Packers fire Joe Whitt

Secondary coach sent packing after 11 years

Mike Clemens
January 12, 2019 - 12:15 pm

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Green Bay, WI - During a national network interview on CBS Sports Radio Friday, new Packers head coach Matt LaFleur announced that the team's defensive coordinator Mike Pettine would return in 2019.

Hours later the Packers senior secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr. was fired, according to the Milwaukee Journal - Sentinel. 

Whitt, 40, is from Auburn, Alabama, where he played wide receiver for the Auburn University Tigers. His father, Joe Sr. is a linebackers coach there. 

Whitt came to Green Bay in 2008, after spending a season as an assistant defensive backs coach for the Atlanta Falcons. 

In 2010, Whitt converted an undrafted, speedy rookie wide receiver into the starting cornerback opposite Tramon Williams (also undrafted) into a tandem that helped the Packers win Super Bowl XLV.

That was Sam Shields. 

In recent seasons, Whitt has had to overcome an endless stream of injured players, top draft picks like Damarious Randall and Quinton Rollins that failed to perform, or undrafted players that could never match the success of Williams and Shields. 

In 2018, the Packers went through 14 players that lined up in the in secondary, mainly due to injuries, the most in the NFL. 

Whitt has his fans, including former Packer defensive back/safety Charles Woodson who posted on Twitter, “Go through your history of the Packers  secondary the last five years and count the injuries! Hard to coach players that are not available and he still did a phenomenal job." 

Some of us who cover the team thought at one time Joe Whitt may replace Dom Capers as defensive coordinator, or be hired elsewhere in the league in that role. 

Last month during a press conference Whitt made it clear he has aspirations to continue to grow in the NFL. But he has also always been focused on the task at hand, getting defensive backs, often rookies,  ready to cover the likes of Julio Jones.

Whitt was always direct, and open in his assessments of his players. When speaking to reporters he said the same things he told the players. He has a positive, but pointed style of coaching players through drills on the practice field. Nearly every Packers player in his group hold him in high regards, including Shields, now with the Rams. 

"Joe? That's my guy. If it wasn't for Coach Whitt, I wouldn't be here today. Plain and simple," Shields told me during an interview at the Rams practice facilities last October before they hosted the Packers at the LA Coliseum. 

Whitt becomes the fourth Packers assistant coach fired, including special teams coordinator Ron Zook, receivers coach David Raih, and linebackers coach Winston Moss dismissed last month. Reports are offensive coordinator Joe Philbin has been allowed interview with other teams as other offensive coordinator candidates arrive to meet with the new head coach LaFleur. 

Whitt was promoted to "Pass Defense Coordinator" in what was McCarthy's last season in Green Bay. 

He's now a free agent to pursue his goal of becoming an NFL defensive coordinator.