Packers New Special Teams Coordinator Sends the Team a Message

Maurice Drayton is the new special teams coordinator for the Green Bay Packers and the man has a tough challenge ahead of him. The Packers have ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL in special teams in recent years and it has cost them several games.

In his introductory press conference earlier this week, Drayton was quick to show he was going to hold his specialists accountable for their performances. He specifically called out punter J.K. Scott and long snapper Hunter Bradley.

“They both know that they have to be more consistent in the things that we need them to do to be successful,” Drayton told reporters. “They have a prescription that we’ve written for them to work on. They also have their own personal, what I call, kick doctors or specialist doctors that they’re working with who I’ve fostered a relationship with. They’re getting better and they will be better, and they understand that their backs are against the wall.”

Both these players need to improve their performances in 2021 if they hope to return. Scott averaged 45.5-yards per punt, a healthy average especially considering he kicks in the cold and windy conditions of Lambeau Field late in the season.

Scott did place 15 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line and only had three touchbacks, which is a good percentage considering he punted only 46 times all season, a little more than half of the number of punts he had in 2018 and 2019.

But the issue with Scott was consistency. He had another mid-season slump where he had several short kicks off the side of his foot. He also had a kick blocked in the Packers victory over the Houston Texans, the second time one of Scott’s punts were blocked in his three-year NFL career.

Worst of all, two of Scott’s punts were returned for touchdowns in 2020 and in both instances, the scores kept opposing teams in games that otherwise would not have been close. On both returns, Scott made embarrassing and inadequate efforts to tackle the returner as they ran past him and into the end zone.

Opposing teams averaged an unacceptable 17.1-yard average returning Scott’s punts. This cost the defense field position and set up opposing teams with short fields. This made hit harder for the defense to do its job and put more pressure on them to prevent opponents from putting more points on the board.

Bradley also had his moments of inconsistency since he joined the team in 2018. While none of his snaps went over the head of their targets, his efforts were not always well placed and made it challenging for holders and kickers to do their jobs.

It is rare that NFL teams spend draft picks on special teams players. Punters, kickers and long snappers are usually signed as undrafted free agents and if a team spends draft capital on a specialist, they need to get better results than the Packers have gotten from Scott and Bradley.

The Packers will also have to improve their coverage and return teams in 2021. Green Bay tried several players on kick returns in 2020 but none of them were particularly effective. Only Darrius Shepherd averaged more than 20 yards per return and he was let go midseason. Tyler Ervin and Malik Taylor were average at best. The Packers long return for the season was 34 yards.

On punt returns, no players averaged more than 6.5-yards per runback and the long return for the season was just 11 yards. Four different players had at least one return but there were a lot more mistakes and shaky plays than effective runbacks. The Packers signed Tavon Austin when Ervin was injured but Austin fumbled one punt and averaged a disappointing 4.7-yards per runback.

Opposing teams averaged 24.2-yards per kick return against Green Bay. That means teams had a 5.3-yard advantage over the Packers in kick returns and a differential of more than 12 yards per punt return. That costs the team field position.

It is refreshing to see the new special teams coordinator holding his players accountable as he starts his new job. This kind of attitude is necessary if the Packers are going to see improvement in this area in 2021.

The Packers need more consistency from Scott and Bradley in 2021 and from the entire special teams unit. Drayton is determined to succeed where his predecessors came up short. If he can make the Packers special teams average, it could make the difference in some close games for the team going forward.

“My whole life I've done more with less,” Drayton told reporters. “So, we will maximize every God-given ability that those individuals have.”

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (61)

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NickPerry's picture

March 06, 2021 at 12:26 pm

You KNOW your ST's are bad when you sigh a breath of relief when your returner just catches the ball, doesn't fumble, OR if there is a return of 4 yards there wasn't a penalty to put the ball even further back.

I'd be curious to see exactly HOW JK Scott works on his tackling this offseason, that's assuming he does. I mean the way he avoided any kind of contact on punt returns, makes me think that thing that beats in his chest, lacks anything resembling courage.

I'd still like to see Scott redeem himself, but IMO he's got a LONG way to go to secure any job next season in camp. Bring in another punter or two, preferably one that has kicked in the cold weather in college.

I would imagine there will be some LS's let go this offseason, even a few in the coming weeks. I'd like a experienced LS brought in to compete with Bradley.

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Guam's picture

March 06, 2021 at 05:48 pm

I give Scott a pass on his tackling. While it is ugly, it is not what he is hired to do. His occasionally inconsistent kicking is a serious issue and needs to get fixed. He kicks well when he isn't nearly missing the ball off the side of his foot.

My larger issue with ST is neither Scott nor Bradley, but the Packers inability to tackle returners. The Packer's sloppy tackling allowed too much yardage to opposing teams and puts added and unnecessary pressure on the defense.

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NickPerry's picture

March 07, 2021 at 05:40 am

I understand tackling part of his job and one you certainly would hope your punter doesn't have to do, BUT just falling in front of the returner on either one of those TD's probably would have worked or maybe gave his teammates time to make a play. What he did was embarrassing!

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Guam's picture

March 07, 2021 at 08:10 am

Embarrassing would be an understatement and it was recorded on national television for the world to see. If he has any pride, he will work hard on tackling drills this training camp to avoid future humiliation. However he wouldn't have to be tackling returners 40 yards downfield if 10 other guys hadn't also failed in their responsibilities.

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Coldworld's picture

March 07, 2021 at 03:45 pm

He did make a tackle on the last opportunity. Although the play was negated by the officials, he nevertheless made contact and tried. Goid, because I expect a punter to protect his own kicks at least.

I do not subscribe to the view that it’s ok for a punter to not try. It’s part of his job. That doesn’t mean I expect him to be a reserve ILB, but some basic willingness and understanding of how to tackle on a return should be expected. On that final play he did at least try, so let’s hope.

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mrtundra's picture

March 07, 2021 at 08:38 am

Exactly! Scott and Hunter are only two ST players. Where are the tacklers on this unit? Why should the opposing returners ever be able to get to where Scott or Crosby are, in the first place? And YES on our returners making us hold our breath every time they attempt to catch and return the ball. That crap gets old very quickly! So, don't put the blame for the ST unit's poor play, solely on Scott and Bradley's shoulders. There are plenty of other players there who need to step up their game. Our ST coach has a big job ahead of him!

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GilMartin's picture

March 07, 2021 at 01:10 pm

No doubt they will bring in some competition in camp for both Scott (they already have signed a punter) and for Bradley. Let's hope the new ST Coordinator can make an impact for this team that has been hurting on ST for so long. Thanks for the comment, NickPerry.

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BradHTX's picture

March 07, 2021 at 04:52 pm

NickPerry wrote:
“I mean the way he avoided any kind of contact on punt returns, makes me think that thing that beats in his chest, lacks anything resembling courage.“

Someone cue Bert Lahr...

Yeah, it’s sad, it makes ya wonder
When you’re born to be a punter
Without the vim and verve
But I could change my habit
And not tackle like a rabbit
If I only had the nerve
I’m afraid I’m no head turner
When stopping a returner
A fate I don’t deserve
And in spite of all my prowess
They take it to the house
Because I don’t have the nerve

Send him off to see The Wizard for courage...

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NickPerry's picture

March 08, 2021 at 06:50 am

Nice Brad!

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BradHTX's picture

March 08, 2021 at 10:11 am

Thanks, I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your server.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 06, 2021 at 01:02 pm

Don’t return punts. Don’t return kicks you don’t have to. Punt out of bounds.

Statistically, you’re going to return a punt about once every six years. How many turnovers, penalties, and injuries on returns during that time?

Scott is a good punter. The blocks and returns are not on him.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 06, 2021 at 04:26 pm

He mis-directed the punt against the coverage call in the Jaguar game the guy returned for a TD and whiffed on Reagor vs. Philly with a pathetic attempt to tackle. His wind up is slow, but getting better. He will face at least two other guys in camp. It all starts from square one with Drayton. He has already set the tone. When you field a punt or a kickoff the returner should have one thing on his mind, take the ball to pay dirt. Try to score. Enhance field position.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 06, 2021 at 06:13 pm

The returner should have his mind on one thing: Don’t cough up the rock.

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GilMartin's picture

March 07, 2021 at 01:15 pm

Special teams is about field position a lot of the time and hopefully Scott gets more consistency or he will be replaced. Drayton is clearly trying to light a fire under these players. I hope he can succeed. Thanks for the comment, jannesbjornson.

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egbertsouse's picture

March 07, 2021 at 07:09 am

You need to actually watch a game. He is in no way a good punter, he’s inconsistent, slow to get the ball off, and his form is atrocious.

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GilMartin's picture

March 07, 2021 at 01:16 pm

The inconsistency is his biggest issue. He has a strong leg, but he needs to get it done more often. Thanks for the comment, egbertsouse.

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GilMartin's picture

March 07, 2021 at 01:14 pm

This year's block wasn't his fault, Dexter Williams made a very poor attempt at a block. The returns are certainly partially his fault. Either way, he needs to be a lot more consistent. As for returns, they are much rarer now than they were a few years ago, but to eliminate them altogether is a little drastic. The team needs a competent return game for those occasions when they need to run one back. Thanks for the comment, Leatherhead, always good to hear from you.

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ricky's picture

March 06, 2021 at 02:17 pm

Or, you can draft a punter in the third round, and then bring in another punter for competition, then keep both punters on the active roster for the entire year.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 06, 2021 at 04:27 pm

Sherman has left the building, thank you.

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GilMartin's picture

March 07, 2021 at 01:17 pm

LOL.

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ricky's picture

March 06, 2021 at 02:17 pm

Or, you can draft a punter in the third round, and then bring in another punter for competition, then keep both punters on the active roster for the entire year.

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Since'61's picture

March 06, 2021 at 02:26 pm

With the exception of Crosby our Special
Teams units have been inconsistent at best. Our return units have been among the worst in the league and often leave the offense with very poor field position.

Simultaneously our coverage units are poor as well and give away too much field position.

Bottom line is that we often lose the field position battle and this affects play calling and player packages on both sides of the ball. Too often, the Packers depend on Rodgers to drive the offense 80 yards or more, while the defense plays on a short field.

During the regular season we can usually overcome the field position disadvantage but in the playoffs, as we know, against better teams it becomes one of the factors that gets the Packers eliminated before they can reach the SB.

Maybe Drayton can get it done after at least a decade of weak special teams for the Packers. Thanks, Since ‘61

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 06, 2021 at 04:46 pm

Three Phases of Football, '61. Belichick won the Big Games for a reason. Hope all is well, getting vac#2 on Wed.

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Since'61's picture

March 07, 2021 at 09:33 am

Great news on the vaccination! Be well. Thanks, Since '61

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Leatherhead's picture

March 06, 2021 at 05:34 pm

Since61.....there is no field position disadvantage. The league’s average drive starts on the 28.7 yard line. Punts, kickoffs, turnovers, failed fourth down attempts, missed FGs., etc. 28.7. The Packers start on the 28.8. Our opponents started, on average, at the 28.6.

Obviously, individual games will vary, but over the season, there is no field position disadvantage.

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mnbadger's picture

March 07, 2021 at 07:27 am

I'm not sure if that isolated statistic tells the whole story. how many times did a jks punt drop inside the 10 and the returner bring it back to the 28.6? Or we punted from opposing 48 yard line and a poor kick combined with a missed tackle or two, bingo, 28.7 yard line. Let's hope Drayton rights the ship. GPG

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Leatherhead's picture

March 07, 2021 at 11:17 am

Good questions. I’ll be waiting for the answers after you have reasearched it. I think the whole story, overall, is that there was no field position disadvantage.

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Coldworld's picture

March 07, 2021 at 03:48 pm

Going to have to disagree with you on the field position point. Though mostly because of coverage woes.

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Since'61's picture

March 07, 2021 at 09:42 am

Leatherhead, please refer to Gosselin's Special Team Ranking below. Note we ranked 29th in 2020 and that ranking includes a 100% on FG attempts, so obviously our other ST units suck at best, which was my point. And if we are ranked 29th obviously 28 other teams had better returns and better coverage units and therefore better field position.

A franchise that perpetually underperforms on special teams, the Packers have now finished 26th or worse in Gosselin’s final rankings five times since 2012:

2020: 29th
2019: 26th
2018: 32nd
2017: 16th
2016: 29th
2015: 17th
2014: 32nd
2013: 20th
2012: 12th

I rest my case. Thanks, since '61

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Leatherhead's picture

March 07, 2021 at 11:20 am

The league’s average is starting at the 28.7
Our average is the 28.8
Our opponents average is 28.6.

And I’ll rest my case,too.

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GilMartin's picture

March 07, 2021 at 01:20 pm

Thanks for the comment, Since'61, always good to hear from you. Special teams have been an issue for a long time now and the return game and coverage units have been a problem. Hopefully, Drayton can help turn that around. Against top competition, you can't allow the other team to get an advantage or it will cost you.

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Lphill's picture

March 06, 2021 at 02:54 pm

JK Scott is awful even worse in the cold weather , not much will change if the players will remain the same .

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GilMartin's picture

March 07, 2021 at 01:21 pm

He seems to struggle for a few games every November, maybe he has trouble with the wind? He needs to improve, no doubt. Thanks, Lphill.

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splitpea1's picture

March 06, 2021 at 03:32 pm

Nice hard-hitting article, though I suppose "average" would indeed by a lofty goal for this unit now. We're now on our fourth ST coach in seven years, so that would suggest that a better overall roster is needed if we're ever going to advance here. Three comp picks is an opportunity to do just that. Now if we really wanted to get serious, we could draft a versatile player like Jevon Holland who can defend the slot AND return kicks (don't think we'll do it, though, because of more urgent needs). To me, it's kind of ridiculous that we haven't been able to find a decent kick returner other than Ervin (and that was brief) for such a long period of time.

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GilMartin's picture

March 07, 2021 at 01:22 pm

It has been a long time since this team had a dangerous punt returner. Remember what a difference Desmond Howard made? Or even Roell Preston? Glad you enjoyed the article and thanks as always for commenting, splitpea1.

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splitpea1's picture

March 07, 2021 at 02:41 pm

It seemed like we started at the 40-yard line every time.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 07, 2021 at 03:00 pm

Randall Cobb was a threat until they stopped using him when Jennings bailed.

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stockholder's picture

March 06, 2021 at 03:34 pm

I just wish they had a punt Returner. Desmond Howard gave us such great field position.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 06, 2021 at 04:48 pm

Why do you think we've been screaming for a quick/slot guy for the past 20 years?

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Leatherhead's picture

March 06, 2021 at 05:39 pm

So that we could fumble punts? Take block in the back penalties.? Get guys hurt?

Teams only get a chance to return two or three punts a game, for about 15 yards, total. Why are you taking such a big risk for that?

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dblbogey's picture

March 06, 2021 at 08:51 pm

Like Randall Cobb?

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murf7777's picture

March 07, 2021 at 08:31 am

I disagree, when we had Cobb many were saying we need taller WR’s. Now we have a lot of tall guys and because KC is doing it with small shifty guys now the masses are stating we need shorter, quicker guys. A good mix would work IMO.

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Coldworld's picture

March 07, 2021 at 03:51 pm

On this team, a Cobb type would be the odd one out. That would increase the diversity of the offense more than any other receiver type I can think of.

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Crankbait's picture

March 07, 2021 at 09:10 am

I wish our defense could force our opponents to punt more to begin with.

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GilMartin's picture

March 07, 2021 at 01:25 pm

He did stockholder. Even someone who could just consistently get 7 yards per return without fumbling would be a huge upgrade. Thanks for commenting.

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Lare's picture

March 06, 2021 at 03:37 pm

Scott and Bradley each have one thing to do. It they can't do that they need to be replaced.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 06, 2021 at 05:41 pm

I’ve seen Packer punters since Don Chandler. Scott is better than most of them.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 07, 2021 at 03:04 pm

Donny Anderson was better. Hentrich was better, Ryan was better. Masthay was better. Max McGee was better...

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GilMartin's picture

March 07, 2021 at 01:25 pm

That sums it up well in 2 sentences. Thanks for the comment, Lare.

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canadapacker's picture

March 06, 2021 at 05:30 pm

There are two problems with the special teams. Firstly you need a coach who has both the techniques and the training time to make his team the best that they can be. Secondly you need the roster to execute the plan. Too often the GM listens to the coach who doesnt pay attention to special teams or the special teams co-ordinator on what "special teams " players he wants. I am still livid that TT cut Jon Ryan because the special teams co-ordinator didnt like Ryans technique. And we paid the price while Ryan had a long career with Seattle. The pack has had pretty good results recently with both Crosby and outside a few bad games the punter-long snapper duo over the past few years. Execution has been very bad and that is on the coverage and on the return. You need to have good returners and the only saving grace with our return game has been that we did not put the O in a bad position by taking bad penalties. However fumbling KO's, and punts, having punts go over your head happened too often on the return side. And the bad coverage against the other teams return game happened more than just the TD returns. Finally we just got lucky on a couple of onside kicks. It didnt appear that the hands team new what they were doing. Finally I just wonder if some of our scouts value the special teams attributes of some of these guys who are selected to be backup when they are drafted - especially the linebacker/tightend /defensive back gunner type of guys. If 2 guys appear similiar but one seems to like to play special teams doesnt that give him a leg up???

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GilMartin's picture

March 07, 2021 at 01:28 pm

Clearly, ST has not been enough of a priority for the team. Yes, ST should give a player a leg up if it's close between two guys battling for a roster spot. Let's hope Drayton can help improve what has been a very bad situation. Thanks for the comment, canadapacker.

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MarkinMadison's picture

March 06, 2021 at 06:15 pm

It's really hard to say much when you watch this stuff on TV. But the fact that opposing teams do so well with both punt returns and kick returns says that this is more on the coverage units than the punter. When was the last time you saw a gunner make a play for the Packers that made you sit up and cheer? Yeah, I can't remember one either. And yeah JK sucks at tackling. He needs to get better. But you have to ask yourself why your punter is even being put in the position to be the one to make the play.

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Guam's picture

March 07, 2021 at 08:20 am

Good point MinM. I had to go back to Jeff Janis to remember a Packer gunner I really liked.

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GilMartin's picture

March 07, 2021 at 01:31 pm

There's a good gunner, yes. Thanks for the comment, Guam.

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GilMartin's picture

March 07, 2021 at 01:30 pm

It's definitely a problem, MarkinMadison and that's why we keep bringing in so many ST Coordinators. Hopefully, Drayton can make a difference. Coverage needs to improve on both punts and kickoffs. Thanks for commenting.

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egbertsouse's picture

March 07, 2021 at 07:10 am

Cut both of them

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Crankbait's picture

March 07, 2021 at 09:16 am

Cut the general manager who either refuses to Pay for talent or is incapable of determining talent.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 07, 2021 at 03:06 pm

Hammer hitting nail.

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flackcatcher's picture

March 08, 2021 at 02:48 pm

Or has put ST no.3 on his to do list. (actually, I think it lower than that...) Don't see the executive committee firing Gute anytime soon.

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PatrickGB's picture

March 07, 2021 at 10:46 am

What I found interesting is that in addition to Drayton the team promoted two assistants to him. And their area of expertise is in analyzing. So it’s not just the addition of a teacher/motivater, it’s looking at the plays and players. Maybe we will see some innovations of ST’s? Or maybe the scheme will change based on the players available.

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GilMartin's picture

March 07, 2021 at 01:32 pm

Let's hope so, PatrickGB. I hope it means the organization is committing itself to improving special teams. Thanks for the comment.

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