GREEN BAY, Wis. – It takes a village – or, at least, three draft picks and a free agent – to replace an All-Pro like Davante Adams. Even that village might not be enough.
So, the Green Bay Packers will be counting on the suburbs to help replace the brilliant receiver. Based on his history, the latest leader of the special teams, the esteemed Rich Bisaccia, should be a big part of the equation.
There will be schemes and techniques and drills that must be mastered. Perhaps more than that, there will be a mentality. Will Aaron Jones be returning kickoffs and De’Vondre Campbell covering kicks? Perhaps not. But they worked those phases during the offseason practices. As always, excelling on special teams will be a ticket to more snaps on offense and defense. But excelling on special teams will be the expectation because of its importance to winning an losing.
“You guys have this perception about it’s a thankless job or some guys don’t want to do it. We kind of forget that this is how they make a living,” Bisaccia said at the start of organized team activities. “We’re going to try to put them in a position where they can keep playing football to earn what they’re trying to earn to help us win games.
“We’ve approached special teams in the time that we’ve done it, in the length of time we’ve done it, as an avenue for you to become a professional football player. If you look back at Ronde Barber in Year 17, he was the one on the kickoff team, he came off the edge on field goals, and he played the two on punt return. I think it has a lot to do with the makeup of the person, and really the only ‘I’ we want to hear right now is, ‘What I can do to help us win?’ That’s what we’re trying to do with all our players.”
Bisaccia’s history is strong, especially compared to the likes of Ron Zook and Maurice Drayton. Starting with Mike McCarthy’s first year as coach in 2006, just look at the annual comparisons between Green Bay’s special teams and the units guided over the years by Bisaccia. These rankings are compiled annually by Rick Gosselin of SI.com’s Talk of Fame Network.
2021: Packers, 32; Raiders, 11
2020: Packers, 29; Raiders, 16.
2019: Packers, 26; Raiders, 25.
2018; Packers, 32; Raiders, 19. (Note: The Raiders were tied for seventh in 2017, so they posted a 12-spot decline in Bisaccia’s first season.)
2017: Packers, 16; Cowboys, 5.
2016: Packers, 29; Cowboys, 11.
2015: Packers, 17; Cowboys, 4.
2014: Packers, 32; Cowboys, 13.
2013: Packers, 20; Cowboys, 4. (Note: The Cowboys were 17th in 2012, a 13-spot improvement.)
2012: Packers, 12; Chargers, 6.
2011: Packers, 13; Chargers, 25. (Note: The Chargers were 32nd in 2010, a seven-spot improvement.)
2010: Packers, 29; Buccaneers, 21.
2009: Packers, 31; Buccaneers, 2.
2008: Packers, 26; Buccaneers, 9.
2007: Packers, 7; Buccaneers, 7.
2006: Packers, 32; Buccaneers, 21.
Entering his 16th season as kicker, Mason Crosby has seen a parade of coordinators come and go. Incredibly, he’s been on three last-ranked units but only one group that cracked the top 10.
“I have a lot of respect and a lot of love for Rich,” Crosby said during OTAs. “He’s done it at a high level for a long time as a coach. He’s who he is every day. I love his consistency. He’s going to be the same person every time you approach him and he gives everybody a fair shake. He’s going to tell you how he feels and where you stand.
“He’ll applaud you when you do it well and then he’ll correct it right away whenever it needs to be adjusted. I love just the clear-cut ‘This is what’s expected.’ That’s how I operate. There’s no gray area there. It’s just like, ‘Oh, that was OK.’ There’s a high expectation, and you can feel it in our meetings already, just guys needing to know exactly what they’re doing at a high level and be responsible for that.”
On average, since 2006, Bisaccia’s units have been 11.5 spots better than Green Bay.
The past eight seasons, the Packers have finished last in Gosselin’s rankings three times and in the bottom quartile on six occasions. Bisaccia’s first season as a coordinator was in Tampa Bay in 2002. In 20 seasons, his units posted eight top-10 finishes.
For the Packers, there’s nowhere to go but up on special teams. Any improvement – especially the elimination of seismic blunders in critical moments – will put the Packers in a better position to finally get back to the Super Bowl.