In coach Mike McCarthy’s biggest coaching move since replacing Bob Sanders with Dom Capers following the 2008 season, McCarthy fired Shawn Slocum. The decision was announced by the team at about 4 p.m. on Friday.
“I would like to thank Shawn for all of his contributions over the past nine years,” McCarthy said in a statement. “He was a positive contributor to our success, including helping us win Super Bowl XLV. We wish Shawn, Michelle and their family the best moving forward.”
The Packers did not announce a replacement or any shuffling of the staff. Slocum’s assistant, Ron Zook, the former head coach at Illinois and Florida who coached the Steelers’ special teams from 1996 through 1998, remains with the club. Zook, 60, was added to the staff in February.
Really, the only surprise was the timing. During his season-ending news conference on Wednesday, McCarthy said the coaches were off for the week and his evaluation of the coaching staff would start with the coordinators on Monday.
A thorough evaluation wasn’t necessary.
A special-teams unit that went from OK at midseason to downright horrible by the end of the season disintegrated during the NFC Championship Game at Seattle. The Seahawks, trailing 16-0, got back into the game with a fake field goal that resulted in a touchdown. And with the Packers on the threshold of the Super Bowl late in the fourth quarter, they botched an onside kick that the Seahawks recovered and turned into a go-ahead touchdown.
“Special teams, definitely a tough performance for us,” McCarthy said on Wednesday. “Anytime you give up seven points and have a turnover, it's very difficult to overcome that, especially when it occurs in the second half like it did.”
Jarrett Bush, the Packers’ longtime special-teams ace, compared Slocum to an “uncle.”
“I don’t (blame him),” Bush said a day after the Seattle game. “I love the guy, not only as a coach but as an uncle because I’ve been around him so long. I love the guy. We’ve been through a lot together. We were to the NFC Championship in ‘07, the Super Bowl, playoffs and now NFC Championship again. So, we’ve been through a lot, learned a lot. It’s up to them to make that decision.”
After solid seasons from the kicking game in 2011 and 2012, those units had regressed. 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 in the annual Dallas Morning News rankings conducted by columnist Rick Gosselin. With three bottom-four finishes in six years, the Packers’ average ranking in Gosselin’s analysis is 22.7.
In Packer Report’s rankings, the Packers finished 19th in 2013 and 31st in 2014. Bad performances in 2010 and 2013, in particular, could be at least partially explained away by a rash of injuries. The Packers in 2014, however, were one of the healthier teams in the league. Their kickoff and kickoff return units were among the worst in the league, punter Tim Masthay suffered through a second-half slump and a league-high seven kicks were blocked. On the bright side, Green Bay has fielded one of the top punt returns the past two seasons. Before the meltdown against Seattle, two big plays set up scores -- Brad Jones forced a fumble, which Morgan Burnett recovered, on a kickoff return and Micah Hyde had a long punt return. Slocum also deserves some credit for getting kicker Mason Crosby's career back on track after his dismal 2012 season.
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