The Green Bay Packers had a Super Bowl-worthy squad in 2021. With Aaron Rodgers playing at an MVP level, Davante Adams proving why he’s the best receiver in the NFL, and a defense that was coming into its own, the Pack secured the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC and appeared to be poised for a long playoff run.
And then the San Francisco 49ers knocked them out in the Divisional Round at Lambeau Field. There was plenty of blame to go around for that loss, but special teams was undoubtedly a key reason for it.
The Packers are focused on changing that immediately.
The Green Bay Packers needed to fix a special teams that cost them a Super Bowl run
It was never more evident than in the loss to San Francisco. The Packers’ offense had stalled and was having a hard time moving the ball against a feisty 49ers’ defense, but Green Bay had a defensive answer of its own and ultimatly held Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners to just three points.
Green Bay’s defense came to play and frankly bailed out Rodgers and the offense for much of the game. One would think that in a playoff game in which your defense gives up only three points, and you’ve got Aaron Rodgers on the other side, you have an almost unbeatable chance to walk away with the win.
That could have been the case for the Packers if not for their special teams’ failures.
Green Bay had an opportunity to go into halftime up 10-0 and with all the momentum. Mason Crosby lined up a chip shot 39-yard-field goal, but it was blocked, allowing the 49ers to run off the field with belief and momentum heading into the locker room.
Deebo Samuel ran the second-half kickoff back 45-yards, which set San Francisco up for its first score of the game.
And of course, there was the blocked punt. Still up seven points with 4:41 to go, the Packers attempted to punt the ball deep in their own zone, but it was blocked and scooped up by San Francisco’s Talanoa Hufanga, who walked in for a touchdown.
Capitalizing on their special teams, the 49ers won the game on a Robbie Gould 45-yard game-winner as time expired.
“We thought our special teams had an advantage in this game,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan had said after the game, according to ESPN. “We thought they had an opportunity to possibly win us the game. And to be able to say that and to actually come to fruition … was huge for those guys and huge for our team.”
Green Bay is hoping Rich Bisaccia can make an immediate impact
Shanahan was right to precit that Green Bay’s special teams would let it down in the playoffs, and frankly, that would have been a safe bet for the past few seasons.
Its a unit that the Packers have not invested highly in over the years and that lack of attention has come back to bite them. From possibly low-balling special teams guru Darren Rizzi to promoting Maurice Drayton, who was an assistant to the guy before him, Shawn Mennenga, who had one of the worst units in football.
The Packers have made bad move after bad move at the top and the lack of detail or care has trickled down onto the field.
They’re hoping that won’t be the case with Bisaccia, though, and history says it won’t be.
Bisaccia took over the Las Vegas Raiders last season with Jon Gruden was forced out due to his email scandal. The Raiders appeared to be rudderless and had gone through a ton of adversity as a locker room, but Bisaccia took over, brought the team together, and led them to the playoffs.
While he ultimatly fell to Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals, Bisaccia was such a success as a coach that players like Maxx Crosby and Derek Carr openly campaigned for him to get the head coaching job, even after the loss. “
I think we can all think that he’s the right guy,” Carr said, per ESPN “He’s proven that people listen to him. Our team listens to him. And I love him so much, I’m thankful for him.”
The Raiders decided to go a different direction and hired Josh McDaniels away from the New England Patriots, and that decision ultimatly played into the hands of Green Bay.
The Packers, seemingly learning from their mistakes, swooped in and gave Bisaccia a nice contract to come to Green Bay and do what he was known for before the interim gig with Vegas, which is coach special teams.
“We’re just really fortunate to have a guy of that caliber,” LaFleur said at the NFL Scouting Combine, per USA Today. “I think if you asked the coaches around the league, he’s regarded as one of the best in the business. Any time you can get a guy like that, that’s a big-time win for us.
LaFleur was also asked recently about Bisaccia while speaking with the media at the 2022 Annual NFL Meetings.
“Just wait. Buckle up, baby. Buckle up,” LaFleur told the media about their upcoming media availabilities with the veteran coach (h/t the team website). “He is a fiery dude now.”
The head coach said that he’s excited to see how Bisaccia interacts with the players, but he feels that he’ll make an impact not just on special teams but also on the unit.
“He’s got high standards. He’s going to be demanding. But he cares about not only his players but also cares about people,” LaFleur said.” I just think, from my interactions with him, he’s going to be a real asset for us.”
If all Bisaccia does is fix Green Bay’s woeful special teams, he’ll be worth every cent the Packers will pay him.
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