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Packers Special Teams, Slocum Overcome Crosby's Kicking Woes

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Packers Special Teams, Slocum Overcome Crosby's Kicking Woes

Slowly, but surely, Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum's unit is on the rise.

Arguably his most impressive performance to date came in the 2012 season when his group had to overcome a dreadful season by kicker Mason Crosby, one of the worst in recent NFL history.

Taking a historical look at the performance of the Packers special teams under Slocum shows his units have gone from among the worst in the league to being in the top half of the league during his tenure.

Slocum was hired by the Packers back in 2006, but it wasn't until 2009 when he was promoted to special teams coordinator.

In his first year as coordinator, the Packers special teams were pitiful, no better than under previous coordinator Mike Stock who was essentially forced into retirement following the 2008 season.

Two of the best measuring sticks of special teams performance as a whole come from the annual rankings published by Rick Gosselin of Dallas Morning News and another set at FootballOutsiders.com.

Following the 2009 season, the Packers ranked 31 out of 32 teams in Gosselin's rankings and dead last by Football Outsiders. The Packers led the league in special teams penalties and were last in punts placed inside the 20.

The Packers were barely any better in 2010, essentially winning the Super Bowl in spite of their special teams. They ranked 29th in the NFL by Gosselin and 26th by Football Outsiders.

Winning a Super Bowl can mask a lot of deficiencies. No one was about to get fired after taking back the Lombardi Trophy, but Slocum arguably deserved to go.

If anything, however, 2010 can be viewed as a turning point. That year marked the arrival of punter Tim Masthay, who has helped to stabilize the special team, and no longer did the Packers unit lead the league in penalties. It was in 2010 when Jarrett Bush stopped being a liability and started to become a weapon of sorts.

Finally in 2011, everything seemed to come together, and it came as a result of having some of the best specialists in the NFL.

Crosby had his best season as a professional. Mastahay had statistically the best season by a punter in franchise history. Randall Cobb emerged as one of the most dangerous returners in the game. And Brett Goode was spot on, without so much as a single errant snap.

As a result, the Packers rose to 13th in the NFL in Gosselin's rankings and all the way up to eighth by Football Outsiders.

There was very little turnover from 2011 to 2012, all those same specialists were back, so the same type of accomplishments were expected.

But it was in 2012 that Crosby crashed. His field goal percentage of 63.6 ranked last in the NFL, indeed the fifth-worst single-season performance by an NFL kicker in the past decade.

It can be argued that kicking field goals and extra points are the most important part of the special teams equation because they're the units that put points on the scoreboard, or the inverse, failing to put points on the scoreboard.

That's why the performance of the Packers special teams can be considered a positive in 2012. They still ranked 12th in the NFL by Gosselin (one spot higher than 2011) and 18th in the NFL by Football Outsiders. To be sure, they're far from being one of the league's best, but 2012 was still not a poor performance considering Crosby's deficiencies.

Masthay remained a consistent and reliable punter and Slocum's coverage units pitched in as well.

The Packers allowed only 179 yards on punt returns the entire season, which ranked third in the NFL. They forced 26 fair catches, which also ranked third in the NFL. Both are a big part of winning the hidden-yardage battle.

On kickoff returns, the Packers allowed a long return of 41 yards the entire season. Only three other teams allowed a long return that was shorter.

What the future holds is anyone's guess. The Packers brought in competition to Crosby for the first time since his rookie season in the form of street free agent Giorgio Tavecchio.

Part of what made Crosby such a disappointment was that several of his field goal misses weren't even close, erring wide of the goal posts by a wide, wide margin. That and he went from having his best year to his worst year in the span of one season.

Whether he can regain that form, or even return to merely average, will be a big part of how the Packers special teams performs in 2013.

 

 

 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (26) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

al stevens's picture

One only needs to see the lost look on Slocum's face throughout the game to know how lost he truly is. Worst special teams coach in the league, yet he prospers because of McCarthy's blind loyalty. Disagree? Tell me what positive note worthy accomplishment has he achieved on his own? Who has he developed, what innovative play have they been SUCCESSFUL at, how long have the ST been positive game changers?
You see now, don't you? Slocum needs to go!

djbonney138's picture

Does Jarrett Bush count?

zeke's picture

How do you define "on his own"? Masthay's development, Crabtree's 27 yd TD on a fake FG, and Cobb's TDs on returns are three recent positives.

Nerd's picture

That fake FG was called by Mike, and it wasn't intended to be successful, per se, it was called to set an attitude.

As for Cobb and Masthay, we can thank Ted Thompson, not Slocum.

zeke's picture

"That fake FG was called by Mike, and it wasn’t intended to be successful, per se, it was called to set an attitude."

You know these things how?

Nerd's picture

Because he said so after the game.

But let's give credit for it to Slocum. One good play, his entire career.

Stroh's picture

It was called and it worked! To perfection I might add, in the form of a TD. We don't know who designed the play, usually the ST Coordinator, but Slocums units practiced it, executed it and scored. Even if McCarthy happened to be the one who called it is immaterial, The groundwork was done by Slocum.

Packers are a draft and develop team. And they apply the same philosophy to the coaches and staff. Slocum has developed into a good and maybe better ST Coach. In the end, the only way he's going to be judged is on the rankings. In that regard he is in the top 1/2 of the NFL.

nick perry's picture

It was on 4th and 26! Of coarse it was designed to be successful!

ohenry78's picture

What exactly WOULD prove to you that Slocum is doing a good job? If you can't count Bush's development, or Cobb's development as a returner, or Masthay's transformation from a journeyman punter to the most stable punter we've had since Hentrich, or that Crabtree fake-FG touchdown, what CAN you pick? Does he have to run on the field and make the tackles himself? Please clarify.

leo's picture

Don't forget House's blocked punt against Jacksonville.

Chad Toporski's picture

"Tell me what positive note worthy accomplishment has he achieved on his own? Who has he developed, what innovative play have they been SUCCESSFUL at, how long have the ST been positive game changers?"

You are asking us to disprove a point that you haven't proved yet. In fact, it is impossible to accurately gauge Slocum's performance from our fan perspective, because we know very little of what he's done. Only the other coaches and the players have that first-hand knowledge of the specific influences he's had.

Lucky953's picture

Impressive improvement. Masthay has been the real difference maker. TT will be keeping a list of available kickers all season long. If Crosby goes into a tailspin again, I don't think they'll be patient.

Nerd's picture

Slocum's ST improved, thanks to Ted Thompson, not due to Slocum's skill as ST coach.

Two words: Tim Masthay, Randall Cobb.

As for Crosby, they got inside his head at the Family Night Scrimmage last year when they had that long distance kicking contest.

Please don't do that again, idiots.

Stroh's picture

Tim Masthay, Randall Cobb. That's 4 words... Now who's the idiot!

Every ST unit has to have a Good punter and a good Returner. Masthay wasn't very good initially in GB. He got better. Packers ST were good w/o Cobb, they improved becuz Thompson finally found the missing piece at Returner. Now everyone wants Cobb off ST. IMO he stays the punt returner, but gives up KR to Franklin. Still reduces Cobbs workload, so he has more for Offense. Until someone performs close to Cobbs breakaway and ball security, he stays on ST.

Jamie's picture

So Slocum gets all blame when the statistics, and team and personnel performances are poor, and yet gets no credit when statistics, and team and personnel performances are drastically improved. Got it...

Some people have a real warped sense of reality.

Chad Toporski's picture

Amen, Jamie!

You can't blame the coach and praise the players all in one breath... and vice versa. Whether talking about special teams or any other unit, it will always be debated whether it was the players or the coaches that made a difference.

Chicken or egg?

Mr.Bigg's picture

This is what I was thinking. Slocum was bad because he didn't have the players- isn't that usually the case? and he was not good because somebody else found the players. Does he get credit for development? Does he get credit for inspiration (they do seem to be an energized bunch of dudes). Does he get credit for innovation in his calls and teaching. The Bears had one of the best special teams co-ord when Hester was superman Now that guy is gone and Hester is very human.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

A lot like the 'Obummer' faithful. Everything was Bush's fault in his eight years, and somehow 4+ years into the next administration, it's all still his fault. Can't have it both ways.

Nerd's picture

In fairness, Slocum did request for Ted to pick up Derrick Frost.

So yeah, he was responsible for one personnel move.

Jamie's picture

No...that was his predecessor. I can't think of his name, but the old guy that left when Slocum was bumped to ST coordinator. That guy had a hard-on for Frost and when he became available pushed to pick him up.

I know a lot of people give TT crap for that move...forgetting how frustratingly inconsistent Ryan was while he was a Packer. That guy used to piss me off, so I was happy with the move at the time. Didn't know, as did anyone else just how awful Frost was going to turn out, while Ryan finally put together a few consistent seasons.

Taco's picture

You're thinking of Mike Stock. Didn't he also convince Sherman to trade up to draft BJ Sanders? They forced Stock into retirement and Slocum inherited a mess.

Lou's picture

No matter where you think Slocum ranks as a ST coach, that job is the toughest coaching position in the NFL. You replace a majority of your players every year, mostly with people that did not do that job in college or are older backup players losing skills. As the article indicates the overall ST play has improved after years of mediocrity. My only real concern is Crosby, he is the best onside kicker I have seen, he tackles when he has to, but he dropped to #21 on touch backs and as indicated his misses although not blocked were so bad they locked like they were blocked. Although he has had better seasons his history is he cannot kick under PRESSURE (worst kick ever was to tie against the Colts - looked like a fan came out of the stands to win a prize). With SF and Seattle trending, the Bears and Vikings now more competitive, Crosby could be the Packer's achilles heal in 2013.

Nerd's picture

Who would you sh!tcan first, Slocum or James Campen?

redlights's picture

While last year's performance was unacceptable; few seem to remember that Crosby does do incredible with onside kicks. I believe he'll turn it around this year, but competition never hurts.

Franklin Hillside's picture

The decline of special teams was due to the cutting of Tracy White. It would take any coach a long time to recover from that.

Larry R's picture

+1

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