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Thursday, January 16, 2014
Starter Pack: New blood in the NFC North

By Rob Demovsky

A roundup of what’s happening on the Green Bay Packers' beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Coach Mike McCarthy and his staff typically spend a portion of their offseason studying their division foes.

That task will be more difficult this year because half the teams in the division fired their coaches, meaning the old scheme reports on the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings will be largely useless as the Packers prepare for the 2014 season.

What's more, the coaches those teams hired -- Jim Caldwell in Detroit and Mike Zimmer in Minnesota -- aren’t exactly familiar foes for the Packers.

Both came from the AFC.

Caldwell, who was hired by the Lions on Tuesday, has been coaching in the AFC since 2002 with the Indianapolis Colts and most recently as the Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator. Zimmer, who was hired by the Vikings on Wednesday, has been in the AFC since 2008, all as the Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator.

McCarthy was the longest-tenured coach in the division even before the Lions fired Jim Schwartz and the Vikings fired Leslie Frazier earlier this month. Now, he’s the only coach in the division who has been with his current team for more than one season. Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman just finished his first year. Trestman also was a bit of an unknown, having come from the CFL.

No matter who has coached against him in the division, McCarthy has largely mastered them. He has a 35-12-1 regular-season record against NFC North opponents since he came to Green Bay in 2006. Only New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick (38-10) has a better record against his division foes in that same stretch.

Under McCarthy, the Packers have won three straight division titles and four in all, which helps explain the coaching turnover in the NFC North.
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