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Point of Veau: Only a Super Bowl Should Save Shawn Slocum's Job

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Point of Veau: Only a Super Bowl Should Save Shawn Slocum's Job

Packers special team coaches Ron Zook and Shawn Slocum by Kirby Smart—USA TODAY Sports.

Packers special team coaches Ron Zook and Shawn Slocum by Kirby Smart—USA TODAY Sports.

After a series of special teams breakdowns on Sunday in a 21-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills, the Green Bay Packers have hit a new low under head coach Mike McCarthy and special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum.

Short of an appearance in the Super Bowl, perhaps a win in the Super Bowl, McCarthy has little choice than to part ways with his long-time assistant and son of College Football Hall of Famer, R.C. Slocum.

Packers special teams cost the team up to 10 points on Sunday thanks to a blocked field goal allowed and a punt return for a touchdown by the Bills, 10 points that would have made the difference in the final score.

Unfortunately for the Packers, Sunday's blocked field goal can't be classified as a rarity, an aberration or the exception that proves the rule. It was the Packers' sixth block allowed this season: two field goals, two extra points and two punts.

It was also the sixth block allowed in the past 11 games, which is all the more disappointing after the Packers looked at least competent, if not good, the first month of the season.

At fault Sunday was rookie Corey Linsley, playing left guard on the point-after-touchdown unit, allowing too much penetration by Mario Williams on a low-trajectory kick by Mason Crosby.

On the three other blocked kicks this season, pressure came on either to the immediate left or the right side of Lane Taylor.

Ever since the bye week the Packers have taken Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang off the kick protection units when they both suffered foot injuries. At the time, it seemed like the smart thing to do.

But with three of four blocked kicks coming post-bye, the Packers have little recourse but to put two starters back back on special teams duty as long as they're healthy enough to do it.

On the punt return for a touchdown, Sam Barrington, Brad Jones, Jayrone Elliott, Brett Goode and Brandon Bostick all over-pursue, failing to break down and keep Marcus Thigpen in front of them.

While perfect in the snapping department, Goode has increasingly become a liability in blocking and in coverage, and he's not the only specialst struggling.

With two games to go Tim Masthay currently has a career-high two punts blocked, a career-low 13 punts downed inside the 20 and is 0.1 off a career-low 37.6 net punting average.

Mason Crosby remains fine in kicks that aren't blocked, but he is averaging a career-low 61.5 yards per kickoff. Meanwhile, Masthay averages 65.6 yards per kickoff over his career. This should be a simple change.

The Packers also missed the boat to get Jeff Janis involved in special teams this season after watching him average 33.5 yards per reception, score two touchdowns and gain 62 yards on his only kickoff return this preseason.

It might be too late switch to Janis now. The last thing the Packers need is to put Janis in a situation where he'd be the next Jeremy Ross, fumbling the football in a critical postseason game with little prior regular-season experience.

Slocum should have taken a page from defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who wasn't afraid to make several tweaks with his units this season and is at least seeing improvement. The Packers special teams, on the other hand, aren't stuck in neutral—they're going backwards.

Perhaps the Slocum makes it easy on the Packers and retires at the end of the season like the team's last special teams coordinator, Mike Stock, who retired following the 2009 season.

However Slocum's potential departure happens is immaterial. But the stakes should be high. It's maybe the only way to instill the necessary urgency and make change for the better.

 

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (35) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Duke Divine's picture

He's consistent!

zoellner25's picture

Special teams are costing this team, and might cost this team a playoff win. Masthay looks like a head case out there, probably because of the relentless pressure he faces on the rush. Slocum needs to go. Just promote Ron Zook.

lebowski's picture

He needs to go for no other reason than it may keep me from chucking a beer bottle through my tv screen. Pathetic every damn year.

zoellner25's picture

+1. I was at my neighbor's for the game here in CO, and said after that punt return I'm glad I wasn't in my house or I would've broken something.

Allan Murphy's picture

ST has too be ranked dead last they stinking up the place their time for a change their if they don't win out !

Beep's picture

The past few years had tons of injuries which meant that we were taking guys off the street and plugging them into ST. Not this year. He's had a pretty consistent core to work with and the results are awful. Slocum is definitely out of excuses this year.

HankScorpio's picture

Exactly. The normal excuse of a revolving door on STs due to injury is sort of out the window this year. The Packers have been remarkably healthy. It has shown on offense and defense. Not so much on STs.

Evan's picture

Making it to/winning a Super Bowl in spite of the special teams seems like thin rationale for saving his job.

Whether they win the Super Bowl or somehow end up missing the playoffs, Slocum should not be retained.

HankScorpio's picture

The Packers have been so good on offense and defense that they have overcome most of the ST blunders. That does not alter that there are ST blunders. A deep playoff run would give Slocum a chance to stabilize things, or even chip in some big plays. But more of the same of the last 6 weeks where ST mistakes come frequently but are usually overcome will do nothing to help Slocum in my mind.

zoellner25's picture

MM just needs to look at the repeated mistakes and poor production, and his solution should be crystal clear. If you talk about accountability, you have to fire Slocum.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I don't agree that a Super Bowl should save him. If they get to the SB it will be in spite of the Special Teams. Only a dramatic turn around in performance should keep him around.

Amanofthenorth's picture

punt return was a fluke due to the wind. Crosby's kicks are low...always have been.
In fairness, the punts and late additions on to the field stuff are on him.

zoellner25's picture

MM just bailed out Slocum again in his presser. Unreal. He's far too loyal to under-performing coaches and players.

Wilson Maywick's picture

No way MM would indict one of his coaches during a presser. However, MM is way too reluctant to make staff changes unless his guys get a better gig somewhere else.

Doug In Sandpoint's picture

Perhaps the Bears will make him OC. Is any other team in the league stupid enough to give him a better gig? We can only dream.

4thand1's picture

Mark Tauscher said in the pre-game show that ST may end up burning the Packers in the playoffs. WTF do they look at during film study?

RTT383's picture

With our defense and it's propensity to be unable to get off the field, the Packers can't afford a ST unit that makes the costly mistakes they do.....especially in playoff games...

lou's picture

Based on the sheer number of "Fire Slocum" messages that cannot be an over reaction to the "clunker game" yesterday, it is a consensus opinion. Everyone knows Slocum is McCarthy's pal but not only does he need to can him at seasons end but he has to deactivate (and activate Janiis) Boykin immediately. His hands have been ping pong paddles the ENTIRE season, enough is enough no matter how much McCarthy loves this kid.

Norm's picture

"Slocum should have taken a page from defensive coordinator Dom Capers".

Yes, take lessons from perhaps the only coach the fans want to fire as much as Slocum. Okay, maybe not this week but as recently as the second half of last week.

Seriously though, Slocum just needs to go. Anywhere but here. TT is derelict in his duties if he allows MM to retain SS beyond this year.

cuphound's picture

They won't fire Slocum. They won't fire Campen either. Both have had extended periods of lackluster performance, and neither ever gets fired.

HankScorpio's picture

It's odd that you'd mention Campen given that the o-line has been a huge bright spot this season. Once upon a time, it was true that the o-line was significantly under performing. But not for the last 2 years, at least.

If anything Campen is an argument that McCarthy's reluctance to fire coaches is the correct approach.

Razor's picture

Has Campen improved? Why did it take so long?

I'm not sure what happened but it sure seems that McCarthy is willing to live with under performers for much too long. And here is what happens. When you keep Mason Crosby through a terrible season it tells every player and coach that they can screw up multiple times and not fear for their job. And it tells your best players and coaches that no matter how much they contribute it may not be enough to overcome the under-performers. I'm not in favor of instant firing, but McCarthy takes way too long and that may be good for building loyalty - if that's what you want - but it drags the team down.

It seems straightforward. If you believe that the player has talent but is not getting it done then it's a coaching problem.

If you are giving the coach a D-lineman and asking him to make a linebacker then it might be a head coach/GM problem.

If a player can't stay on the field, that's unfortunate, but it doesn't help the team and to keep waiting and hoping that it turns around.....

On the Crosby terrible season - I told my friend that if I was the coach I would tell Crosby that after his next miss he should go directly to the tunnel and just keep going. Thanks for letting me vent.

Evan's picture

"On the Crosby terrible season - I told my friend that if I was the coach I would tell Crosby that after his next miss he should go directly to the tunnel and just keep going. Thanks for letting me vent."

And then after Crosby went on to have two excellent seasons for a different team, fans just like you would be on message boards ripping you for cutting Crosby too quickly.

There is no right or wrong way to handle stuff like this. It's like a gutsy play call - fans love it if it works, hate it if it doesn't. In this case, McCarthy was right to have faith in Crosby. Slocum doesn't seem to be working out the same way.

RCPackerFan's picture

Similar situation was Jeremy Ross last year. Ross was fumbling the ball and making mistakes. They cut him, then he goes to Detroit and explodes.

A lot of fans then went on to rip the Packers for cutting him to early, even though most were calling for him to be cut.

This is purely speculation but, going back and looking at it, do you think Slocum could be partially at fault for Ross's failure in Green Bay? When they let Ross go it looked like he was done. He had absolutely not confidence left at all, and when he got to Detroit it was like he was a completely different player. I'm not blaming Slocum for what happened with Ross. I just wonder if maybe the way he handled Ross if that impacted him in a negative way.
Again purely speculation.

Evan's picture

Perfect example.

Razor's picture

Maybe they over coach these players to the point they don't know how to perform. Not sure.

Razor's picture

It was still a long terrible season (not a game or two) for Crosby and that still drags the team down. I'm glad he is having a better season this year.

Evan's picture

I know....all I'm saying is that coaches are in a lose-lose situation when it comes to stuff like this. At the end of the day they have to just trust their gut and hope it works out. Crosby worked out. Ross didn't. Slocum, we'll see.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I pretty much agree, Evan. As I am sure you know, the coaches are in a better position to make these decisions. They know if the player has physical talent, if he keeps in shape, studies film on his own, and can better form an opinion as to whether the player is smart enough to learn the rules and the playbook, has instincts, and has intestinal fortitude. Then they make a decision based on their gut. That said, it doesn't mean I will give up my CHTV-given right to demand that GB cut the next player or fire the next coach that falls under my displeasure!

Razor's picture

Keeping under-performers is the McCarthy way. I suggest that he meet with Slocum today and ask him to resign. It's not as harsh as firing him. Slocum could say that he wants to spend more time with his family.

Does anyone know why they play so poorly on the road? Bills game was awful. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

RCPackerFan's picture

Something to keep in mind is that the Packers have Ron Zook as the assistant special teams coach.

I think there is a really good possibility that this will be Slocum's last year. Which would then make Zook the Special Teams coach.

Duke Divine's picture

Slocum's units hidden yardage game in and game out will be completely exposed in the playoffs. I swear in Slocum's entire tenure that Packers have had worse starting field position than the opposition in 90% of games played. His units are always finish in the bottom 10 in overall ST rankings. The only thing as consistent as Slocum's unit's crappy performances is his job security.

Razor's picture

Patience - have patience. This will get fixed sooner or later....unless it doesn't get fixed.

cuphound's picture

Packers coaching requires a zen attitude. McCarthy eventually fixed the running game. Eventually. In the football movie Rudy, the priest says, "We pray in our time. The answers come in God's time." I'm not sure about God. That said, I know Coach McCarthy's time is a lot more like God's time than my time.

KenEllis's picture

RELAX.

Slocum's going to be the STs coach next season no matter how many blocked kicks and TD returns we give up and even if DuJuan Harris and our return team never see the 35 yard line and rank 32nd in the league.

Performance is less important to the head coach than loyalty.

Bunch of coaches in GB ought to send a portion of their salary to #12's favorite charity (he makes enough $ for himself already), because he sure does hide their mediocrity.

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