GREEN BAY – Alex Van Pelt might’ve spent the last six seasons with the Green Bay Packers had he not decided in January of 2006 that he wasn’t ready for the opportunity.
Quarterbacks coach was actually the last position coach Mike McCarthy filled on the offensive staff after he was hired, and at the time, Van Pelt was expected to get the job. Van Pelt had just been hired as an assistant to Turner Gill at the University of Buffalo at the time, and all McCarthy would say then was that Van Pelt was "under consideration."
As it turned out, while McCarthy was interested in hiring his former pupil at the University of Pittsburgh, Van Pelt – knowing he would have been coaching future Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre and developing his heir apparent, 2005 first-round draft pick Aaron Rodgers – decided not to interview for the position. McCarthy ended up hiring Tom Clements, whom Rodgers credits as the person who has influenced him as a player more than anyone else.
Six years later, McCarthy got his man – to be the Packers’ running backs coach.
“I know there was interest. I was never officially interviewed,” Van Pelt said Monday at a media availability with him, quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo, tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot and Clements, who has been promoted to offensive coordinator. “Mike reached out, and it was more me not thinking I was ready at that point. I didn’t want to come here and do a bad job. I was just getting into coaching at that time, and … I just decided that I was probably not the right guy for him at that time.”
Van Pelt, who spent the past two seasons as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks coach, played quarterback in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills from 1995 through 2003. After retiring as a player, he coached quarterbacks for NFL Europe’s Frankfurt Galaxy in the spring of 2005, then volunteered as the Bills’ offensive quality of control coach that fall.
He took a job with the University of Buffalo as quarterbacks coach/pass coordinator, and while he turned down an interview with McCarthy in January 2006, he stayed close to home and took a spot on the Bills’ staff instead. He spent four seasons in Buffalo, working as the quality control coach in 2006 and ’07, the quarterbacks coach in ’08 and the offensive coordinator in ‘09 before catching on with Tampa Bay.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Van Pelt said. “I’m just happy to be able to say I’m on (McCarthy’s) staff now. I really am.”
Van Pelt was a four-year starter at the University of Pittsburgh, where he holds school career records for passing yards and completions. McCarthy was an offensive assistant at the University of Pittsburgh from 1989 through '91, and the two have been friends ever since. They were both mentored by veteran offensive coach Paul Hackett with the Panthers and thus have similar offensive philosophies.
“As I told my wife, Paul’s like my father in football, Mike’s like my big brother in football,” Van Pelt said. “It’s good to get back into that group. Paul Hackett, I have a lot of respect for him as a coach, as a quarterback coach taught me everything I knew and obviously did a great job tutoring Mike as well. The whole family is happy.”
Van Pelt said he and McCarthy have remained in contact over the years but the two didn’t know if they’d ever get the chance to work together. Van Pelt was reportedly being considered for the New York Giants’ open quarterbacks coaching job.
“I think everything happens for a reason,” McCarthy said. “On a personal level, it’s exciting to bring Alex Van Pelt into our organization. He brings a lot. There is a personal relationship. Was he a part of the conversation (in 2006)? Absolutely. Just like a number of other individuals. This is the way it goes. Our business is about timing sometimes. At the end of the day, it’s about the right fit from my perspective, and Alex is the right fit for us.”
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