The Green Bay Packers will have at least one new coach next season.
Special teams coordinator Mike Stock has retired, the team announced in a press release on Friday evening. The 69-year-old Stock's position was thought to be in jeopardy after his units went from among the league's best to one of its worst this season.
"My passion for the game was strong through the very last contest," Stock said in the release, "but in thinking further about the commitment needed for another season and discussing it with my family, ultimately I decided this was the best decision for us."
While coach Mike McCarthy didn't say it, this quite possibly was a mutual parting of the ways. In December, Stock didn't sound like a guy ready to retire, saying he was leaning toward returning if McCarthy wanted him back. But, the Packers dropped seven games that were decided by four points or less, and gaffes by Stock's special teams played key roles in five of them.
"I would like to thank Mike for all of his contributions over the past three years," McCarthy said in the release. "The energy and passion he consistently displayed as a coach is something I've admired since we first worked together in Kansas City in 1995. Mike had a positive impact in developing many of the younger players on our roster, which we will continue to benefit from in coming seasons. I wish him, Peggy and their entire family all the best in Mike's retirement years."
Stock, who was Northwestern's leading rusher in 1959 and 1960, departs after 44 years of coaching. Some 26 of those came at the collegiate level, including from 1975 through 1977 at the University of Wisconsin. He broke into the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals in 1987, and he had stints in Kansas City, Washington and St. Louis. A week after McCarthy was hired in 2006, he pegged Stock — who had been out of football for a year — to run his special teams.
Last season, Stock's special teams ranked seventh in the annual Dallas Morning News rankings. In 2007, the Packers got four touchdowns from their special teams, and they ranked second in punt coverage, fourth in punt returns, fourth in kickoff coverage, 10th in net punting and 10th in kickoff coverage.
This season, the Packers are likely to tumble far down Gosselin's rankings once he releases them before the Pro Bowl. While Will Blackmon gave them one of the league's top punt returners, Green Bay ranked last in kickoff return average and 19th in kickoff return coverage.
The Packers ranked 24th in net punting after they went with Stock's recommendation to sign Derrick Frost off waivers and release incumbent Jon Ryan.
Plus, talented kicker Mason Crosby didn't improve on last year's 79 percent accuracy on field goals as a rookie. That rate ranked 27th in the NFL this season. Only the Eagles (three) had more field goals blocked than the Packers (two).
There were key breakdowns, too. Against Atlanta, the Packers rallied to tie the game in the fourth quarter, only to allow a 54-yard kickoff return to set up a go-ahead field goal. At Minnesota, Blackmon inexplicably fielded a punt in the end zone, leading to one of two safeties. Against New Orleans, the Packers yielded a 62-yard kickoff return to allow the go-ahead points just before halftime. In a critical game against Carolina, the Packers yielded three long kickoff returns, including one in the final 2 minutes to set the Panthers up for the winning touchdown. After allowing the go-ahead points late against Carolina and Jacksonville, the Packers failed to return the ensuing kickoffs past the 20-yard line. And at Chicago, a 38-yard field goal to win the game was blocked.
"I've been very fortunate throughout my life to play and coach a sport I love very much," Stock said. "I thank the Green Bay Packers for the opportunity to spend three wonderful years here. I'll miss the games, and I'll miss the people. But I look forward to spending more time with my wife, my three children and five grandchildren."
Assistant special teams coach Shawn Slocum, who played linebacker for his legendary father, R.C. Slocum, at Texas A&M, joined Stock in Green Bay in 2006. Other experienced coaches available are Bruce Read, who was fired by Dallas on Wednesday; Joe DeCamillis, whose contract was not renewed by Jacksonville; and Ted Daishler, who was part of the fired coaching staff in Cleveland. When Ravens coach John Harbaugh was a special teams coach in Philadelphia, Daishler was his assistant.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stock retires as special teams coach
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