Rich Bisaccia Working to Change the Culture of Packers Special Teams

The Green Bay Packers special teams have been a problem area for the team for a long time. When we last saw the Packers on the field, they lost a home playoff game by three points without giving up a defensive touchdown. The only time the 49ers reached the end zone was on a blocked punt recovered in the end zone. The Packers also had a field goal blocked on the final play of the first half that could have put the ahead 10-0. Those two plays alone cost the Packers 10 points in a game they lost by three. Sadly, weak special teams were a problem throughout the season.

Enter Rich Bisaccia. The Packers hired the former Raiders interim head coach this offseason with the goal of improving this area of the team. While the start of the 2022 NFL season is still more than three months away, one thing is abundantly clear: Bisaccia is here to change the culture surrounding the Packers special teams units.

Bisaccia has roughly two decades of experience coaching special teams. He has enjoyed success throughout his career teaching players how to excel at this long neglected (by the Packers anyway) portion of the game.

When he first met with the media after being hired by the Packers, Bisaccia told reporters, “We're going to look in every nook and cranny to see what we can do to make ourselves better. There's not one specific thing.”

Well, Bisaccia hasn’t wasted any time starting to make changes. The new special teams coordinator already has had input on roster decisions adding players like Keisean Nixon who was a special teams regular with the Raiders under Bisaccia and kicker Dominik Eberle who is battling Mason Crosby for the kicking job.

He also influenced the signing of punter Pat O’Donnell who is replacing Cory Bojorquez. O’Donnell is more consistent than Bojorquez and is a better holder, something the team struggled with throughout the 2021 season and it was a major factor in Crosby’s struggles kicking field goals.

Many of the day three draft picks the Packers made were also selected with special teams in mind like Tariq Carpenter and Jonathan Ford. These rookies will be expected to block, tackle and cover kicks and punts while they develop their game and prepare to play bigger roles on offense or defense.

Even though the Packers have only completed rookie camp and one round of voluntary OTAs, you can already see some of the things Bisaccia is trying to implement. He has introduced new drills for the special teams units including having potential returns specialists catch tennis balls in practice rather than footballs. While the philosophy seems straight out of the movie, “Dodgeball,” (if you can catch a wrench, you can catch a ball), there is merit to these drills and hopefully they can help return specialists catch punts and kickoffs cleanly once we get to full contact drills and even games.

Bisaccia also had several established veteran starters running special teams drills during this past week’s voluntary OTAs. Having players like Aaron Jones, Adrian Amos and De’Vondre Campbell on the field for special teams drills sends a message to all the players on the roster that special teams are a legitimate part of the team and not something to be looked down on.

Because there are no pads on during these drills, the risk of injury to the veterans is minimal yet it gives the veteran leaders of this team insight into special teams and more of an ability to communicate what is needed on coverage and return teams to the younger players. Having the leaders of the team being able to encourage the younger players and guide them through special teams only improves the atmosphere around the team and reinforces the importance of this aspect of the game.

Bisaccia has also referred to special teams as “We-Fense” to be added to offense and defense as an integral part of the team. Again, this creates a sense of unity and importance about the special teams units.

It’s far too early to know how effective Bisaccia will be as special teams coordinator but he is certainly making changes to the unit and trying to change the culture surrounding a group that has long been a weak link on this team. That alone is reason for hope for the Packers special teams.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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8 points

Comments (46)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Turophile's picture

May 28, 2022 at 12:17 pm

You get what you practice.

Extra emphasis (by the GM and HC) on ST, more field-time dedicated to teaching it, and getting a more experienced (and successful) guy in Jean-Luc Picard................sorry I mean Rich Bisaccia, to teach it, should be the bedrock of it Building Back Better. BBB could be one of the watchwords for the 2022 season (or alternatively, ENGAGE).

5 points
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PatrickGB's picture

May 28, 2022 at 01:19 pm

I have often wondered what would go into improving ST ‘s outside of the kickers and returner. I had not thought of mentorship as a tool for ST’s. Yet this article makes it clear that it is one key ingredient in the formula. I prefer the term engage because it fits “wefense” closely.

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BradHTX's picture

May 28, 2022 at 06:56 pm

You saying you prefer “engage” because it fits “wefense” to a tea (Earl Grey, hot)?

Make it so.

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Packer_Fan's picture

May 28, 2022 at 12:22 pm

Yes. special teams impacted and probably the single biggest reason the Packers lost that playoff game. Great defense and a weak offense in that game.

I see the hiring of Bisaccia as Gute and Lefleur learning over time the importance of special teams. I remember Parcells talking about the importance of special teams and the impact of field position. He won two super bowls with a weak offense and great defense and special teams. And remember the 96 super bowl the Packers won with good special teams. It took a loss with special teams to get Gute to pay for a good coach.

I am high on this team, more than last year. For if Bisaccia can get the special teams to play well and the defense developing with the draft picks, we don't need to have to rely on Rodger to win the games anymore. Which he hasn't done in a long time. Or at least often.

We have a litany of poor play over the years on our exits in the playoffs. Special teams last year, King's boneheadded play against Tampa Bay, poor tackling in overtime against Arizona, no run defense against SF, poor special teams against Seattle and the 4th and 26 against Philadelphia.

It takes teams to win in all three phases to beat teams in the super bowl. We just haven't had that the last three years with Lafleur's teams. I am looking forward to see what this team can do this year.

5 points
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PatrickGB's picture

May 28, 2022 at 01:11 pm

Ray B. Comes to GB while Mo D. replaces him in LV. I think we got the better deal.

9 points
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Gman1976's picture

May 28, 2022 at 04:42 pm

Surely Mo isn't coaching special teams?!

2 points
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Coldworld's picture

May 28, 2022 at 05:41 pm

Assistant Special Teams Coach is his title

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BradHTX's picture

May 28, 2022 at 07:02 pm

Mind-boggling that any team would hire him for anything other than vacuuming the locker room after the absolute sh*t show of the Packers’ 2021 Special Teams under his watch.

Actually, not even sure he’d qualify for that position: he’d find a way to make sure the vacuum cleaner got blocked.

1 points
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packer132's picture

May 28, 2022 at 01:15 pm

Good article as always, Gil. I thought the Packers had a very good roster last year though a few poor plays and missed assignments can turn a win into a loss. Bisaccia already made a few changes with getting players he wants on ST's. Training camp is two months away, and then we can see how he builds his squad. It got old last season hearing the ST coach saying we will get better every couple of weeks. There really was no improvement in all phases of punt/kicking game from week #1 on. Bisaccia brings lots of experience and good reviews, and I think all Packer fans will be happy to see a very improved group. We might even see some long returns by the Packers and hopefully very few from the other team.

6 points
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PatrickGB's picture

May 28, 2022 at 01:23 pm

It was obvious that ST’s was wrought with bonehead plays! So, how does one fix that? Replace the players? Replace the scheme. Replace the coaches? The answer may be all three! We shall see if it works. GPG!

3 points
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Gman1976's picture

May 28, 2022 at 04:52 pm

I still shake my head at how bad our unspecial teams were last season and how our coach or whoever allowed the ST coach to remain on. It was unbelievable bad leadership that cost us going to the superbowl. Our ST game goal seemed to be the vain hope that we don't have a bone headed play that cost us a game. So glad that our leadership manned up and hired Coach B.

4 points
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dobber's picture

May 28, 2022 at 01:47 pm

"Bisaccia already made a few changes with getting players he wants on ST's. "

Bisaccia was a great get...not just from the perspective of STs, but in the sense that he stepped in as an interim in Vegas when things could've fallen apart and still nursed them into the playoffs. I think there's no way that Bisaccia takes this job if there weren't some guarantees that management was going to get him some players. He probably still has serious head coach aspirations, so taking on a team with dead-from-the-neck-up STs was not in his best interest. He's taking a bit of a gamble, but turning around this mess would be a serious feather in his cap.

6 points
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greengold's picture

May 29, 2022 at 10:16 am

To me, this opportunity was a great option for him in furthering his cred.

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splitpea1's picture

May 28, 2022 at 04:09 pm

"....There's not one specific thing." How true--there are many specific things!

This is a tight-knit group as far as coaching goes. Asst. Coach Storer worked with Bisaccia for four years, and Quality Control Coach Spurlock played under him for a couple years with the Bucs. Hopefully their expertise and collective approach will allow them to put the right players in the right position while doing the right things.

So as we say almost every year, there is really nowhere to go but up for this unit. But this time our optimism may be a lot more justified.

6 points
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Lphill's picture

May 28, 2022 at 04:31 pm

If only the Packers made this move a season earlier .

6 points
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LGDaub's picture

May 28, 2022 at 05:22 pm

I'm still trying to find it in the NFL rule book that the punter and holder are required to be the same person. Because I can't, I don't know why GB tosses a good punter who happens to be a poor holder. I leave aside that the very same bloggers who praised the Bojo acquisition, including some here, never mentioned his problems as a holder.

I'd also like to know why someone who QB snaps can't be cross-trained to long-snap, the way OL can learn play both G and T. Because I think such a C would also be a better blocker than any LS, which likewise seems to be a concern to the bloggers.

2 points
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Coldworld's picture

May 28, 2022 at 05:45 pm

They aren’t, but since the CBA changed a decade or so ago, the limits on practice mean that it tends to be since the P, K and LS tend to work together while others practice. In addition, with less teams keeping 3 QBs, there is a reluctance to rely on the back up to hold in case he has to take over.

2 points
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Coldworld's picture

May 28, 2022 at 05:45 pm

They aren’t, but since the CBA changed a decade or so ago, the limits on practice mean that it tends to be since the P, K and LS tend to work together while others practice. In addition, with less teams keeping 3 QBs, there is a reluctance to rely on the back up to hold in case he has to take over.

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dobber's picture

May 29, 2022 at 09:54 am

...that and the fact that punters rarely get hit or hurt in-game means that you're less likely to need to fly by the seat of your pants with holder.

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BradHTX's picture

May 28, 2022 at 07:11 pm

Except Bojo actually wasn’t that great a punter. He was 16th in his gross average at 46.5yds. O’Donnell was just behind at 46.2, so not a significant drop off in his punting, but a huge upgrade in holding. Also seem to recall reading O’Donnell was more consistent than Bojo, but too lazy to look it up.

Upshot: It feels like Bojo was good because he was such an upgrade over Scott. But he actually wasn’t anything special.

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dobber's picture

May 29, 2022 at 09:55 am

He started well and hit some kind of a wall...his first 6-8 games were night and day different from the latter portion of the season.

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Johnblood27's picture

May 29, 2022 at 05:13 am

bloggers blog

general managers manage

coaches coach

players play

readers read

any of those areas of concern that take into consideration any bloggers opinions will fail except bloggers and readers. not to say that bloggers and readers cannot stumble onto the same ideas and principles that managers, coaches and players deal with, but they do what they do from a severe handicap from an information standpoint.

just reality... I still come here, read everything and comment... what does that say about my free time? LOL!

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MarkinMadison's picture

May 29, 2022 at 09:23 am

Jordan Love should be holding. It would bring a trick-play threat.

3 points
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greengold's picture

May 29, 2022 at 10:00 am

I’ve often felt same, and would like to see it.

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Johnblood27's picture

May 31, 2022 at 01:58 pm

I posted last season to just get whoever can do the freakin job on the field and doing it, backup QB, DL, I don't care!

If Love holds and does so flawlessly and also contributes a trick play or two, would that stop all the BUST nonsense? (thats a rhetorical question...)

0 points
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croatpackfan's picture

May 28, 2022 at 05:30 pm

Gil, Packers, led by AR, scored only 10 points on home field with ~50 yards total offense in second half.

Please, explain me who is guilty if you, as leader give your collegue to drive the car even if he has no knowledge how to drive nor driver licence. If you find yourself in court, you'll be the culpruit for any acvident that happend.

On same manner AR was giving steering wheel to Packers ST, more often in the second half than in the first paying no interest how game is developing. And asking inadequate ST to punt deep from their own half of the field. So, who is the culpruit?

Do not try to find excuses for abismal performance of AR and offense in general for that loss. The offense is culpruit and, of course, their leader...

-1 points
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Since'61's picture

May 28, 2022 at 09:43 pm

croat the offense's play during the playoff was below expectations however take away the missed FG and the blocked punt and the Packers win that game 13-3. You can blame Rodgers and the offense all you want but the reality is good STs don't allow those 2 plays to happen. Every team punts from their own end zone in almost every game and very few get their punts blocked.

In fact if you check you will find that most teams don't have 2 kicks blocked in an entire season. The Packers had 2 kicks blocked in the same layoff game, not to mention the numerous ST failures throughout the regular season.

We all knew that STs were a problem for years. Management did not take the appropriate steps to improve them. The worst thing management can do is nothing. That lack of action proved to cost the Packers their season. End of story. Thanks, Since '61

3 points
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croatpackfan's picture

May 29, 2022 at 02:23 am

I agree with you that STs were problem for years, influenced mostly on how D put statistic data. That was because opponents had have favuorable positions to start their offense on almost every possession.

But you can not expect ST to play mistake free when whole second half they were punting from inside own 20 yards. Do you know how many times they had to punt? By the law of probability (in this case very likely), something bad should happen as you rise the number of possibilities. I know you know that. So, there is no excuses for ~50 yards in the second half. Also, what is excuse for not throwing to open receivers, instead of to triple covered Adams. AR lose that game by his attitude and bad play. Not ST.

-1 points
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Johnblood27's picture

May 29, 2022 at 05:20 am

the defense allowed a 3rd and 8 to be converted on a running play (JA missed the tackle) late in the 4th quarter on the 9ers game winning drive.

there is plenty of blame to go around from the gm office (why was wirtel the LS?... etc) to the entire coaching staff but mostly MLF and Steno to the 3 units on the field, offense, special teams and the defense.

My question is exactly how can these areas of need be addressed?

MLF needs to be accountable for all of the coaching snafus, Gutey for allowing players with known weaknesses to be the best option (wirtel, bojo holding, etc) and each phase of the on-field operations.

The blame game is endless...

What to do about it and how can we, as fans, tell that appropriate steps are being taken?

That is my biggest question.

2 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

May 29, 2022 at 08:57 pm

Steno should be questioned about the Turner for Nijman switch as well. More like a turnstile for Nijman switch.

2 points
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DanW's picture

May 28, 2022 at 05:45 pm

It seems to me that --along with shoring up the fundamentals (of course)-- part of the fix on special teams would be to call more aggressive plays once in a while. Because I think one reason STs were so disastrous last season is that other teams were able to focus in on Green Bay's weaknesses and exploit them, like shooting a sitting duck. They could tee off because they knew GB had their hands full already just trying to fix the basics. But if the opposing teams had to worry more about what Green Bay might throw at them on any given week, that would put them more on their heels, on the defensive.

2 points
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canadapacker's picture

May 28, 2022 at 05:55 pm

Great article again - I have said before that maybe in the draft and with scouting we probably didnt have special teams etc as part of the evaluation and draft and not specifically talking about kick and punt returns. Blocking and tackling and staying in the lanes. I am also a fan that special teams isnt a place to hide players in case of injury or while they get experience before they jump up to being a starter. And some starters need to play special teams especially if they are great at it. Even if that may risk them getting injured. Hopefully when the final cuts are made - special teams will also factor in. Not wanting to give up a potential valuable starter -but they better have both the ability and desire to be a special teams player at the start. Finally I would like to speak about tackling - maybe RB can develop some better training and skills development on tackling that will rub off or apply to our defense. Having just rewatched a few game - we have guys like Stokes and others with so much talent otherwise miss easy open field tackles by bad technique. Other teams never seem to miss those even on shifty guys like Adams and we miss way too many.

3 points
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Pantz_Burp's picture

May 28, 2022 at 06:43 pm

I can see Coach Bisaccia writing on the board addressing his ST players in practice.

He writes, Change the Cult__e. He then turns around, looks at the players...surveys the room and asks, who is going to change the culture of our ST units in Green Bay? He pauses, then points to each and every one of them, saying UR!

Go STs Go!

5 points
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BradHTX's picture

May 28, 2022 at 07:15 pm

You, sir, have a bright future as a motivational speaker.

0 points
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Pantz_Burp's picture

May 28, 2022 at 07:30 pm

Brad, you are a nice dude. Now, this may or may not happen...but...I am going to offer my motivational services to the GBP FO. I will see if they want me to talk with and listen to #12 prior to any playoff game.

Now, I just have to find the direct number for Mark... it's around here somewhere...

0 points
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greengold's picture

May 28, 2022 at 07:36 pm

It’s pretty tight, Burps.

1 points
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Pantz_Burp's picture

May 28, 2022 at 07:44 pm

GG, I really enjoy your take on things regarding the Pack. You got more positivity than many. Now, this doesn't happen much, but I like when you get a little salty... Keep on keeping on (hope your mending is going well)!

1 points
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Leatherhead's picture

May 28, 2022 at 07:03 pm

I’ll be following the Special Teams closely, but I don’t think you can change the nature of the beast with a fiery coach and a new culture.

I’d like to be proven wrong. I think you need to change your thinking about what you’re trying to accomplish, and use appropriate tactics towards that end. Punt out of bounds and have 0 return yards for the season. Fair catch every punt and have 0 turnovers. Etc.,

-2 points
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greengold's picture

May 28, 2022 at 06:57 pm

I just can’t wait to see our first KR/PR for a TD, our first blocked kick, and our first forced fumble on a return, knowing there will be more to follow with Rich Bisaccia in Green Bay, coaching ST for the Packers.

Haven’t been this excited for our STs in over 20 years.

3 points
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Since'61's picture

May 28, 2022 at 09:28 pm

Hiring Bisaccia is a good move. Changing the culture/attitude can make a big difference with any unit on the team. Football is as much about attitude as it is about schemes, technique and execution.

However, somewhere in the GrennBay organization there is a fundamental problem. During the TT era we went years without Safeties, RBs and ILBs. During the Gutekunst era we have gone years without DLs and ILBs until hopefully this season. Overlapping both eras we have gone numerous seasons without TEs and with terrible ST play except for Crosby. We can probably even go back as far as the Mike Sherman era to find unresolved needs for the team.

The only constant in management over all of these seasons is Mark Murphy. Could the Packers failure to improve obvious weaknesses for multiple seasons be Murphy? If so why? It just doesn't make sense. Does the problem lie with our GMs, TT & Gute? Are they finally being addressed?

Any team weakness can develop over the coures of a season due to injuries and/or poor player acquisition. But in Green Bay different weaknesses have continued for years and in the case of STs for the better part of a decade. If the team has a weakness for one season shouldn't it be improved at least during the following offseason. Just about every position group except for QB has been a weakness for multiple seasons. Is it an organizational issue or a focus issue?

I'm hoping this is finally the season where we get passed these ongoing issues with various position groups. I realize that WR looks like a team weakness at this point but we still have TC and preseason to sort out our WR group. Assuming that we keep the best 5-7 WRs on the 53 and PS the receiving corps should evolve into a solid unit in time for the playoffs. As for the STs time will tell but can it really get any worse? Thanks, Since '61

2 points
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canadapacker's picture

May 28, 2022 at 10:53 pm

""Just about every position group except for QB has been a weakness for multiple seasons. ""

Dont think so - A Jones and Williams at running back for 3 or 4 seasons? Good Oline with probowlers - Wide receivers with Adams MVS Lazard even though people were crying to spend draft picks on wideouts. NO not every position. I blame TT for always picking Dbacks at the top and failing at them mostly and neglecting the linebacking corp near the top of the draft. Dbacks are not good unless there is pressure And even then we have had Clark inside with probowls I think that you are being a little bit pessimistic - but I think that we have gone through too many special teams coaches and even promoted up from within the staff when we fired the boss - Not a good idea IMO - I think that special teams and tackling have been the two main weaknesses that go somewhat hand in hand - and I hope Rich can fix both

-2 points
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greengold's picture

May 28, 2022 at 11:15 pm

Since’61, I think it has more to do with three things. First, there’s the overwhelming cap figure we’ve dealt with for quite a while with a top ranked QB1. Secondly, Gutekunst walked into the GM job in 2018 with some very bare cupboards. Thirdly, we haven’t had the resources to plug all of the holes with 2 different defensive schemes that overlapped transitioning HCs McCarthy & LaFleur.

We are on our 4th ST Coach in that span?

No GM hits on all of them. Gutekunst’s drafts have improved drastically from early looks his last 2-3 years. He had big early round hits, but, a ton of misses in 2018-2020, with a lot of moving leadership parts in the coaching ranks.

Come to think of it, much of the TT personnel dept was poached as well. Seems to me we are witnessing the development of a Top NFL GM in Brian Gutekunst He’s fixed much in that span, but he’s still learning, ascending, while trying to optimize AR’s last years in GB under serious cap strain.

While we’ve known stability at QB1, LT and K, throughout, everything else required upgrades and development.

Murphy’s been of questionable positive affect, and I look forward to transitioning him out.

Frankly, I believe where we are today is commendable, and the future is finally looking bright. Big changes yet in front of us, but, a lot of great opportunities ahead as well.

Team weaknesses for opponents to exploit are virtually gone asa result of Gutekunst & LaFleur’s great work together.

We actually see true player development, great scouting calls, keen working of trades & releases of players, and deft cap management under some extremely challenging circumstances. All the while, the talent appears to be improving steadily.

2 points
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PackEyedOptimist's picture

May 29, 2022 at 07:20 am

Well said, GG.

1 points
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canadapacker's picture

May 29, 2022 at 08:45 am

Yes Greengold - I agree that I missed place kicker and the fact that we lost so many staffers to other teams and that may have impacted TT's last few drafts especially.
Gutekunst - is obviously well rounded in all things Packers and maybe we can thank Murphy for that - how many other teams go and grab supposed stars to their GM job and fail - just look at Cleveland and the Jets.
". Gutekunst assumed his position as director of college scouting in 2012. He was promoted to director of player personnel in March 2016. In January 2018, Packers general manager Ted Thompson somewhat retired"

2 points
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MarkinMadison's picture

May 29, 2022 at 09:28 am

Coach B is going to be a big improvement. I'm a little afraid that the wheels are about to fall off of the Crosby train. I'd be happier if he felt more threatened. The fact that he has the holder living in his house tells me all I need to know about how everyone sees his job security: he ain't going anywhere.

1 points
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calabasa's picture

May 30, 2022 at 12:02 am

Good stuff. To clarify the movie quote- “If you can DODGE a wrench, you cN dodge a ball.”

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