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Green and Bold: Packers Have a Punter Controversy

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Green and Bold: Packers Have a Punter Controversy

Putting aside for a moment the fact that a punter controversy is by all means the silliest position competition that could go down during training camp, the Packers sure do seem to have one on their hands. 

This is the second offseason in a row that the Packers have been forced to bring in competition to push Tim Masthay for his job.

And while In 2015, Cody Mandell wasn't able to succeed Masthay, mainly for his poor holding for kicker Mason Crosby, Wisconsin native and rookie Peter Mortell is posing a much more serious threat to Masthay's future in Green Bay. 

Fans have been ready to see new blood at the position for a few seasons, as the level of Masthay's play has continued to decline. The general line of thinking is that we've clearly seen Masthay's ceiling, which is well-established, whereas a young player, such as Mortell, could have both a higher ceiling (but also perhaps a lower floor).

But the real question is what does the coaching staff think?

Fans have the prerogative to become disillusioned with players, to crave change, and to perhaps become a bit impetuous in the process. But NFL general managers do not enjoy the same amount of impulsivity, nor do they come at these decisions with the same emotional motivations. 

These are the facts that Thompson must weigh as he decides the Packers' final 53-man roster with respect to the punter position: 

  • The Packers currently have Masthay under contract through the 2016 season. 
  • Masthay has a base salary of $1.2 million in 2016. (Spotrac)
  • Mortell has a base salary of $540,000 in 2016. 
  • If cut, Masthay has a dead-cap number of $240,000. 

Meanwhile, these are some of the stats that the coaching staff is considering with regard to the starting punter job:

  • In two preseason games, Masthay has punted six times for an average of 42.7 yards and a net average of 26.5. He has had one punt blocked. 
  • In two preseason games, Mortell has punted five times for an average of 50.5 yards and a net average of 50.3. He has had no punts blocked and pinned four of those five inside the 20. 
  • The coaching staff knows how Masthay performs both under intense pressure and in wintry conditions. Those factors are unknowns for Mortell. 

Of course, those stats in a vacuum don't tell us everything we need to know about the position battle that has been quietly waging between Masthay and Mortell this offseason.

For instance, averages are great, but hang time is crucial. And so far, Masthay has actually been beating Mortell in the hang time department. 

Consider this note from practice from Packer Report's Bill Huber:

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (33) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Nick Perry's picture

DPF has brought it up a dozen times, hang time. Now over the last 2 days Masthay averaged almost a full 1/2 second longer than Mortell. That IS a lot.

Mortell was excellent in College at pinning punts inside the 20, he's even pretty good at pinning them inside the 10 yard line. Masthay has been on the decline in that stat the last several years.

Last season the Packers allowed an average of 4.2 YPR, I believe that was best in the NFL. Obviously Janis and the rest of his ST players had a huge role in that average. I'd imagine part of that low return average is Masthays hang time. You don't end up with a 4.2 YPR average for a season hitting line drives.

At the end of the day I believe Masthay will win the Job because of 3 reasons. Hang time, holding, and familiarity. Mortell could end up being the better punter but the Packers are a SB Favorite with several key players FA after this year. I think Ted sticks with what he's familiar with, what seems safest to him, and sticks with Masthay.

WKUPackFan's picture

Agree 100% Nick. It doesn't seem wise for a SB contender to roll with an unproven punter/holder. It would be different if Masthay was flat out awful, but he is not.

Also, it's doubtful that another team would pick up Mortell, so he would still be available if Masthay continues to decline.

RCPackerFan's picture

'At the end of the day I believe Masthay will win the Job because of 3 reasons. Hang time, holding, and familiarity. '

I feel the same way. Though I'm not ruling out Mortell. I'm just looking at how Thompson and company goes about their business. After Thompson got rid of Ryan and struggled with Frost and others, I think he maybe a bit gun shy in making a move unless Mortell blows away Masthay.
At this point they are probably about even in performances, which would lead me to believe that they will stay with what is familiar to them.

cpheph1's picture

I actually believe Mortell has at least a 50% chance to be an NFL punter in 2016 if you favor distance & inside the 20 stats.

RCPackerFan's picture

Another great Article as usual Michelle.

Basically at this point from what I have seen/read it sounds like Masthay has outperformed Mortell in practice whereas Mortell has outperformed Masthay in games?

We have been having this discussion for a while about hang times and averages and whatnot. I still haven't been able to find what the average hang times have been in the games?

A couple of things that has impressed me with Mortell in the games is the ability to place a punt inside the 5 yard line. Mortell had a perfectly placed punt that bounced out of bounds. Also Mortell had a booming punt that changed field position.
Those are 2 things that Masthay hasn't been able to do the last couple of years consistently.

Whoever ends up winning the punting job, at the very least Mortell has really given Masthay some true competition unlike a year ago.

The question is do you stay with what you have even if what you have is average at best? Or do you go with someone that possibly has higher upside?

mnklitzke's picture

Great we can have the best practice punter in the league but very average in games. Yes hang time is nice but I would rather a guy who can boom it 50+ yds with average hang time. Who cares about hang times if he can punt it out of bounce at the 5yd line for no return? Don't know why the NFL doesn't do more directional punts out of bounce.

RCPackerFan's picture

Mortell seems to be a good directional punter. His punt against the Browns was perfect.

Hangtime is important, but so is distance and direction. Sometimes you need to pin a team back near the goal line, and other times you need to change field positions.

One of the punts against the Raiders Mortell was standing near the goal line. I believe the LOS was around the 13 yard line. In the air it went 60 yards, the returner didn't field it and it rolled another 10 yards or so to about the 30 yard line.
That is something we have been missing the last few years but especially last year, was that field changing punts.

Nick Perry's picture

The problem with 50 yard punts with average hang time has been pointed out by several of our fellow fans mnklitzke. What good is a 50 yard punt that's more less a line drive if they get a 10, 15, or 20 yard return because the coverage is out kicked? Obviously it won't happen ALL the time, but even a few times could mean the difference between playing at Lambeau or Seattle in January. Nothing seems to turn game faster than ST returns.

Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

The decision will come down to the fact that Masthay is the best tackling punter in the league.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Packer Report for Aug 22 and 23 on the punters: Different winds so sort of apples and oranges. But Masthay averaged 46.0 yards gross and 4.45 seconds hangtime on Monday. Mortell averaged 57.9 yards and 3.97 seconds hang time with a wind at his back on Tuesday.

Just a snapshot, but Masthay won the practice battle in this weeks two open practices. Have to say that a 46 yard gross average is nothing to write home about in 75 degree weather.

RCPackerFan's picture

i saw those tweets as well.

My question without being there to see it in person, they said the winds were different so it is apples to oranges. How much did the wind factor in the punting?

Also, if it's apples to oranges then is there a clear winner in the 2 days?

RCPackerFan's picture

Also to be noted, that in Masthay's practice he had a horrible shank. From reports it went 10 yards and into the stands.
That can't be ignored in comparing the punters.

mnklitzke's picture

He has done that a few times in games too...

RCPackerFan's picture

exactly. That can't be dismissed.

mnklitzke's picture


croatpackfan's picture

While I understand your concern regarding experience, on this matter I'm more for move on. When it is important Tim Mashtay always punt badly, not good hang time, not good distance. He corrects his data when he is punting without pressure. If you go back, last season when he, actually made new Packers record, he had several very bad punts in crucial time, which jeopardize teams efforts.
Anyhow, it will be what TT decide and we can just push for the one we would like to see in Packers uniform. I only hope, whoever TT pick up top be better option for Packers!

Handsback's picture

Punters are never really discussed much until they lose a game for the team with a shank punt or low line drive that's returned for big yardage.
Taken as a whole, Green Bay's punt return yardage last year was low because of Janis and Goodson. The net average is what's important and that was very poor. So Green Bay is right in looking at a new punter who can flip the field and allow for minimum returns. I have to think that TT will go with the rookie if he thinks his gunners will continue to make life miserable for returners.

Tundraboy's picture

True dilemna. This year probably better to go with experience so I sure hope Masthay can stop with the ill timed shanks.

al bundy's picture

I say they stay with mastay unless mortell kicks the snot out of the ball the next two weeks. They could just cut him now and have one of them get all the kicks and stop fooling around. Cant tell me they havent seen enough by now.

Oppy's picture

Hang time is definitely a positive factor, but isn't net result the end-all, be-all when we're talking about punting?

What doesn't make sense to me is this is the reason many are saying it's Masthay's job to lose:

" In two preseason games, Masthay...average of 42.7 yards... net of 26.5.

...Mortell ..average of 50.5 ... net of 50.3. "

If hang time was the major factor in punting prowess, you would expect to see Masthay's net yardage average much closer to his gross yardage average, at least, much more so than Mortell's. Yet, Masthay's punts thus far in preseason games have been 7.8 yards shorter (gross yardage) than Mortell's to begin with, while the average punt return yards given up on Masthay's punts is a whopping 16.2 yards, compared to Mortell's 0.2 yards return average? ZERO POINT TWO??

I think we really need SOMEONE to take a stop watch to the hang times produced by both punters in the two preseason games. The data provided in the article above didn't give us hang time for those preseason game punts. Something is either amiss and mortell has been killing masthay's hang time in preseason games, or perhaps, hang time, while a desirable trait in a punt, isn't nearly as critical in the big picture as we might think.

The real-game impact between Mortell and Masthay so far in these preseason games is a whopping 23.8 yard average difference in field position , favoring Mortell. Considering Masthay's net average is only 26.5, that means Mortell's punts have been nearly doubling Masthay's output.

Again, I'm all for letting this thing play itself out.. I'm just confused at people's conclusions that because Masthay's hangtime in practice is roughly 0.5 seconds longer than Mortell's, that it's all wrapped up. Isn't it actual performance, and most importantly, results, that we're looking for?

RCPackerFan's picture

'I think we really need SOMEONE to take a stop watch to the hang times produced by both punters in the two preseason games.'

I have tried looking for the data but couldn't find it. It seems to me that Mortell's has been better then Masthay's in games. I could be wrong though.

One thing that we have seen with Masthay is he has not performed the best in games. What we have seen so from from Mortell is he has done well in games thus far. He has out kicked Masthay in games based on most peoples opinions.

I don' think the job is wrapped up. I think its gotten closer because I think Mortell has made it closer.

Oppy's picture

Uh, because those are from practices, and we're talking about the games.

Also, if the hang times WERE for the games, you'd have to explain to us why hang time is so important, since the in-game data shows that Mortell is flipping the field by an average of 50 yards per punt, while Mathsay is only netting 26 yards per punt, despite his theoretical in game hang time.

cpheph1's picture

I can't believe you haven't received more likes than you have...I wish I could give you more than one.

RCPackerFan's picture

I want to know what the hang times are from the games to have all the data, to make a true comparison. Saying the times in the games are meaningless is basically saying what happens in the games is meaningless. Mortell has outkicked Masthay in games in terms of yardage. But what has happened as far as times?

Without the hang times during games it seems kind of pointless to use that as our end all be all for deciding who the better punter is. The games are just as important if not more important then practices because they are going against live competition. How much live action are they running in practice?

cpheph1's picture

@RC, I'm reading bottom up & your comments are the best.

cpheph1's picture

+100 in favor of Mortell. But I wonder how much better Masthay's stats would be without the blocked punt in there?

al bundy's picture

Hey Ted two or three teams need a punter bad. How about using your pea brain and figure how to trade one of the two for a draft pick? What a novel idea.
Sounds like something Rick Speilman would do

zeke's picture

Because if there is one thing Rick Speilman won't tolerate, it's sub-standard special teams play. Behold:

AKDan's picture

It seems to me that TT is seeing some quality from Mortell that is justifying the duration of the competition.

I suspect the winner will be the one who doesn't crack under the pressure these next few weeks may produce.

Nononsense's picture

They know what Masthay can do, hes a known quantity. Let Mortell take all the game snaps the last 2 games and see if he can improve his hangtime or continue to show consistency.

Mortell is younger and cheaper and looks to be as good or better than Tim. I like punters who can pin you inside the 20 or 10 and boom it when you need to flip field position. Mortell has shown he can do both but I want to see more of it from him.

Hematite's picture

While I'm pulling mightily for Mortell, I believe (disappointingly) that Masthay will be the Packers punter for the 2016 season.

cpheph1's picture

It appears the majority in here believe Masthay will be awarded the punter position...I reluctantly fall in that category if the punting standard is hang time.

However, I'd rather change the punting standard to distance and inside the 20. I'd also only focus on what they've done in the 2016 camp & preseason. I'm probably one of the very few who feel that way but I'm ok with that.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

You say controversy, I say competition.

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