On Monday, Tim Masthay knew it was too early to declare himself the victor in the Green Bay Packers’ punting battle.
“We still have a week left in camp,” Masthay said after the team had released his challenger, Peter Mortell, on Monday. “Final cuts are this Saturday. I don’t feel like I’ve won anything yet.”
Masthay was right.
The Packers released him on Tuesday and claimed Jacob Schum off waivers from Tampa Bay.
The decision came out of left field. When the Packers released Mortell, coach Mike McCarthy said the job was Masthay's to lose.
"Tim Masthay, he’s in the driver’s seat," McCarthy said. "It’s important to have a good week of practice and perform in Kansas City, just like everybody. It’s a competition to make your team. Tim, we have great history with here and he’ll just continue to work and get better."
Instead of that "great history," Masthay is history.
Schum, an undrafted free agent in 2013 out of Buffalo, punted for Tampa Bay last season. He averaged 41.9 yards per punt (compared to Masthay’s 43.0) and had a net average of 38.0 (compared to Masthay’s 39.3). He placed 15 of his 56 punts inside the 20-yard line (compared to 14 of Masthay’s 81) — the one big edge for Schum in the comparison.
The Packers hope this decision works out better than their last big decision at the position. After solid seasons in 2006 and 2007, general manager Ted Thompson released Jon Ryan with just about the same timing as this transaction — Sept. 1, 2008. The decision backfired, with Derrick Frost and Jeremy Kapinos struggling in 2008 and 2009. Masthay solidified the position for the next six seasons.
Not only was Masthay statistically the best punter in Packers history, but he knew how to negotiate the late-season chill of Lambeau Field. Plus, he had a great rapport with kicker Mason Crosby. Now, the Packers turn to Schum, who didn’t put up great numbers in balmy Tampa Bay and will be working from scratch with Crosby. They have just one preseason game and four practices to get ready for the regular season.
Masthay was coming off the best punting season in Packers history. His net average of 40.3 yards obliterated the previous franchise record, set by Masthay with a 39.0-yard mark in 2014. He holds the top five single-season net average in Packers history, and his career net of 38.7 established over his six seasons also is a team record.
However, Masthay performed poorly in the playoff loss at Arizona, with a 35.8-yard gross average and 32.8-yard net average on four punts inside the Cardinals’ dome stadium. The week prior at Washington, he was excellent with a 45.3-yard average and a 44.0-yard net average on four kicks vs. the Redskins.
Masthay beat out Mortell, but that was more due to Mortell’s inconsistency than Masthay’s performance during camp and the preseason. However, he turned in a promising performance in the preseason win at San Francisco, with 43.0-yard gross and net averages.
“I care a lot about being a member of this organization and I’m cognizant of the history here, so it means a lot to me to be a part of that,” Masthay said during training camp as part of a conversation regarding the premature birth of his daughter. “It means a lot to me to be the longest-tenured punter here and the records and stuff like that. Being a part of punt teams that I’ve done that, it’s special to me. It’s special because of the history of the organization, because of the men and women that have worked for this organization, because of the teammates I have, because of how difficult it is. And then guys like Brett (Goode, the former snapper) and Mason (Crosby, the longtime kicker), who I’ve played with throughout my career, that bond and going through all of that with them, that makes it really special, too. The records and winning a Super Bowl and managing to stick around for a while here means a lot to me.”
As for Schum, he was beaten out by Bryan Anger. In three games, Anger averaged 48.7 yards with a net of 44.1, compared to an average of 41.0 yards and a net of 39.5 for Schum.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.