Are you really a Wisconsin sports fan if you don’t have constant heartbreak? Many Packers fans wish to forget Saturday night when the San Francisco 49ers ended the Packers’ season.
The Packers seemed to be on a roll at the start of the game when Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones had an amazing 75-yard drive. Mason Crosby would then line up for a 39-yard field goal with just three seconds in the first half. But, defensive back Jimmie Ward with the niners would block the attempt, preventing the Packers from leading by ten.
It was a pitiful loss, if we’re being honest. A 13-10 loss with a three-point conversion by the 49ers in the fourth quarter was made even more disappointing with the Packers’ rather upsetting special teams and their plays.
Truly, the Green Bay Packers’ special team has been incompetent this season. Bringing lots of disappointment and anger from the fans, and even players. In annual rankings from Rick Gosselin, the Packers’ special teams finished dead last. In a time where they needed to step up, it was more of a circus on the field; Or, Nick Selbe on Sports Illustrated said, “A Collective dumpster fire of a night.”
Who’s to Blame?
We can point fingers left and right at players and other people to blame, but coach Maurice Drayton is ultimately the culprit.
For being a first-year coordinator, Drayton had bold proclamations all season; All for those words to be nothing but empty promises. Back in October, Drayton said, “We’re really close, to the uninitiated, and what I mean by that is those who do not study special teams and understand it, they think it’s still the same old Packers.” He kept reiterating that they were ‘really close’, but how close were you really?
Having ten men on the field for the niners’ game-winning field goal was just one of the reasons for the Packers’ loss. San Francisco was able to have a third-quarter field goal drive after the Packers allowed a 45-yard return on kickoff.
While Drayton kept promising signs of improvement, the special teams just went from ugly to uglier this season.
The special teams scenario from Saturday brought back less than stellar memories from the 2014 NFC Championship game. Once again, special teams were ranked dead last in the league, but the Packers still managed to get to the championship game. However, it’s the Green Bay Packers and their special teams we’re talking about, and two nice things can’t happen back-to-back. The Packers eventually would lose the game in overtime.
What’s the Solution?
While it would’ve been the right thing to just blame Drayton, coach Matt LaFleur ultimately took the blame for the special teams and their lack in performance.
“Yeah, it’s extremely disappointing,” said LaFleur. “Especially when you look at what happened tonight…”
Many have been calling for a change in who runs the special teams. However, is it really going to do any good for the team? The last seven special teams coordinators have either been fired or practically forced into retirement.
This marks the third straight season where the Green Bay Packers have won 13 games and get knocked out of the playoffs before the Super Bowl.
“There are things I’ve got to do a better job obviously in being more involved to make sure that those types of things don’t happen, that we’re putting those guys in the right position and coaching them the right way,” said LaFleur.” And ultimately, it all falls on me.”
Does LaFleur try to bring in someone from the outside? Maurice Drayton has been with the team for a while; previously working as an assistant to Mennenga and Zook. Zook also received the job in a similar fashion to Drayton, after Slocum was fired following the 2014 NFC Championship Game.
This year’s stings a little more; Packers fans were hopeful that they were going to see the Packers playing the big show. But, for now, the Packers have the offseason to figure out their areas of improvement. Maybe they should start with the special teams.
Follow me on Twitter at @sarahspooon and follow us at @WiSportsHeroics. For all things Wisconsin sports, click here.