Packers need a culture change

After what was a cold and bitter loss at Lambeau last Saturday night, Aaron Rodgers’ quote on special teams speaks volumes about how the Packers viewed special teams.

“We would just like to play even… a little wash in the special teams”

The Packers leader had resigned himself to the failure that was the 2021-22 Green Bay Packers special teams unit. The Packers started the preseason struggling to ensure 11 players were on the field for special team snaps and sadly only ten players watched the 49-inch basket go through the uprights in the final game of the season Packer.

When a team of professional NFL players and coaches spends an entire season repeating the same assignment mistakes and the same fundamental technical failures, and the same problem has spanned years, you have a problem. of culture. A culture problem cannot be changed overnight with the dismissal of a coach. The Packers tried that, and failed. Miserably.

A culture change requires the commitment of every member of the organization. The president to the general manager, the scouting staff, to the head coach, to every player in the building. When LaFleur became head coach, he pursued Darren Rizzi as ST coordinator. It was rumored that he had received a “low ball” money offer and signed with the Saints instead. Looking at Saturday’s stunning loss, you could say that failing to go all-in with the best special teams coordinator cost the Packers a Super Bowl bid.

The Packers then hired Sean Mennenga for the position despite having no experience as an NFL coordinator on special teams. When it was apparent after two seasons that Mennenga’s best day at Lambeau was the day of his job interview, the Packers hired his assistant instead of looking for the most qualified candidate. To quote an expert in corporate culture change:

“The greatest danger in turbulent times isn’t the turbulence – it’s acting with yesterday’s logic.”

As the Packers invested two draft picks in special teams, their selected punter and long snapper were replaced by this year’s coordinator Maurice Drayton. Whether the failures of these two players can be blamed on scouts, the coaches who didn’t train them properly, the players themselves, or some combination, a culture has been created that special teams aren’t as important as football. attack or defense.

Green Bay Packers Special Teams Coordinator Maurice Drayton is introduced during the second quarter of their game Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. The Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17

A breakdown of the field goal block shows a basic technical miss by Packer tackle Tyler Lancaster. Lancaster lined up on the far right side before the 49er timed out. Then Lancaster and Tyler Davis switched sides before the blocked kick. Reviewing the tape from previous games, Lancaster played in that position all season, but most of his shots came from the right side, not the left side. The 49ers didn’t do anything fancy. Lancaster just allowed the inside rusher to pass intact and fully engaged the outside rusher. Lancaster made a fundamental mistake that should be the first rule of a field goal blocker, never let a defender cross your face.

On the blocked punt, long snapper Steve Wirtel attempted to block 6’4” 270-pound defensive end Jordon Willis. Wirtel weighs 228 pounds. Wirtel had no help and was literally pushed out of the way by a sprinting Willis who was barely slowed by Wirtel’s failed attempt. Wirtel replaced Hunter Bradley mid-season despite having no starting experience. Did this coaching decision cost the Packers a playoff victory? The failures of the special teams unit cannot be blamed solely on Maurice Drayton. You could say that the Packer culture defeated him. The Packers blamed Mennenga without addressing the entire Packer culture that has contributed to special teams failure for nearly a decade.

It’s clear the Packers need a quality, experienced specialist to lead the special teams unit. Then, each level of the organization must recognize its own contribution to failure and make changes to its approach. Years ago, Al Davis drafted a bettor in the first round. NFL pundits laughed at him. Ray Guy was a perennial All-Pro. It’s no coincidence that he was a three-time Super Bowl champion. Davis communicated to his entire team the importance of special teams by recruiting Guy. Now there is
several ways to communicate change. Davis’ message was extreme and should only be considered on a generational type player. The Packers need to find their own way to communicate the change. The key will not be to use yesterday’s logic. This thought was a cultural failure.

Comments are closed.