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FOURTH IN A SERIES
As an ex-college quarterback at the University of Akron who had an offseason cup of coffee with the San Francisco 49ers in 2007, Packers passing-game coordinator Luke Getsy has found success because he’s been able to relate to his quarterbacks and see the game through their eyes.
“He’s been around the game for a long time, the QB room, the receiver room, then he went down to college and was an offensive coordinator in the SEC, and then came back,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on The Pat McAfee Show this week. “He’s been in our room for three years now, and he’s a fantastic coach, he’s a really good teacher of the game.”
Getsy is in his second stint as a Packers assistant, rejoining the team after one season at Mississippi State.
“I think Luke’s done an outstanding job,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur told Wisconsin media at a Wednesday press conference. “He’s an excellent communicator, great teacher, great team guy. I think he sees the game the right way. He’s got such a great presence about him. Players respond to him, so it’s a great opportunity for him and, you know, another guy we would hate to lose, but would be happy for him and his family if he gets that [oppurtunity].”
It’s one for which LaFleur believes the 37-year-old Getsy is prepared.
“Do I think he’s ready? I think absolutely,” LaFleur said. “I think he’s done a great job. I think he’s a great communicator. He’s got great command. I think people believe in him. He’s genuine. He’s a good person. He cares about people. He’s got all the qualities that you look for, I think, when you think about a leader.”
Getsy’s most recent season as a play caller came in 2018, when one of his college coaches at Akron, Joe Moorhead, became Mississippi State’s head coach and named Getsy his offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.
The results improved as the season went on, but early in the season, the unit struggled. MSU scored just 67 points in its first six conference games, including three single-digit outputs and a shutout. In its final two conference contests, the Bulldogs had 87 points.
The Bulldogs could run; they ranked 12th in the nation in average per rushing attempt, a robust 5.66 yards. Getsy’s offense was a spread attack controlled by quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who had eight 100-yard games that season, including three in SEC games. But the passing game mostly failed to launch; in eight SEC games that season, the Bulldogs surpassed just 150 passing yards once.
In the end, Fitzgerald felt the differences between Getsy’s scheme — which was described by one Bulldogs wide receiver, Osirus Mitchell, as “more complex” — and the one utilized by previous MSU head coach Dan Mullen were too great to overcome.
“I think even people on the team didn’t expect how different the offense would be, me included,” Fitzgerald told The (Columbus, Miss.) Commercial Dispatch in early 2009. “I thought there were a lot of similarities, but in the end there really wasn’t. It’s a totally different philosophy for the game, which is great.
“It’s great to change, but it’s harder than people expected to be, and I think it showed early on.”
Fitzgerald missed the 2018 offseason of work, which hindered him. It will likely be different for the quarterback who works under Getsy if he lands the head-coaching job. All of that work will be necessary, because while some concepts from college won’t translate, one that will is the responsibility the quarterback will have to change to a run call — perhaps with his own legs — if he sees the right pre-snap look.
And in general, one should take caution before reading too much into college play-calling performance. Zac Taylor’s stint as play-caller at the University of Cincinnati was similarly lukewarm.
Getsy’s other play-calling experience came at a pair of Division II schools: West Virginia Wesleyan (2009) and Indiana University of Pennsylvania (2011-12). He moved to the NFL in 2014 after a single season as Western Michigan’s wide-receivers coach, joining Mike McCarthy’s Green Bay Packers staff as an offensive quality control coach before shifting to wide receivers in 2016.
Without extensive NFL play-calling experience, Getsy is a clean slate at the highest level. And perhaps the best move for him could be advancing to full-time play-calling responsibilities before becoming a head coach.
But on Friday, he will make his pitch to the Broncos that he’s ready for the quantum leap.