Jason Wilde covers thefor ESPN Wisconsin and hosts “Wilde & Tausch” with former Packers offensive lineman Mark Tauscher weekdays on ESPN Milwaukee and ESPN Madison.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – David Bakhtiari did not like what he saw from the Green Bay Packers last season – and not just the team’s 6-9-1 final record.
The veteran left tackle said Wednesday during an interview on ESPN Wisconsin’s “Wilde & Tausch” that some players weren’t held accountable last season when they were late for meetings or the team’s charter flights to road games.
While Bakhtiari was reluctant to agree with Packers team president/CEO Mark Murphy’s depiction of the team showing signs of “complacency” last season under longtime head coach Mike McCarthy, the first-team All-Pro left tackle was clearly bothered by what he considered a lack of accountability.
“The one thing that always rubbed me the wrong way, and I guess it can kind of parallel with complacency, is accountability,” Bakhtiari said. “The one thing that would really grind my gears was guys being late for the plane (before road trips) and no one holding those guys accountable or even fining them for being late.
“(It should have been), ‘Hey, we’re leaving at 1:30. You’re not there, the door is closed.’ That’s how it needs to be.”
When he announced the hiring of new head coach Matt LaFleur earlier this month, Murphy spoke of how complaints he heard from the team’s player leadership council factored into his search for the team’s next coach.
“I think they wanted somebody that would hold players accountable,” Murphy said at the time. “And the other thing that the players talked a little bit (was) how they felt a complacency had set in among some players and coaches.”
McCarthy was fired with four games to play after an embarrassing Dec. 2 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The Packers were 4-7-1 at the time and went 2-2 in the final month under offensive coordinator-turned-interim head coach Joe Philbin.
“I think anytime, if complacency is being talked about, that’s one (sign) someone’s been in a place for too long,” Bakhtiari said. “I’ve always told myself that the day I’m complacent is the day I don’t have a job. So I’m pretty sure if I don’t have a job anymore, I’ve been complacent.
“There’s a lot of things happening outside the locker room that frankly we’re not exposed to. So when things come out that X, Y, and Z have been complacent, well, I don’t know. I’m too busy making sure I’m making my meeting on time, so I’m not (considered) complacent.”
Bakhtiari spoke to LaFleur earlier this month while vacationing in New Zealand with this girlfriend. While he didn’t delve into specifics, accountability likely was part of his discussion with his new head coach.
“There needs to be that fear for guys across the board that, ‘Hey, your job is consistently judged and based on having to perform. That’s the what-have-you-done-for-me-
“That’s one thing I guess when I think about complacency, it also goes to holding people accountable, and that’s where I think I see it more.”
Asked about his conversation with LaFleur, Bakhtiari said he made a strong first impression and that he’s eager to see how the culture changes when the offseason program begins in early April. Because the Packers have a new coaching staff, their offseason program kicks off earlier than teams with returning head coaches.
“We had a good conversation. I was very pleased to have him call me and go over some things. I’m excited to meet him in person and see what he’s got,” Bakhtiari said. “It was just a good conversation – a good opener, a good introduction. I enjoyed just the new, freshness, and I’m excited to see really what he’s able to bring once he’s had enough time to build his coaching staff, puts everything together and we get back to (Green Bay).
“Unfortunately, we have to go back early but we’ll have something new, which could be fun.”