Cory's Coner: Ron Zook has the most pressure of any Packers' coach

 

 

The Packers’ special teams were downright lousy last year.

They had trouble punting and kicking and to make matters worse the unit was penalized 11 times.

And that’s what cost Shawn Slocum his job. Despite being a friend of head coach Mike McCarthy, even the strongest of friendships cannot overlook continued mediocrity.

After the Packers’ special teams were ranked last by the Dallas Morning News, combined with an awful performance in the NFC Championship Game, McCarthy did what he had to do. He gave Slocum his pink slip after nine years on the staff, including seven as the special teams coordinator.

So in steps in Ron Zook. You remember him right? He’s the guy that was fired after three seasons at the University of Florida and a 34-51 record couldn’t save his job at Illinois.

Combine that with the new point-after-touchdown rules and Zook has the most pressure of any Packers’ coach. McCarthy can devise new two-point conversion looks all day long, but it won’t matter if the blocking is terrible or if there’s a general lack of miscommunication.

Special teams have never been at the top of the NFL’s food chain. That’s why hoards of people make a beeline to the bathroom or the concession stand the moment someone scores a touchdown. The odds of something crazy happening during an extra point were pretty low.

Yet the NFL suits still decided to tinker with the rules. They wanted to squeeze orange juice out of an orange peel. However, the problem with that is you’re not going to get action out of every NFL play.

I’m sure Zook didn’t exactly like the notion of getting a promotion at the same time his coaching chair would get extremely warm. Granted, it won’t be his decision to kick the 33-yard extra point or roll the dice and go for two. But his crew cannot screw it up either. A missed extra point early in a game could mean that McCarthy would choose to go for two late. And if the score is close, a missed PAT could very well mean the game.

And you can bet that Zook won’t get the same leash that Slocum got. It ultimately took Brandon Bostick trying to be a hero that got Slocum fired after years of futility. It won’t take Zook that long.

And the reason is easy. McCarthy knows he’s in a limited window right now. He’s got arguably the best offense in the game and a defense that can cause enough turnovers to be a brutal headache. But what good does it do to have a flimsy special teams round out the bunch?

So good luck Mr. Zook. Make the unit respect and understand you. Just don’t get too comfortable. The moment that happens is when McCarthy calls you into his office — and it won’t be to discus the new carpeting plan.

But you’ve got to give him credit. Zook is practicing onside kicks in the middle of practice, taking every possible precaution to prevent egg from ending up on his face.

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (18)

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the_clinic's picture

August 18, 2015 at 08:18 am

Burned one time out on Special Teams vs Pat's, and we had a player running on to the field helmet-in-hand when the Pat's were flagged for 12 men on the field or we would have burned another.

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Evan's picture

August 18, 2015 at 08:34 am

Pre-season special teams can be a cluster - so many different players on different units. I'm surprised stuff like that doesn't happen all the time. I give that a pass for now.

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Evan's picture

August 18, 2015 at 08:37 am

"Combine that with the new point-after-touchdown rules and Zook has the most pressure of any Packers’ coach. McCarthy can devise new two-point conversion looks all day long, but it won’t matter if the blocking is terrible or if there’s a general lack of miscommunication."

But when they do go for 2, any lack of communication or terrible blocking would be on the starting offense/McCarthy/Clements...not Zook or the special teams.

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zoellner25's picture

August 18, 2015 at 09:08 am

All our ST has to do this year is not suck. just be ok. just be middle of the pack. that's all we ask.

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croatpackfan's picture

August 18, 2015 at 09:17 am

Clever point of view, Jay. You might be right about hottest chair....

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Spud Rapids's picture

August 18, 2015 at 10:19 am

Personally I think Tom Clements has the most pressure. I think if the offense gets stagnant at any point in the season he will receive a ton of blame. With the Pack returning the most offensive snaps out of any team in the NFL and the ridiculous success they had last year his expectations are to maintain if not exceed the historic numbers.

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aj's picture

August 18, 2015 at 12:34 pm

I was just about to post the same thing. Zook has lowered expectations imo and Clements has the unenviable position of having to meet expectations as the best offense in the league. If he keeps the offense at the top of the league he will get no credit, and if the offense has any sort of drop off, he'll get all of the blame. That's a tough spot to be in.

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PaulRosik's picture

August 18, 2015 at 07:45 pm

I agree. If the team that led the league in scoring and returns the top 15 or 16 players from that offense struggles in any way all you will hear about is how McCarthy gave playcalling. Expectations are for this team to look like the 2011 offense and be out there setting records.

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NewNikeShoes's picture

August 18, 2015 at 11:39 pm

I don't want them to set records I want them to win games :p

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DrealynWilliams's picture

August 18, 2015 at 10:59 am

I think we should go for 2 after every touchdown.

After we get past the Red Zone mishaps - of course.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 18, 2015 at 11:52 am

I never really understood why our special teams were so bad, or mediocre in a good year. I thought that most years GB had some of the best 48th -53rd players in terms of talent in the league. I sympathize with Clement (though I did not support his elevation to play calling) since in my younger days I was expected to always win my match, so there is little upside possibility and lots of downside.

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Clay Zombo's picture

August 18, 2015 at 02:47 pm

For the longest time TT and MM wouldnt keep guys for just special teams unless they could play at least one other position on offense or defense. Jarrett Bush was the closest thing to a special teams ace that we ever had and even he had to contribute at CB/S or else he would have been gone too.

We have no Matthew Slaters, Kassim Osgoods or Ray Ventrones, guys who are kept basically for their STs ability alone. That is why this year we have to keep guys like Ripkowski even if he doesnt get it done as a FB or Goodson even if we plan to keep only 5 real CBs.

You simply have to treat STs as more than an afterthought if you want to be any good at it.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 18, 2015 at 10:34 pm

Ryan Taylor. Only example I can think of, since he couldn't play TE. Worse, GB has some history of dumping ST aces who can't otherwise play, like White a few years ago.

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Dan Stodola's picture

August 19, 2015 at 12:32 am

Agree on both accounts. Who's roster spot do you think Bostic took? Yeah, that was Ryan Taylor's and its hard to imagine him not doing his job and blocking on the onside kick that Bostic botched. so Jordy could make the play as it was designed.

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Evan's picture

August 19, 2015 at 07:02 am

"For the longest time TT and MM wouldnt keep guys for just special teams unless they could play at least one other position on offense or defense. "

Injuries also forced their hand with that, too. With so many injuries over the years, they couldn't afford to keep guys just for special teams. At the same time, as injuries happened the special teams units were constantly being filled out with new players. No continuity.

That obviously wasn't an excuse last season, though.

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PackersPlanet's picture

August 18, 2015 at 04:54 pm

I Will Always Hate Brandon Bostick. I Follow Him On Twitter And Always Try To Avoid Talking Smack To Him. Plus He Capitalizes The First Letter Of Every Word. I Also Hate That.

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4thand1's picture

August 18, 2015 at 08:06 pm

Bostick is gone because he just didn't get it. Uncoachable, couldn't pick up the play book, and hate to say it, was just plain dumb. He never should have been on the team. I blame Slocum for having him out there.

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PETER MAIZ's picture

August 19, 2015 at 05:07 am

They say that practice makes perfect. By the same token, the players have to like and respect Zook to give their all. I'd like to see the improvement to believe it.

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