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Lovie Smith Helped Create The Green Bay Packers’ Resurgent Offense

Lovie’s footprints are all over the playoffs

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In what was billed as a rebuilding year, the Green Bay Packers earned a playoff spot in the first year of the post-Aaron Rodgers era.

After starting off 2-5, the Packers won 6 of their last 8 games to secure the final Wild Card spot in the NFC. Not only was Rodgers replaced at quarterback by first-year starter Jordan Love, but the offensive line had to move past the loss of franchise cornerstone David Bakhtiari. Youth was a theme for the Packers offense, and a key to their late-season surge was practice reps finally paying off for a talented but young receiving corps.

The offensive line also came into its own ahead of schedule, with fifth-year tackle Elgton Jenkins the only starter over 26 years old. Despite being blitzed a league-high 215 times, Love was pressured at the 19th-highest rate in the 32-team league. That’s a testament to his ability to get the ball out on time, but it also shows that the line held its own against unusually frequent heat.

Who is the architect of that offensive line?

Why, it’s none other than former Fighting Illini lineman Luke Butkus!

After coaching offensive line for Tim Beckman at Illinois in 2012, Butkus went back to the NFL to coach the same position group for Gus Bradley’s Jaguars. However, when Lovie Smith was building his staff in Champaign for the 2016 Illini campaign, he called up Butkus who once again took up the mantle for his alma mater.

Butkus got to work quickly, recruiting eventual senior standouts Kendrick Green, Alex Palczewski and Vederian Lowe among others. He was also instrumental in developing Nick Allegretti and Doug Kramer into pro players and was one of Lovie’s best hires (outlasting OC Garrick McGee and DC Hardy Nickerson, among others).

Following the 2018 season, Lovie had his contract extended with the expectation that he’d immediately fill the vacancies in his coaching staff with some proven coaches and recruiters and use the bolstered security of the new contract to attract a new wave of talent that could build a consistent winner in Champaign. Instead, the Illini went through the entire winter recruiting period down 4 coaches.

On February 6th, 2019, Lovie had a special announcement for National Signing Day: he himself would be the defensive coordinator and several new coaches would be joining the staff. Among these was his son Miles, bringing only graduate assistant experience.

On Febraury 7th, Butkus left Illinois to become the offensive line coach of the Green Bay Packers. He essentially left his alma mater to go back to the same job he had before. There are quite a few rumors as to why, but it’s not hard to read between the lines and infer his motivations.

Butkus has served as the Packers OL coach ever since, and on Sunday his unit performed sensationally as Green Bay only punted twice in a rout of the Dallas Cowboys.

Jordan Love has many people to thank, but among them is Lovie for pissing off Luke Butkus enough to leave Champaign!

The Packers aren’t even the only playoff team with Lovie’s fingerprints on them, as his steady (losing) hand put the Texans in position to immediately build a contender following his departure as head coach.

The Chicago Bears missed the playoffs for the ninth time in the eleven years since firing Smith.