Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton out after blunders in playoff loss


GREEN BAY, Wis. — For the second straight offseason, the Green Bay Packers have made a change at special teams coordinator. It means coach Matt LaFleur will have his third different person running those units as he heads into his fourth season as the head coach.

Maurice Drayton is out from the role after special teams blunders played a major role in the Packers’ 13-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC divisional playoff round, a source confirmed to ESPN.

The news was first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Packers earned the top seed in the NFC despite special teams issues that lasted throughout the season. Drayton’s units ranked 31st in ESPN’s FPI and dead last in Rick Gosselin’s widely respected special teams rankings.

Drayton becomes the eighth straight Packers special teams coordinator to be pushed out. Six were fired and two were forced into retirement.

Drayton took over last offseason after LaFleur fired Shawn Mennenga, who lasted two seasons. Drayton, who had served as an assistant under Mennenga, couldn’t get the units going.

In the loss to the 49ers, the Packers became the first team in 33 years to have both a punt and a field goal blocked during the same playoff game. The blocked field goal came on a 39-yard attempt on the final play of the first half that would have given the Packers a 10-0 lead. The blocked punt came with the Packers at their own 12-yard line, and the 49ers returned it for a touchdown — their only one of the game. That tied the game at 10-10 with 4:41 left.

“You could argue that was the difference in the game,” LaFleur said of the blocked punt. “But I think it was more than just that play.”

The Packers also allowed a 45-yard kickoff return that set up a 49ers field goal and then had only 10 players on the field against San Francisco’s game-winning field goal.

LaFleur dedicated three coaches to special teams last season: Drayton and assistants Rayna Stewart and Connor Lewis. Stewart and Lewis could be considered for the job but, given that promoting Drayton didn’t work, LaFleur may be more likely to look outside the organization. One strong external candidate already came off the board when the Carolina Panthers this week hired former Chicago Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor, considered one of the best special teams coaches in the league.

It might not all be coaching. LaFleur said he would consider using more veteran players on special teams next year, but noted that they lost running back AJ Dillon to a fractured rib while covering a kick against the 49ers.

“We can do a much better job starting with myself emphasizing the special teams, allowing some of maybe our starters to play on more phases of that,” LaFleur said. “Granted, that’s got its own set of risks that kind of transpired the other night when we lost A.J.

“I don’t think it’s ever just one thing but certainly that will be a big-time priority I think for us moving forward is to not allow something like this to happen again because it’s really disappointing when our defense goes out there and really dominates for four quarters and our offense, like I said earlier, it certainly wasn’t up to our standard but there was, what, four minutes and some change left in that game and we had the lead. So, you know, we’ve got to look at everything and that starts with myself just making sure that it is a main priority for us.”

The Packers did not announce a change at special teams coordinator Tuesday but did announce other changes on the staff. Four coaches were promoted: Jason Vrable to wide receivers/passing game coordinator, Luke Butkus to offensive line coach, Connor Lewis to assistant quarterbacks coach and Ryan Mahaffey to assistant offensive line coach.



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