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Packers’ unlikely playoff push could complicate their coaching search

The Green Bay Packers aren't putting any restrictions on the type of coach they want to lead the franchise, and Aaron Rodgers could still end up being involved with the hire depending on who they target.

Plenty of teams have made in-season coaching changes over the years. Not many have remained marginally viable playoff contenders. For the Packers, an unlikely playoff push could complicate their looming search for a new coach.

Apart from the obvious question of whether finagling a path to the playoffs would enhance interim coach Joe Philbin’s chances at getting the permanent gig is the less-obvious-but-even-more-compelling question of whether the Packers would begin interviewing coaching candidates after the regular season ends, if the Packers find themselves in the wild-card round.

Chances are they would. Given that assistant coaches from teams that earn postseason byes can only be interviewed during the bye week (i.e., the week the Packers would be preparing for a playoff game) and in light of the reality that those assistants can’t be interviewed during the Super Bowl dead week if they weren’t interviewed during the wild-card bye week, the Packers would have no choice but to interview candidates like Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy or Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, if their teams secure a bye.

While it would be understandable for the Packers to conduct sit-downs with other candidates for the coaching job while the interim coach is still doing the job he was hired to do, it would be unusual, if not unprecedented. And it could trigger some criticism of the team for not letting Philbin do his job without distractions. Still, if the Packers decide at that point to delay the coaching search until they lose, they could fall far behind other teams that definitely will be interviewing candidates throughout the week preceding the first round of playoff games.

None of this matters unless the Packers beat the Bears in Chicago on Sunday. If the Packers win, however, the path to the postseason isn’t all that complicated. Green Bay would need to win at the Jets and at home against the Lions, Carolina, Philly, and Washington would need to lose at least one game each, and the Vikings would have to lose two games or the Seahawks would have to lose all three of their remaining games.

(The Vikings host the Dolphins, face the Lions in Detroit, and play the Bears in Minnesota to end the season. A 1-2 finish isn’t out of the question.)

The hardest part of the equation at this point isn’t what others need to do but what the Packers need to do: Win three in a row, including two road games despite having an 0-6 record away from Lambeau Field. If they can win at Soldier Field, however, the prospect of the Packers preparing for a playoff game while also actively interviewing coaching candidate really could become a reality.