GREEN BAY, Wis. — Of all the coaching changes that took place on Mike McCarthy’s staff this offseason, the one that came as the biggest surprise was the replacement of quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt.
Even quarterback Aaron Rodgers claimed recently that Van Pelt’s departure from the Green Bay Packers took him by surprise, saying during an appearance on ESPN Radio’s Golic and Wingo show from the Super Bowl that some of the moves were “a little strange” and the team changed quarterbacks coaches “without consulting me.”
Before that, McCarthy indicated that more than a year ago, Van Pelt essentially made the decision that he would leave at the end of the 2017 season after he opted to go into the final year of his contract rather than take another extension. That would allow Van Pelt to interview for jobs with other teams, and the Packers could not block him.
Van Pelt had expressed a desire to become an offensive coordinator again. He held that position with the Buffalo Bills in 2009, but he not only didn’t get the Packers’ open coordinator job, which went to Joe Philbin, but also didn’t get one elsewhere.
It didn’t sound like returning to Green Bay was an option, so Van Pelt instead took the quarterbacks job with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“When you get to this point, frankly, this decision was made last year,” McCarthy said last month of Van Pelt. “I don’t want to speak on Alex’s, his thoughts, but this is a moment he’s prepared himself for.”
Like McCarthy, Van Pelt was somewhat vague when asked about how things ended in Green Bay. The comments came during an interview with Bengals.com, the team’s official website.
“It’s never easy to leave someplace that you’ve been, especially when you have a relationship with the people you worked with,” Van Pelt told the website. “So it’s tough.”
When asked about Rodgers’ comments, Van Pelt said, “It was nice of him to acknowledge that. I tell my family all the time that we’re never looking back, we’re always moving forward. So I had a great experience in Green Bay, I learned a lot of football in Green Bay. I had a chance to work with some really good coaches, so now my goals are to take everything I’ve learned and move forward and continue to grow.”
The Packers hired former New York Giants quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti Jr. to replace Van Pelt, who had been with the Packers since 2012 and served as Rodgers’ position coach since 2014.
McCarthy, a former quarterbacks coach himself, knows the importance of the relationship between the starting quarterback and his position coach. He said during the 2016 season, “It’s clearly one of the most important relationships in our football program.”
Van Pelt is the only quarterbacks coach Rodgers has had who played in the NFL. Rodgers spoke at length about their relationship for a story about Rodgers and Van Pelt that appeared on ESPN.com during the playoffs following the 2016 season.
“He’s a great game-day manager, giving me exactly what I need and nothing more,” Rodgers said. “He cares about it. The guy puts a lot of work into it. He’s a great coach. There’s no reason why his name shouldn’t be out there for coordinator spots right now, but he’s done a great job for us. And he and I have become very close.”