GREEN BAY, Wis. – To the surprise of no one, Shawn Mennenga is out as Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator.
After a promising finish to last season, jump-started by the December addition of returner Tyler Ervin, Mennenga’s unit started slowly and only got worse as this season progressed.
The Packers finished 29th in Rick Gosselin’s annual special-teams rankings this season. Last season, as LaFleur’s choice as coordinator, Green Bay ranked 26th.
Green Bay and bad special teams play is practically synonymous. It’s finished 20th or worse in six of the past eight seasons. That includes ranking 26th in 2019, 32nd in the final season under Ron Zook in 2018, 29th in 2016 and 32nd in 2014. They have not fielded a top-10 unit since 2007.
“We’ve got some young players playing for us,” he said before last week’s NFC Championship Game against Tampa Bay. “It’s not an excuse but I feel like we have corrected and we always preach to the guys that you can’t make the same mistake twice in this league. Once something’s been exposed, it’s going to keep getting attacked for several weeks. You have to put on film that you’ve gotten it corrected. There’s been different issues but it hasn’t been the same issue, so I feel like we’re trying to get those things corrected as best as we can.”
Maurice Drayton, who was hired as an assistant special teams coach by former coach Mike McCarthy in 2018 and was retained by LaFleur in 2019, is the internal candidate. He has 22 years of coaching experience.
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Aside from staying clean from penalties, there was literally nothing for Mennenga to hang his hat on by season’s end.
The strength of the unit was kicker Mason Crosby, who didn’t miss a field goal all season. Even that positive went awry against the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round, when Hunter Bradley’s snap on an extra point missed its mark by several feet. Punter/holder JK Scott panicked and threw the ball to Crosby, who got hit and suffered an injured shoulder. Crosby was fine for the NFC Championship Game, but the play was emblematic of his unit’s play as a whole.
This was the carnage since Week 7: a blocked punt at Houston, a blocked punt (which went forward so not officially a block) at San Francisco, punt-return touchdowns allowed against Jacksonville and Philadelphia, Darrius Shepherd’s fumbled kickoff return against Indianapolis, long kickoff returns against Philadelphia and Detroit, Tavon Austin’s fumbled punt return against Chicago and Jaydon Mickens 45-yard kickoff return in the NFC Championship Game.
There were dodged bullets with an onside kick ruled recovered out of bounds by Detroit, a blocked field goal against Tennessee that was eliminated by a questionable offside penalty, a punt that was almost blocked against Carolina and Jamaal Williams’ near-disaster on a kickoff return early in the second quarter of the championship game.
On returns, Green Bay ranked 30th on punts and 31st on kickoffs. On coverage, it ranked 32nd on punts and 23rd kickoffs.
Drafted in the fifth round in 2018, Scott showed few tangible signs of improvement. While he almost set the franchise record for punting average, he was third from the bottom in net punting. Selected in the seventh round in that same draft, Bradley never became a consistent snapper.
Poor performances on a weekly basis, paired with the lack of development by Scott and Bradley and the inability to get the return game, likely made the decision an easy one for LaFleur.