There is a lot of blame to go around for the failure of the Green Bay Packers special teams. The former special teams coordinators are the top of that list. Coaches Shawn Slocum, Ron, Zook, Shawn Mennenga, and most recently Maurice Drayton all failed miserably. Although it can be argued that Drayton told the rest to “hold his beer”. The men who hired those coordinators, Mike McCarthy and Matt LaFleur, played a big hand in the awful play as well. Former General Manager Ted Thompson and current general manager Brian Gutekunst also did not provide anyone assistance. The talent they provided were far from elite. Even the “wizard” Russ Ball played a part in the failure. However, it appears the Packers might finally be taking special teams seriously. The hiring of Rich Bisaccia as the new Green Bay Packers specials teams coordinator is proof to how seriously they are.
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Rich Bisaccia is the Right Man at the Right Time to Lead the Green Bay Packers Special Teams
Rich Bisaccia has earned a lot of respect from his peers around the NFL. When the Las Vegas Raiders fired Jon Gruden during the 2021 NFL season, it was Bisaccia who stepped in and helped lead the Raiders to the playoffs. Even before his stint as the interim head coach, he was well thought of in NFL circles for his work as a special teams coordinator. But Packers fans need to understand something, Rich Bisaccia isn’t the Vince Lombardi of special teams coordinators.
That is not a shot at Bisaccia. He is very good at what he does. In 20 seasons as a special teams coordinator, his special teams units have cracked the top-ten nine times on Rick Gosselin’s special teams rankings list. Were they all number one? No, they were not. While Rich Bisaccia is good, he is not the best. In fact it can be argued that the best NFL special teams coordinator currently is Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub.
But even without being the best, Bisaccia is still the right man to be in charge of the Green Bay Packers special teams. The Green Bay Packers special teams have been an embarrassment for years. They need someone who can bring respectability to the unit. Bisaccia appears to be the best person to do so.
This off-season, Rich Bisaccia is making his presence known. Personnel moves for the Green Bay Packers special teams has Bisaccia’s fingerprints all over it.
#Packers hire Rich Bisaccia as special teams coordinator
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) February 8, 2022
Packers Bring in New Punter
Just like with most of the Green Bay Packers special teams, punter has been a major thorn in the Packers side in recent history. J.K. Scott was supposed to be the long term answer at the position. Brian Gutekunst spent a fifth round pick on the Alabama product in the 2018 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, Scott turned out to be a massive whiff by Gutekunst. He was expected to be a major weapon, but that never materialized.
Gutekunst finally parted ways with his fifth round pick and traded for Corey Bojorquez. Not only did Bojorquez have a big leg, but he had success punting in the cold when he punted for the Buffalo Bills in 2020. Unfortunately for the Packers, similar to Scott, his consistency was an issue. By the end of 2021, his punts were short and at times, without hang time. To go along with that, his work as the Packers holder was downright awful.
With the guidance of Rich Bisaccia, Gutekunst took a different approach when it comes to the Packers punter. Instead of looking for a young inexperienced punter with a big leg, they are taking the veteran route. The Packers signed veteran Pat O’Donnell, who was the Chicago Bears punter from 2014-2021. O’Donnell does not have nearly the powerful leg that either Scott and Bojorquez have, but he is consistent. Along with that, he has a history of being a solid holder, something neither Scott or Bojorquez were.
O’Donnell’s signing does come at a risk though. While he will be a steady presence for the Green Bay Packers special teams, his numbers with the Bears were not overwhelming. While he is a solid holder, his main job will be punting. Bisaccia has heaped praise on O’Donnell’s ability as a holder. But if he cannot punt well on a consistent basis, his holding will not mean too much.
Surrounding Himself With Familiar Faces
Green Bay might be a new location, but when Rich Bisaccia looks around, he will see some familiar faces. One of those familiar faces will be cornerback Keisean Nixon. The Packers signed the former Raider to a contract this off-season. While he is listed as a cornerback, his contribution will come mostly on special teams. He was a core member of Bisaccia’s special teams in Las Vegas for the past four seasons. He has had minimum exposure as a cornerback, but has been a solid special teamer in his first four seasons in the league. There is no doubt that Bisaccia is going to lean heavily on Nixon when installing his system.
Also joining Bisaccia will be special teams assistant Byron Storer. The former NFL fullback was Bisaccia’s top assistant with the Raiders for the four years Bisaccia was with the Raiders. He also was with Bisaccia when Bisaccia coordinated the then San Diego Chargers special teams. He also was with him when he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Having his right hand man with him in Green Bay will give Bisaccia some more comfort while getting acclimated to LaFleur’s staff.
Bringing over Nixon and Storer also proves how much faith Gutekunst and LaFleur have in Bisaccia. It seems that Bisaccia wanted both Nixon and Storer with him in Green Bay and Gutekunst and LaFleur gave him what he wanted.
Two Young Returner to Work With
The Green Bay Packers Special Teams have been without an explosive kickoff and punt returner for quite some time. It was expected that 2021 third round pick Amari Rodgers would finally give the Packers the returner they were in need of. Unfortunately, Rodgers showed that he was not able to handle either of the positions. By the end of last season, most Packers fans were just hoping that Rodgers could just field punts cleanly and not turn over the ball.
Gutekunst made sure to give Bisaccia a couple of young returners this off-season. Second round pick Christian Watson was a standout kickoff returner while at North Dakota State University. In his last season with the Bison, Watson returned 10 kickoffs for 227 yards with a 22.7 yards per kickoff average. His longest was a 48 yard return. It is expected that Watson will replace running back Kylin Hill who started off 2021 as the Packers primary kickoff returner.
Watson is not the only rookie wide receiver who is expected to see time as a starting returner. Fourth round pick Romeo Doubs was a proven punt returner for the University of Nevada. In his last season with the Wolf Pack, Doubs returned 12 punts for 170 yards with a 14.2 yards per punt return average.
In recent history, the best the Packers could hope from their return units was not to make a mistake. With having Bisaccia coaching Watson and Doubs they might actually get some contribution from their return game.
A Proven Special Teams Coordinator
Bisaccia does not have an easy task ahead of him. Not only have the Green Bay Packers special teams been awful, but they have been led by a coordinator who was over their head. With Bisaccia in the fold, they actually have a proven NFL special teams coordinator.
Sadly, it took the special teams costing them their season to get Gutekunst and LaFleur to put some emphasis on the special teams unit. But this off-season, they have finally put the capital into improving the special teams. Selecting Watson and Doubs is a big step in the right direction. But the biggest addition of them all is the arrival of Bisaccia.
The Packers paid top dollar to land the veteran special teams coordinator. But because of their longtime neglect, the Packers were forced to do so. On paper, Bisaccia is the right man for the job. He brings with him a wealth of experience. At each stop he has had, his special teams units have been solid. The Packers would be thrilled if they finished with a middle of the road special teams. But with Bisaccia leading the Green Bay Packers special teams unit, they have a chance of succeeding those expectations.