25

March

Is this the Year the Packers REALLY Address Special Teams?

Lip service. That’s all we’ve gotten as Packers fans when it comes to the subject of poor special teams play. It’s not acceptable, we’ll get it fixed, blah, blah, blah.

In 2006, Mike McCarthy came to the Green Bay Packers and brought with him veteran coach Mike Stock to coach special teams. McCarthy was familiar with Stock, as they were on the same staff in Kansas City in the late 90s. They hired Shaw Slocum as Stock’s assistant and his first NFL job after 12 years coaching special teams and linebackers at the college level.

Stock stayed with the Packers through the 2008 season, suddenly deciding to retire a few days after the season and only 10 days after Mason Crosby’s 38 yard game winning field goal attempt versus the Chicago Bears was blocked. The Packers would later lose that game in overtime.

In what would be the first of many coaching changes Mike McCarthy would make that offseason, many have  speculated that Stock was given the option to retire rather than be dismissed. Whatever really happened with Stock, McCarthy decided to give the Special Teams Coordinator job to Shawn Slocum.

That’s when things really started to fall apart.

As many of you probably know, Rich Gosselin of the Dallas Morning news publishes the gold standard of NFL special teams rankings. He looks at 22 different kicking game categories and compliles the individual rankings into an overall ranking. Let’s see how the Packers have done since 2006:

2006    32    Stock/Slocum

2007   8       Stock/Slocum

2008   26     Stock/Slocum

2009    31      Slocum

2010    29      Slocum

Pretty impressive, huh?

To Mike McCarthy’s credit, he was not at all happy with the Packers regressing from the now apparent aberration of a good year in 2007 to their bottom 20th percentile finish in 2008. It was time to move the old guard out and start fresh. Unfortunately, he gave the job to Shawn Slocum.

Much was made of this change and there was a noted emphasis on special teams improvement. As I wrote in this article at the time (Packers eying a special 2009 season), the Packers draft and player moves that season all were made with an eye on special teams play. The plan was to stock the roster with new ST players and let the new coach show them the way to better play.