More Focus Should be Given To Shawn Slocum & The Special Teams

shawn slocum

As the final seconds ticked away on the game clock, all Packers could do was stand by and watch the 49ers end their season-again.

It was as much disappointing as much as it was frustrating, seeing the Packers fall short yet again the playoffs, again at the hands of their rivals to the West.

As soon as the game ended, armchair GMs began proposing their ideas about what needs to happen in order to make the Packers a Super Bowl contender again, instead of just a one and done in the playoffs as they have been three out of the past five seasons.

The most common clamor has been “Fire Dom Capers.”

Calling for the removal of Capers is warranted. Statistically, the Packers defense has deteriorated in the five seasons Capers has been in charge. But if Capers were to be replaced, the question becomes by who?

The list of potential candidates is both unimpressive and underwhelming, so odds are Capers is staying put.

While everyone is quick to jump on Capers for his coaching, there is another coach on the Packers staff who deserves equal-if not more-criticism than Capers.

Since being named Special Teams Coordinator in 2009, Shawn Slocum and his Special Teams have done little to separate themselves from being just another group in the NFL.

2013 was no different.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the unofficial ranker of NFL Special Teams, Green Bay finished 20th in the league in Special Teams this past season.

Some “highlights” of the Packers’ Special Teams this past season include:

 

  • Worst opponent starting position in the league (25.6 yard line)
  • 30th ranked kick return average in the NFL (20.3 yds)
  • 21st in net punting average (39.0 yds)
  • 28th in punts inside the 20 (22)

 

The 20th rank for the Special Teams ended four consecutive seasons of improvement for them, although they have never finished in the Top 10 under Slocum:

 

  • 2009: 31st
  • 2010: 29th
  • 2011: 13th (tied)
  • 2012: 12th
  • 2013: 20th

 

Granted, not all was bad for the Special Teams in 2013. Mason Crosby finished the season with an 89.7% FG success rate, by far the best in his career. Micah Hyde was a find as a punt returner, finishing 7th in punt return average (11.3 YPR), helping the Packers earn the best opponent net punt average in the NFL (35.6 yds). But beyond that, it was a lot of underwhelming for the Special Teams, as has been far too often the case under Slocum’s tutelage.

Finding someone to blame for the Packers 8-8-1 season has been a common occurrence since their season came to another abrupt end. While most everyone is quick to jump on Dom Capers and his apparent inability to make the defense a Top 5 defense, perhaps more focus should be placed on Shawn Slocum and his Special Teams consistently finishing as an average to below average  group.

 

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John Rehor is a writer at PackersTalk.com.

He can also be heard as one of the Co-Hosts of Cheesehead Radio.

You can follow John on twitter at jrehor or email him at johnrehor@yahoo.com.

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11 Responses to More Focus Should be Given To Shawn Slocum & The Special Teams

  1. Joe says:

    THANKYOU! I’ve been saying this the last three seasons. I think the Packers do indeed have issues finding a solid returner, but they also have a problem getting ANY BLOCKING! It’s hard to be a good returner when you’ve got 2 or 3 defenders running free on every attempt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • John Rehor says:

      It’s not just the blocking-or lack there of-that bothers me. How about the multiple times each year when there are wide open lanes for opponents to run through, which always seem to happen at the absolute worst times.

      It’s the same thing year after year after year-and it never seems to get any better

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. Ross Uglem says:

    A little devil’s advocate here: while I am not the world’s biggest Slocum fan I will stick up for him in that the unbelievable amount of injuries that the Packers continue to have turns over the bottom of the roster constantly, and it seems to be an issue with his special teams units. The loss of Robert Francois was obvious this season ass well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

    • John Rehor says:

      Ok, let’s run with that thought for just a second: sure, injuries play a role with the special teams, the same as they do with offense and defense. But injuries cannot explain the ST consistently ranking in her bottom 1/3 of the league every year. At some point it has to come to one of two things. Either he doesn’t have the right players on ST (which consists basically of backups, and that will never change) or it’s poor coaching.

      One year being down, I could see it being the injuries. Every year? There has to be more to it than injuries and roster turnover.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      • Terry Ruggles says:

        In the previous four years, the Packers special teams have trended up:
        2009: 31st
        2010: 29th
        2011: 13th (tied)
        2012: 12th

        Prior to Slocum’s arrival our special teams were anything but special and 2009 showed it. Some improvement in 2010, but we were devistated by injuries, meaning many special teams players had to become starters or play significant roles on offense/defense and were unavailable for special teams duty. 2011 and 2012 were much more stable as far as injuries to starters were concerned and our ranking reflects it. Finishing 12th in 2012 was a minor miracle, considering the year Mason Crosby had and the ranking would have been higher if Crosby would have had just an average year. This years ranking is 20th and we harken back to the troubles of 2010, with injuries taking away players that should have been core special teamers being pressed into starting roles. Considering all of the players being taken away from special teams play during this past year, finishing 20th in the rankings is pretty damn good. The players who had to move up to starter/significant roles on offense and defense had all of training camp to learn their roles on special teams. When they were removed, their replacements had minimal time during in-season practices to learn their assignments/roles on special teams and that definately is a factor in that teams performance. With our injuries, it’s a minor miracle we finished as well as we did! I think Slocum should be applauded for the work he’s done. At the very least he deserves another year (with, hopefully, healthy players to work with for a full season) to see if the drop was due to injuries or poor coaching.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Steve says:

    Not completely disagreeing with you, John, but your article just pointed out that the packers had finished 13th and 12th the previous 2 years. Not the “bottom third” as you just said.

    I would say that the ST had been improving and that it coincided with the arrival of Cobb. His injury had a trickle down throughout the team.

    Add to that the early season absence of Bush, Francois, Taylor missed time too – bottom line is no consistency.

    The injury issue is killing this team.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • John Rehor says:

      Forgive my mathematical error, but you get my point, which is the special teams aren’t good. They haven’t been good in quite some time now, and that is the troubling part.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. John says:

    Those stats would be a lot worse if the kickoff rules were not changed. So many more kicks are touchbacks, and there probably should be even more if Slocum wasn’t so in love with directional kicking.

    I do think Slocum needs to go. The Packers defense is not that great, it can’t really afford to have so many yards given up before they even get on the field.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Ron says:

    Look at the difference in Jeremy Ross under a different coach.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • John Rehor says:

      Ross is a great example. He goes from being ok with tons of potential for the Packers to lights out with the Lions. What happened? Did the light go on for him because he was released by the Packers? Or did he respond to better coaching with the Lions?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. BAMA BADGER says:

    Capers, Slocum and Strength/Conditioning coach must go. None have performed over the past three years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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