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What'd They Say: NFC North Roundup from the 2019 Combine

INDIANAPOLIS — A year ago, each of the Vikings divisions foes made a major change, as the Lions and Bears brought in new head coaches and the Packers hired a new general manager.

There was less shakeup in recent months, as Green Bay landing a new head coach was the only big-time change in any of the other NFC North organizations.

Yet as the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine rolls on, and with **the recent news** that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's contract option for the 2020 season has been exercised, Zimmer is now the longest-tenured head coach in the division as he enters his sixth season.

"We're just really focused on ourselves right now, but it's a heck of a division," Zimmer said. "We've got great quarterbacks in there, we've got really good defenses in there and good coaches.

"We're just gonna get out there and tee it up, and let's see what happens," Zimmer added.

Zimmer made his media rounds Thursday, while the coaches and general managers from the other NFC North teams went earlier in the week.

Here's what leaders of the Bears, Lions and Packers had to say from Indianapolis:


The Bears are the defending NFC North champions after Chicago went 12-4 (including a 5-1 division record) in Matt Nagy's first season as head coach.

Chicago will have some staff and personnel changes in 2019, however, as the Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio recently took the head coaching gig in Denver. He was replaced by Chuck Pagano, the former head coach of the Colts.

"Chuck is going to come in now and, No. 1, what you're going to see now is a people guy. He's a guy the players are going to absolutely love," Nagy said. "They're going to respect him because of his knowledge and the players he has been around and how he does things. He has an aggressive mentality, which you know I like.

"But you've got to be smart with it, and that's going to be the fun part. So just like we were starting out in training camp and OTAs last year with some newer terminology, the defense will doing that," Nagy added. "But Chuck has a great balance with his staff of making sure that it's not too much to [keep our guys from playing] fast."

The Bears will also have a new kicker, as Chicago recently moved on from Cody Parkey, who missed 11 combined field goals and extra points in the regular season and the playoffs.

"For us, this is all about production in any position. There are a lot of errors that go on with different positions that don't get seen," Nagy said. "With a kicker, you either make it or you don't. It's clear-cut. So it's production. It's the same thing with coaches. You either win or you lose. If you lose, you're out. Cody understands that.

"And I think the discussions we had, it was a mutual understanding, and I respect that for him. Now, as far as what we're looking for, and this is the big challenge now, is to find that guy who can come in here and make those kicks. It's not easy," Nagy added. "There's no exact science to it, but we're going to do everything we can to exhaust every avenue possible, whatever that means, and I don't know if I have that answer yet. But I promise you this: We're going to give it all we've got."

View photos from the media sessions at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.


Matt Patricia enters his second season at the helm in Detroit after the Lions went 6-10 in 2018.

Patricia talked about the difference in how things run in the organization from last year at this time.

"I mean, I have a lot to improve on," Patricia said. "For me, the second time around with all of this, it's good. Obviously, being in this same exact spot last year, it's kind of a whirlwind. You're drinking from the fire hose there, as they say, and this time we're a little bit ahead of the game.

"It was kind of such a rush last year. We're in the same spot," Patricia added. "That's what's great about the NFL — every part of the season, the months, they're all the same. We do the same process, you just try you get better each year."

The Lions made a change at offensive coordinator, bringing in Darrell Bevell, who spent time in Minnesota and Seattle in recent years.

Patricia said he's excited to add the veteran play-caller to his staff. The two squared off in Super Bowl XLIX when Patricia was the defensive coordinator for New England and Bevell was the offensive coordinator for the Seahawks.

"He's obviously somebody I have a great deal of respect for, playing against him in some of the bigger stages of our game," Patricia said. "One of the things that's great about him is just his experience through the different systems he's been in and he's been able to evolve and adapt many different offenses to fit the quarterbacks that he's been around.

"Obviously, coming up through Green Bay, Minnesota, with the quarterbacks that he's had through those years there and then obviously on to Seattle with Russell Wilson, just really thought from a personality standpoint, philosophy standpoint, very similar to what we're trying to get done in Detroit," Patricia added. "It was a really good conversation. Didn't really know him until I spent a couple of days with him, and everything kind of clicked from that standpoint, so it was great."

Lions general manager Bob Quinn also spoke to reporters about the importance of the combine and how much teams value the chance to get an up-close look at college prospects.

"Huge. We're trying to get guys that are versatile players that are going to have to learn more than one position," Quinn said. "So, it's good for us to kind of get here, kind of put them through some of the questions that they're going to get at our level."

Green Bay

The Packers hired Matt LaFleur, a 39-year-old who spent the 2018 season as the offensive coordinator of the Titans.

LaFleur talked Wednesday about what the past few weeks have been like as he gets settled in Green Bay.

"Yeah, I think it's just all of us getting on the same page, as far as X's and O's. That's something we're all kind of working through right now," LaFleur said. "We're meeting as much as possible, and certainly, especially with me being in position where I am in now, I tend to get pulled in different directions.

"I've just got to make sure, specifically to the offensive staff, that I'm in there making sure we're doing things the way they need to be done," LaFleur added.

The Packers, of course, have quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is regarded as one of the best signal-callers in the NFL.

But LaFleur said earlier this week that he wants to establish a strong ground game in Green Bay to help the former MVP out.

"I think what we want to do is we really want to assemble our offense through the running game," LaFleur said. "I think it takes a lot of pressure off the quarterback, and if we can stay balanced on first and second down, I think that's an advantage for the offense.

"So that's what we want to do," LaFleur added. "We want to have plays that start out looking the same that are different. So that's what we'll try to accomplish here."

Brian Gutekunst, the general manager in Green Bay, also spoke Wednesday in Indianapolis. He chatted with reporters about how the Combine factors into the entire evaluation process.

"It's all a piece of the puzzle," Gutekunst said. "I do think that ultimately it's the tape. You go back to the tape and how they play. What they've done on the field the last three or four years is probably what you're going to get.

"That's the most important thing, is how they play the game," Gutekunst added. "These other things do matter, how they fit into your organization, the culture. But really it comes down to performance."