At Least They Weren't Last

By now, you have read that the Packers finished 31st in the annual Dallas Morning News special teams rankings. We go beyond the published numbers to tell you where the Packers' special teams fell far short in 2009.

When the Dallas Morning News' Rick Gosselin produced his annual special teams rankings, the results only stated the obvious: The Packers' kicking teams were bad.

In Gosselin's annual breakdown of 22 special teams categories, the Packers finished 31st, or just one spot ahead of last-place Carolina. Points are based on ranking in each of the categories, so that the league leader in a category got one point and the team that finished last got 32 points.

As Gosselin listed in his story, the Packers finished last in the NFL in penalties (28) and inside-the-20 punts (15) and were one of only 10 teams that failed to score a touchdown.

Packer Report took it a step further and determined where the Packers ranked in all 22 categories.

Turns out they finished in the bottom quarter of the league in punt coverage (24th), field goal percentage (25th), opponent net punting (28th), opponent starting point after kickoffs (31st) and net punting (31st).

On the plus side, the Packers tied for sixth in giveaways and tied for ninth in starting field position after a kickoff in the key categories.

In a separate special teams breakdown by Football Outsiders, the Packers finished last.

"His ranking system is flat, which means that it doesn't rate from a league-average baseline, but the results for the Packers seem to be about the same either way," Football Outsiders' Doug Farrar told Packer Report. "On the other hand, I don't think he takes Pittsburgh's coverage suckitude into full account (league-record-tying four kickoff returns allowed for touchdowns but overall ranking of 15th). Green Bay is achingly close to the league average in the return game based on our numbers, but the kicking and punting overall — from field goals to coverage teams — are perhaps the Packers' greatest liability. Take a look at how the Saints played special teams in the Super Bowl — that's an indicator of how it can decide a team's postseason fate."

In making decisions on his coaching staff, Mike McCarthy went with continuity and the prospects for improvement rather than weighing his decision purely on the statistics.

By any measure, though, Slocum's first season was an abject failure. It's hard to pin Mason Crosby's failure to split the uprights on field goals and Jeremy Kapinos' inability to consistently punt with distance and hang time totally on Slocum. Crosby needs to make the kicks, pure and simple. In the case of Kapinos and the lackluster punt-return unit, Slocum is a coach and not a miracle worker. Kapinos was inexperienced and has a borderline leg. The punt return unit was hamstrung by injuries that took away Will Blackmon and, indirectly, Tramon Williams.

The breakdowns in coverage, however, were more damning. One of the reasons why McCarthy went to the 3-4 was to add more athletic tacklers to the kicking teams. Instead, the Packers went from 24th to 31st in opponents' starting field position after kickoffs. In 2007, they finished 10th, and in 2006, they finished ninth.

Long punt returns cost the Packers dearly in home losses to Cincinnati and Minnesota, and a blocked punt that was recovered for a touchdown potentially cost the Packers a win at Tampa Bay. And who knows how the losses to Pittsburgh and Arizona unfold had Crosby not missed makable field goals. In all five of those losses, the special teams played a critical role.

The following is the Packers' league ranking in the 22 categories charted by Gosselin.


Best: Baltimore, 26.2 yards

Worst: Oakland, 18.2 yards

Packers: 19th, 22.1 yards


Best: Philadelphia, 13.5 yards

Worst: San Francisco, 4.4 yards

Packers: 23rd, 6.9 yards


Best: Cleveland, 18.9 yards

Worst: Oakland, 25.7 yards

Packers: 18th, 22.8 yards.


Best: Jacksonville, 4.2 yards

Worst: New Orleans, 14.3 yards

Packers: 24th, 10.1 yards.


Best: Cleveland, 31.4-yard line

Worst: Oakland, 22.8-yard line

Packers: 9th (tie), 27.3-yard line.


Best: Atlanta, 21.4-yard line

Worst: Pittsburgh, 31.3-yard line

Packers: 31st, 28.9-yard line


Best: Oakland, 51.1 yards

Worst: New England, 39.0 yards

Packers: 18th (tie), 43.1 yards


Best: Oakland, 43.9 yards

Worst: New England, 34.0 yards

Packers: 31st, 34.1 yards


Best: Arizona, 42

Worst: Green Bay, 15

Packers: 32nd


Best: Buffalo, 41.2 yards

Worst: Seattle, 47.2 yards

Packers: 27th, 45.0 yards


Best: Cincinnati, 35.2 yards

Worst: Seattle, 41.5 yards

Packers: 28th, 40.2 yards


Best: Philadelphia and San Diego, 32

Worst: Indianapolis and Tampa Bay, 16

Packers: 6th (tie), 27


Best: Arizona, 94.7 percent

Worst: Tampa Bay, 61.5 percent

Packers: 25th (tie), 75.0 percent


Best: Dallas, 69.2 percent

Worst: Denver, 93.5 percent

Packers: 10th, 76.5 percent


Best: 16 teams tied at 100 percent

Worst: Washington, 92.8 percent

Packers: 18th, 98.0 percent


Best: Cleveland, 24

Worst: 10 teams tied with 0

Packers: In tie for last


Best: 9 teams tied with 0

Worst: Pittsburgh, 30

Packers: Tied for 10th, 6


Best: Tampa Bay, 6

Worst: 9 teams tied with 0

Packers: Tied for 23rd, 1


Best: 8 teams tied with 0

Worst: Carolina, 4

Packers: Tied for ninth, 1


Best: Oakland, 5

Worst: 5 teams tied with 0

Packers: Tied for 16th, 1


Best: 5 teams tied with 0

Worst: Washington, 5

Packers: Tied for sixth, 1


Best: Atlanta, 6

Worst: Green Bay, 28

Packers: 32nd

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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