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Should Slocum Stay?

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Should Slocum Stay?

Perusing the end-of-season reviews and grades, it's easy to see where the biggest weakness on your Super Bowl XLV Champions resided.

Shawn Slocum's special teams squads improved slightly over their performance in 2009 - mostly because they had nowhere to go but up after a dismal showing last season.

Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News ranked the Packers 29th out of 32 teams in his annual review of Special Teams units. Interestingly enough, the last NFL champion, the New Orleans Saints, had the exact same rating when they won the Super Bowl.

So does that speak to how unimportant special teams really are, despite the clichéd saying that all three phases of the game are important? Doubtful. More probably, the Saints and Packers were good enough in most every other area of the game to overcome the mediocre play of their special teams.

From Bob McGinn:

Certainly the Packers were better disciplined and organized than they had been in coach Shawn Slocum's first season as coordinator in '09. They trimmed their horrendous penalty total of 32 in 17 games to 22 in 20 games, which was their best penalty rate since '06. Slocum's yearlong battle to curb holding penalties succeeded (three this season compared with 14 in '09). The Packers found a capable punter in Tim Masthay, who had three phenomenal games. Despite not having a legitimate return man, the Packers did tie for 10th in average starting position (27.6). On the other hand, they ranked 31st in opponents' starting position (29.8). Thanks largely to two fumbles by Jordy Nelson in one game (home against Detroit), the units had their poorest turnover differential (minus-1) since '06. Tramon Williams, who didn't lose any of his five fumbles, swung the Week 16 struggle against Chicago toward the Packers with a 41-yard punt return. The best core player was enthusiastic, tough Jarrett Bush.

I know fans want Slocum gone. It's hard not to when you see things like an offensive lineman returning a kickoff down to the five yard line. But the unit does seem to have improved from 2009 to 2010. Should McCarthy give Slocum another year to see if he can continue the improvement?

Or should McCarthy start over? I know continuity is of greater importance to any football team than most fans realize but it should be noted that the Patriots, number one in Gosselin's rankings, were under the tutelgae of new coordinator Scott O’Brien. Now, O'Brien had coached special teams before - he was actually Belichick's special teams coordinator back in Cleveland. But it was his first year with this team.

Maybe that's what the Packers need to do - inject some new life into the unit by bringing in new ideas and new schemes. That said, the improvement noted by McGinn above could very well signal that things are headed in the right direction.

Teams don't stand still, as we all know. They are either getting better or getting worse. If McCarthy chooses to keep Slocum another year, which are the Packers doing?

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (37) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Josh's picture

Are the improvements merely a return to the mean or is there actual improvement? A ST coach isn't responsible for the Punter having a strong leg. Is he given a shot at players on the entire roster, does GB have ST-specific players, or is it use who we give you system. Things you can say, what were the innovations in using gunners that allowed the team to cover? Does he pull guys who don't make it down there first?

packeraaron's picture

All good questions and I honestly have no idea what the answers are.

lebowski's picture

I am so tired of seeing our kickoff team squib kick because they can't cover, with opponents starting consistently at the 35-40 yard line. As far as our returners, I wonder if the problem is not having a legit return man, or horrible blocking schemes. You would think Pat Lee, Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, or Jordy Nelson are athletic enough to be able to break a long return if they had a hole, any hole. Bad blocking, bad tackling... needs to change next year.

PackersRS's picture

This.

Our whole ST phylosophy is geared towards not committing mistakes instead of making plays (emphasis on reliable hands instead of playmaking ability on returns, as well as on hangtime instead of distance on punts and kickoffs), yet they still committed plenty.

Ammount of injuries can somewhat explain this season (not good enough excuse for me), but it doesn't 3 putrid years of ST.

They did come through in a few games (GB vs CHI, Jets game), but I have to credit Masthay in those more than I do Slocum.

NoWay Jose's picture

Kind of awkward to can anybody after a Super Bowl win, isn't it? Still, I would say that this might be the rare case where it is warranted.

The fact that we could never even settle on a guy to return kickoffs really got to me. To be experimenting with a guy like Starks returning kickoffs in critical playoff games was just unbelievable.

Moreover, I tend to suspect most of the "improvement" this years in the ST rankings stems directly from Tim Masthay's performance, rather than more general improvements.

Bad Knees's picture

Change is needed.

PackersThad's picture

You literally could not be any worse than the special team was last year. And this year, they only improved a little bit, but time after time, we would give up a big return out to the 30 or 40 on kickoffs.

I cannot see how he can improve the team more. I think it is time for someone else.

Chris's picture

I disagree with the haters. Give the man credit for righting the ship when half of his teams were on Injured Reserve. He needs another chance. With Masthay's marked improvement at the end of the season plus the possibility of finding a kick returner in the draft, I think we'll be OK next year.

Nerdmann's picture

Dom Capers lost alot of players too. How well did his squad hold up?

redlights's picture

Yeah, after much indecision, I would say to keep him. For starters, his fill-ins were of lower caliber than those that Capers had. Second, with the uncertainty of the CBA, continuity is a plus (except in some situations). third, is anyone else going to be better? Much like the running game, the lack of continuity makes things more difficult; neither the rb's or the oline had much chance to get in a groove to gain yards. The coverage teams couldnt learn to trust the next guy.

As an aside, a returner will only help half of the equation, they don't help the coverage units.

Didn't the Pack of the 70's use a LB to kick-off? Not that there's much from the 70's that I want to replicate, but maybe somebody could earn a roster spot as a back-up LB that can kick-off (here's your chance Barnett).

Dave's picture

I'm no Slocum apologist, but I think one thing to consider is the effect that massive amounts of injuries has on special teams. There was a lot of turnover in the roster and players that were backups and core special-teamers became starters and had their special teams duties reduced. I'd be inclined to give Slocum another year to see if the improvement continues. Also, perhaps give him a decent returner or two to work with.

Philip's picture

I have a little inside information here. When I was living in Springfield, MO a few years ago, I watched Packers games at a sports bar called The Fox and the Hound. One of those games I went to the sports bar, I met some unusual packers fans. They said their son worked for the Packers and was Mike McCarthy's best friend. It turns out these were Shawn Slocum's parents (his father is the former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum). Shawn Slocum and Mike McCarthy worked together on the Pitt staff in the 80s and became best friends. I hate to be one to scream nepotism (if it can even be considered that), but barring a complete special teams collapse, I don't see McCarthy firing Slocum any time soon. Although MM has proven that he is willing to make difficult decisions (see: Favre, Brett).

Nerdmann's picture

So what's the deal with Campen?

Andrew's picture

That was yesterday's crisis.

cuqui's picture

It would be nice if the Packers added a legitimate punt- and kick-return threat to the roster.

BrianD's picture

1. Are there any special teams coaches on the market that could provide an immediate improvement because of their experience? Last year around this time, April was a popular name being thrown around, but I'd like to see if any accomplished special teams coaches are out there (not that they'd guarantee improvement at all).

2. Ted Thompson must be looking at all-around athletes that he could draft this April. You just know that if we're casually discussing the idea, he's been studying all the potential prospects for months.

3. Unpopular opinion: if Crosby is our kicker next year, bring in a kickoff specialist. The best way to prevent a big return is to force the other team to kneel in their own end zone. Rather than use a roster spot on Korey Hall to cover kicks, the Packers could reserve it for a kicker who adds 10-15 yards to every kickoff, allowing the coverage to get down the field and make tackles.

Bearmeat's picture

Crosby isn't good enough kicking FG's to warrant a kickoff specialist. If he can't kickoff, he should be even more gone than he probably will be at any rate now.
-
It's obvious Crosby's got a strong leg. One of the stronger ones in the league - so to me, his short KO's state that Slocumb is having him squib and directional kick in order to protect against poor KO coverage.

BrianD's picture

Good point about the directional/squib kicks. You've got me wondering if Slocum is telling Crosby to put more air under his kicks to increase the hangtime. That would explain why they never seem to go past the 10 or 15 yard line.

PackersRS's picture

He is.

Our coverage unit is so putrid, so bad, that they can't risk Crosby missing on a boomer.

Barry's picture

Our punt returners were constantly hanging around uncaught punts. Other teams knew how stupid we were and coached their guys to push ours toward the ball. Then when the ball touched our guy they could recover it.

Most good high school coaches do a better job coaching punt returners than Slocum. We lost one possession in a critical game this year and the very next game the same uncoached player almost had it happen again. In the superbowl they tried to push Williams into the ball(an almost did). Williams should not have been there and he would not have got his stupidly deserved penalty that he got for pushing back. That could have cost us the superbowl.

It's poorly coached players and everybody but McCarthy and Slocum seem to know it.

BLACK HAWK's picture

I am not a fan of Slocum, but we just won the SB and if I am McCarthy I tell him that the 2011 season (we hope there is one)is his job interview for 2012. McCarthy should say "Special teams play must grow leaps and bounds with the talent you are given, if you don't like the talent you are given, get creative and come up with something"!!!

PackersRS's picture

"I tell him that the 2011 season (we hope there is one)is his job interview for 2012."

"Hey, Shaun, no pressure, I'll only start evaluating you after your 3rd year. I do the same with QBs, it only seems fair..."

Look. We just won the SB with the M.A.S.H. unit, so it's not like Slocum keeping his job is a terrible thing. And we could be wrong, like so many were wanting MM's head, wanting a cornerback in the draft, another OL coach, etc...

But to me it's pretty clear that we won the SB despite the ST unit. If the management just turns a blind eye to what went wrong (and ST went terribly wrong, nothing short of it), because we won it all, we're not gonna win it again...

Bad Knees's picture

Bingo

WoodyG's picture

Gotta love it when 'fans' are out for blood ....... I'm sure TT/MM have a handle on the situation & expect improvement ..... Going into season 2010 the 'fans' determined that no way would GB be able to put pressure on the opposing QB without some kind of (bold) personnel move opposite CM3 ..... How'd that turn out? ......

I put my trust in TT/MM to make the right decisions ...... I'll take the 29th ranked STs in 2011 if the Pack makes it two in a row .......

packeraaron's picture

As would I - and of course I trust TT/MM to make the right decisions. I'm honestly perplexed on this one though and thought it would make for good discussion. I mean, if we simply say "I trust TT/MM" - it will make for a very boring offseason ;)

WoodyG's picture

This may be one of the most exciting off-seasons in many ..... Who goes, who stays regardless of the present CBA problems ....... What are the ramifications if there is no CBA before the draft ? .... How do you even know what your needs are when you may not know your roster until mid-summer ? ......

Alot of unanswered questions at this point ...... If this CBA is not resolved soon, some teams will be in big trouble ....... (New HCs, 1/2 roster that are FAs, etc.) .....

Having said that ..... GB is actually in pretty good shape ..... All they need to do now is move up in the 1st round & draft A.J. Green ......

PackersRS's picture

Lol WoodyG.

I don't think you can find anyone anymore with half a brain that doesn't trust TT.

Like I said previously, Slocum staying could very well mean improvement, with more consistant ST roster, with player and coaching improvement, with new set of players adcquired through the draft (please please a return man!).

But don't you think it's fair that, after 2 terrible years out of our ST, we question the man responsible for it?

Chris's picture

Again to go back to the impact of the 15 guys on IR, one thing we must remember is that STs have to play the worst of the 53. So even if you have a point when saying that Capers did pretty well with all the injuries, you also have to keep in mind that once those guys became starters for Capers they no longer were available on STs or only for spot duty. That has got to have a major impact on ST play.
As some have said here, let's give TT and MM the benefit of the doubt. Let's give them time to evaluate the season and if they want to give SS one more chance I think we owe those guys a little loyalty and give them our support for whatever decision they finally make. IMHO

Ruppert's picture

I don't generally call for firings, and I'm not going to call for Slocum's firing. Improvement was seen from '09 to '10, and I just think a coaching hire deserves more than two years.

If Thompson would have pulled a gem of a returner out of the woodwork in last year's draft, and we were even 10th in KR and PR to go along with the improvement in penalties, would the masses be clamoring to crucify Slocum?

Maybe we just don't have the best special teams players. I know, I know..the switch to the 34 was supposed to fix that, and we should have kept Tracy White, etc. But our special teams have stunk for quite a few years and more than one ST coach. Just sayin...

PackersRS's picture

You do know that the real reason behind Firetedthompsonnow.com wasn't the Brett Favre trade, right?

Tracy White fans are really passionate...

PkrNboro's picture

Capers did something with strangers in a matter of days, or weeks...
but Campen couldn't do anything with people he'd had for more than two seasons ?

FITZCORE1252's picture

No.

GBP 4 LIFE

davyjones's picture

Bring back Don Strock!!!!!

koundjia2183's picture

Let's not excuse injuries so much. There were certain players kept for ST play. ST were abysmal this year and last. No lanes, no daylight to run on returns. Bad mental plays by returners. Squibs and pooch kicks to aid ST defense.

If McCarthy and Capers can utilize these guys in IR duty so should Slocum. both our offense and defense rotate personnel so much that all 53 tend to play, so its not just the bottom of the roster not producing. Slocum's schemes give us problems when we're healthy like early in the year and 2009. This year they schemed to not give up the 'big one' thus the statistical 'improvement' I was scared as a fan with any close lead and a kickoff or punt. Rodgers said he was too in his Letterman interview. ST shouldn't make you scared every play. Especially against 300 lb lineman. End of discussion. Slocum should NOT be back.

BubbaOne's picture

Change? Change to what?
The big ST coach available last year was Bobby April, his Bills ST's were consistently near the top. He went to the Iggles and low and behold we outplayed their ST's in both the first game of the season and the playoff game...hmmm.
I bet our ranking is much higher if you look at the last half of the year, esp including playoffs. And where would we be w/ a decent KR/PR?
Not convinced firing Slocum is the answer. It may be but I don't think it's as definitive as some fans argue.

al's picture

Fire Campen, Fire Slocum, cut, done deal.

al's picture

Fire that d bag that works at the concession stand too.

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