP teacher and a teacher who has special-needs kids, because the students have different learning styles.
“That way, when I’m in the meeting room or the classroom, I’m able to reach everybody in there—from the guys who have a very strong background in football and defensive package, to guys who’ve never really played the position before, and are learning everything from the beginning.”
Where are the interviews?
I bring all this up because of a recent article from ESPN, highlighting how difficult it’s been for minority coaches to get a shot as coordinators or head coaches. This difficulty persists despite the Rooney Rule, which requires NFL teams to interview minority coaches when certain positions become available.
The pros and cons of such a rule can be debated endlessly, but what’s not debatable is this: qualified coaches like Whitt and many others simply aren’t getting a chance to move up.
Whitt isn’t even the only Packers assistant who has seemingly been shut out of potential bigger opportunities: linebackers coach Winston Moss and offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett have spent a combined 25 seasons with the Packers with minimal outside opportunities.
This lack of opportunity has even perplexed Mike McCarthy, who said in January 2015 that he “didn’t understand why our guys are not part of this process.” During that particular playoff run, no NFL team even requested an interview with a Packers assistant.
Now, McCarthy has been slow to allow his assistants to interview for lateral moves, but in the cases of both Whitt and Moss, that shouldn’t be an issue. Neither have ever held a job higher than coaching a specific position, and they’ve each done so to great success. Someone, somewhere should give them a shot.
I don’t know Joe Whitt, Jr. I don’t know if he would even want to be a defensive coordinator or a head coach. But I do know that he’s been about as good at his job as anyone could possibly be, and he should at least be considered for a higher profile position.