Packers Hiring Ex-Vikings Assistant to Coach Secondary: Report

Jerry Gray Packers Hire

Getty In this handout image provided by the NFL, Jerry Gray of the Tennessee Titans poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Green Bay Packers didn’t take long to find the next leader of their secondary.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein, the Packers are hiring former Minnesota assistant Jerry Gray to be their new secondary coach after he spent the past six years in the same role for the Vikings. He will replace Jason Simmons, who departed last Friday to take the same job with the Carolina Panthers on new coach Matt Rhule’s first NFL coaching staff.

Gray has been coaching in the NFL for more than two decades and spent time as a defensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills (2001-05) and Tennessee Titans (2011-13). He has also spent time coaching defensive backs for the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks.

Beyond his coaching resume, Gray was also a star player during his nine-year career and made four consecutive Pro Bowls from 1986-89 while playing for the Los Angeles Rams, who drafted him in the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft. He played his final two seasons with the Houston Oilers (1992) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1993) before retiring, later being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2013 for his standout career with Texas.

The Packers finished the 2019 season ranked 18th in passing yards allowed per attempt (34.1) and gave up 40 or more yards on a second-worst 15 passing plays.

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Gray Fills Crucial Role for Packers

While assistant hires can sometimes fly under the radar, Gray will have a direct impact on shaping the future of the Packers’ defense with some of their youngest and most talented players residing in the secondary, including cornerbacks Jaire Alexander, Kevin King and Josh Jackson along with safety Darnell Savage Jr.

The development of Alexander, in particular, will be important with expectations charting an even steeper climb for him in his third year in the league. He finished the 2019 season with two interceptions after tallying one in his rookie year and upped his passed defended from 11 to 17, adding a forced fumble and fumble recovery as well.

Savage, too, figures to be an enormous part of the Packers’ future after earning All-Rookie distinction in his debut year. Despite missing two games with an injury, the former first-round pick recorded 55 tackles and picked off two passes during the regular season as a complement to Adrian Amos.

Gray contributed greatly to the overall success of the Vikings pass defense during his time on Mike Zimmer’s coaching staff and helped them achieve a top-10 DVOA in each of the past five seasons, according to Football Outsiders. Minnesota also finished tied for third with the Packers with 17 total interceptions during the 2019 season.

At the same time, struggles in the Vikings secondary seemed like an every-week occurrence. They allowed a sixth-worst completion percentage (65.6) and frequently saw some of their bigger names — including Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes — burned on explosive plays, which is something the Packers themselves experienced throughout their lower moments in 2019.

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