Just two days after the Green Bay Packers officially fired Special Teams Coordinator Maurice Drayton following a dismal lone season at the helm, the team found its replacement. Rich Bisaccia, most recently the interim head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, is expected to take over special teams duties for the Green and Gold in 2022. The announcement has rejuvenated a fan base that is still reeling from a disappointing divisional-round exit and made some of the looming decisions this offseason that much more important. But what effect will the new coach have on gameday and what are some short-term changes he could make? Let’s discuss the Rich Bisaccia ripple effect.
Bisaccia’s hiring sure feels like another step in the right direction toward a Super Bowl run. The special teams guru brings 20 years of NFL coaching experience to Titletown along with a steady track record coaching the third phase of the game.
After paying his dues in the college ranks for two decades, the Yonkers, New York native made his NFL coaching debut as a special teams coordinator with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002. Bisaccia made his mark, leading one of the league’s best units en route to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.
The Bucs’ success in the third phase continued under his nine seasons of tutelage, fielding a stable unit that saw three players capture Pro Bowl honours and rank top 10 in opponent kickoff return average, team gross punting average, and fewest kickoff and punt return touchdowns allowed.
This won’t be the first time Bissacia’s services have been called on to turn around a struggling team. He joined the Chargers franchise in 2011, only to convert the league’s worst punting unit from 2010 into a top-10 operation the next season – an immediate improvement.
Similar success followed the coach through stops with the Cowboys and Raiders before hitting the free agency market as a coveted piece this offseason.
Bisaccia can coach, there’s no denying that. His track record is solid and he’s well-respected by coaches and players. The fact that he led a Raiders squad that went through turmoil at nearly every level last season says something about his leadership ability.
As former Packer Isaac Yiadom once said, however, “special teams is about execution.”
A coach of this calibre is a win for a football club that seemed incapable of finding an answer for their woes last season – woes that ultimately cost its season. But the new leader can only teach and prepare his unit. He can’t play for them, and that is where fans will have to wait and see the potential fruits of this highly anticipated signing.
In the meantime, there are personnel decisions that Bisaccia will have an influence over as the team gears up for 2022.
The Packers enter the offseason with three key special teams positions up in the air.
Punter Corey Bojorquez, who the team acquired via trade from the Rams last August, is a pending UFA. “Bojo” boosted the punt unit as soon as he arrived and had a nice season, for the most part, but wavered slightly as the weather got colder.
He finished the season with 18 punts inside the 20, four touchbacks, and a 46.5 yard average off 53 attempts. His price tag is unknown, but he is the youngest option set to hit the market in March and could be an easy signing to check off the list.
Mason Crosby, the long-time kicker and all-time franchise leader in points, is rumoured to be a potential cap-casualty in the coming weeks as the team tries to clear cap space to not only get under the salary cap, but find money to bring back key pieces.
Crosby, although about as steady a kicker as one could hope for throughout his career, struggled in the middle weeks of the season, including a four-miss (three FG, one XP) performance versus the Bengals in Week 5, which seemed to be the catalyst for a tough string of games.
Crosby’s long-standing tenure could warrant a chance to compete for his job in training camp next season, but it’s equally possible the business aspect comes into play with his $4.7M cap hit, making him a bit too expensive to hold onto.
The Packers also have 25-year-old J.J. Molson, who will likely compete for the starting kicker job, signed through next season.
The long-snapper situation is also in question as Steven Wirtel, the uber-athletic 24-year-old who was added to the practice squad in early September before appearing in the last nine games of the regular season, is still under contract in 2022 but will have to prove himself in camp.
The big question will be what changes Bissacia wants to make if any. The decision to cut Crosby may be out of his hands, leaving him with Molson, for the time being.
Eight kickers and six punters have declared for the 2022 NFL Draft, and it’s possible Bisaccia wants to groom a young talent to leave his print with the franchise.
A cheap sleeper candidate could be 34-year-old Dan Bailey, who Bisaccia coached during his time in Dallas. Bailey played his best ball under Bisaccia, including a career year in 2015 when he was labelled “Mr. Automatic” after connecting on 93% of his field goals and 100% of his extra points while earning second-team All-Pro honours.
During that same tenure, Bisaccia also helped long-snapper Louis-Philippe Ladouceur earn his first Pro Bowl honour in 2014.
Despite losing key coaches this offseason, the Packers will take a step forward with this hire. Bisaccia is proven, respected, and should provide Cheeseheads with a lot of optimism heading into next season.
He could be the missing piece to the run we’ve been waiting for.——————
Joshua Frey-Sam is a journalism student and aspiring sportscaster hailing from Winnipeg, Canada. A Packers fan since 2005, Josh has worked to master the financial and scouting aspect of the NFL over the past few years. Josh remains a firm believer that Dez did not, in fact, catch the ball. You can follow him on twitter at @jfreysam.