At least one of head coach Matt LaFleur’s top assistants will not be returning to the Green Bay Packers for the 2021 season.
According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, LaFleur fired Packers special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga — an original member of his coaching staff — on Wednesday after he spent the past two seasons leading the unit. The move represents the biggest change to LaFleur’s coaching staff since he took over in 2019.
The #Packers are parting ways with special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga, per source.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 27, 2021
According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, LaFleur had met with his three coordinators for exit interviews on Wednesday, but word has not yet emerged on the status of defensive boss Mike Pettine — whose defense made crucial errors in a second straight NFC championship game, including a poor scheme decision that allowed a Tampa Bay touchdown just before halftime.
Pettine was hired in 2018 during Mike McCarthy’s final season and retained when LaFleur took the job, but Demovsky noted he did not sign a contract extension during the 2020 offseason and, therefore, is set to have his contract expire without recommitment from the Packers.
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Packers’ Special Teams Play Was Atrocious in 2020
The Packers struggled mightily on special teams throughout the 2020 season despite having a solid veteran kicker in Mason Crosby. A consistent punt and kick returner was never found with Tyler Ervin injured most of the year and late-season addition Tavon Austin proving to be underwhelming. In terms of average yards, they finished 31st on kickoffs (18.9) and tied for 30th with the Cleveland Browns on punts (4.8) with no touchdowns scored.
Inadequacy also defined the Packers’ punting unit as they gave up a league-worst average of 17.1 yards per punt in addition to allowing two returns to be taken for touchdowns. Punter JK Scott, a 2018 fifth-round, also struggled to put together a consistent third year, needing to punt a career-low 47 times but delivering wildly inconsistent (and, at times, downright bad) results.
#Packers STs in 2020…
31st in KR
30th in PR
30th in net punting
T-25th in TB%
29th in Rick Gosselin's rankings
2 punts returned for TDs
4 missed XPs, career high for Mason Crosby
There were some bright moments, but writing was on the wall late in season for Shawn Mennenga.
— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) January 27, 2021
Mennenga faced an uphill battle when he accepted the job in 2019, taking over a special teams unit that finished last in the league in 2018 and looked miserable in all phases under Ron Zook. Blips of progress were made here and there, especially with resurgent seasons from Scott and Crosby in 2019, but the Packers’ unit did not get much closer to rising out of the NFL’s basement during Mennenga’s two years in charge.
Could Packers Promote In-House to Fill Opening?
While Mennenga’s firing hasn’t even been announced yet, the Packers might not be looking very far to find his replacement for the 2021 season.
According to Demovsky, there is a “strong chance” that LaFleur will promote internally to fill the special teams coordinator role for next season with Maurice Drayton — Mennenga’s No. 2 — expected to be the top in-house candidate. Drayton was another holdover from the McCarthy era and has spent the past five years as an assistant special teams coach, including two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts (2016-17).
The only other member of the special teams staff is Rayna Stewart, who is their special teams quality control coach but has no higher coaching experience at the NFL level.