Special Teams Rankings Confirm Obvious

After checking in at No. 31 in our rankings, the Packers finished 32nd in the annual Dallas Morning News special teams rankings. Will it cost Shawn Slocum his job?

Will having the league’s worst special teams cost coordinator Shawn Slocum his job?

That’s the question confronting a grieving Mike McCarthy.

Confirming Packer Report’s special teams rankings and what everyone saw on a too-frequent basis, the Green Bay Packers finished dead-last in the Dallas Morning News’ annual special teams rankings.

Since Slocum took over as coordinator, the Packers finished 31st in 2009, 29th in 2010, tied for 13th in 2011, 12th in 2012, 19th in 2013 and 32nd in 2014. With three bottom-four finishes in six years, the Packers’ average ranking in Gosselin’s analysis is 22.7.

McCarthy stuck with Slocum in the past but it remains to be seen whether that loyalty will give Slocum another chance. In years past, the Packers had been slammed by injuries. That meant a revolving door on special teams, which hurt continuity and led to some issues. This season, the Packers were one of the healthiest teams in the league. Outside of 2011 and 2012, when Randall Cobb returned kicks, Slocum lacked a legit returner. This season, DuJuan Harris ranked next-to-last in kickoff returns but Micah Hyde would have led the NFL in punt returns had he had enough opportunities and scored a huge touchdown in the Week 17 win over Detroit.

More than anything, in years past, the subpar special teams play never really cost the Packers anything beyond field position and some points in 2012, when kicker Mason Crosby fell into a season-long funk. That wasn’t the case this year, though. While the Packers never lost a game because of their seven blocked kicks, a touchdown on a fake field goal and a botched onside kick played a huge role in the Packers’ loss to Seattle in last week’s NFC Championship Game. Stop either of those plays and Green Bay is getting ready for next week's Super Bowl.

Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin annually examines 22 special-teams categories, with the best team earning one point and the worst team getting 32 points in those categories. The Packers finished last, with league-worst rankings in blocked kicks (seven) and inside-the-20 punts (14).

Green Bay finished 31st in our rankings. The Packers ranked 31st in net punting and 30th in opponent field position after a kickoff.

At the bye, Green Bay ranked 22nd in our rankings.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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