Packers make changes to coaching staff

By STEVE MEGARGEE AP Sportswriter

A person familiar with the situation says Maurice Drayton will not be returning as the Green Bay Packers’ special teams coordinator next season.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Packers have yet to make an announcement on Drayton’s future.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported that Drayton was absent.

The move comes after the Packers had a punt and field goal attempt blocked in a 13-10 NFC Divisional Playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

This is the second straight offseason that Packers coach Matt LaFleur has changed special teams coordinator. LaFleur fired Shawn Mennenga last year and replaced him by promoting Drayton, who had served as a special teams assistant coach with the Packers from 2018-2020.

But the Packers have done even worse on special teams this season and reached a nadir in their playoff loss.

The Packers were leading 7-0 when San Francisco’s Jimmie Ward easily crossed the line and blocked Mason Crosby’s 39-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the first half.

Green Bay was still leading 10-3 until Jordan Willis blocked Corey Bojorquez’s punt. Talanoa Hufanga recovered the loose ball and returned it 6 yards for an equalizing touchdown with 4:41 remaining.

The Packers also had just 10 men on the field when San Francisco’s Robbie Gould threw a game-winning field goal from 45 yards when time expired. LaFleur said the day after the game that this error occurred because the Packers miscounted from the coaches box how many players were on the field.

“Would that have made a difference?” LaFleur said the day after the game. “I don’t know. Maybe. But it looks really bad, and it’s embarrassing that it’s happening on my watch.

The Packers’ struggles on special teams were evident long before that playoff loss. According to Football Outsiders effectiveness measures, the Packers had the worst special teams in the NFL during the regular season.

In a 13-7 loss at Kansas City on Nov. 7, the Packers saw a field goal attempt blocked and had a missed punt return that created a Chiefs field goal. Green Bay defeated the Chicago Bears 45-30 December 12 although he allowed Jakeem Grant to score on a 97-yard punt return and failed to recover an inbound kick.

LaFleur said last week the Packers need to put more emphasis on special teams. He mentioned the possibility of using more starters on special teams, although the Packers know all too well the potential downsides of this strategy.

Running back AJ Dillon fractured a rib during a pile-up while blocking on a kickoff return in the 49ers game, preventing him from playing for much of the second half. time.

“San Francisco had a lot of starters on special teams,” LaFleur said. “It will be something I want to study in the league and see how many teams operate that way. Again, is there an inherent risk? Absoutely.”

In other moves, the Packers announced Tuesday that they have promoted Luke Butkus to offensive line coach, added pass play coordinator to wide receivers coach Jason Vrable and promoted Ryan Mahaffey. as assistant offensive line coach.

Butkus, the nephew of Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, has served as an assistant offensive line coach for the Packers for the past three seasons. He was also offensive line coach for Illinois (2012, 2016-18) and assistant offensive line coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars (2013-15).

Adam Stenavich, who served as Green Bay’s offensive line coach from 2019-21, was hired as offensive coordinator Monday. He replaces Nathaniel Hackett, now head coach of the Denver Broncos.

Vrable has been the Packers wide receiver coach since 2020 after working as an offensive assistant in 2019.

Luke Getsy had been the Packers’ passing game coordinator this season as well as their quarterbacks coach. He left to become the Chicago Bears Offensive Coordinator under new head coach Matt Eberflus.

Mahaffey was an offensive quality control coach with the Packers this season.