Raiders Players Loved Packers Special Teams Coordinator Candidate Rich Bisaccia
GREEN BAY, Wis. – One thing is for sure. If hired by Matt LaFleur, Rich Bisaccia wouldn’t be fazed by the growing pains associated with the Green Bay Packers’ eternally awful special teams.
Bisaccia faced career adversity in the second half of the season with the Las Vegas Raiders. When coach Jon Gruden resigned in controversy after Week 5, Bisaccia, 61, took over as interim coach. After winning its first two games, the Raiders lost five of six games to seemingly miss out on the playoffs. But, following a 48-9 loss at the Chiefs, Bisaccia rallied the troops. The Raiders have won their last four games, including a Week 18 thriller against the Los Angeles Chargers, to sneak into the playoffs.
“Rich is one of a kind,” star defensive end Maxx Crosby said on The Rich Eisen Show last month. “Everyone asked, ‘What’s going to happen?’ Everyone knows my vote. I was very clear. I like Rich. I think he’s the best man for the job. He came and did an amazing job. We won 10 games with a team that had tragedies, defeats, everything you can imagine. And he found a way to get a group of guys together and win football games in January and December, which is rare. Rich is the real deal. He is a leader of men.
The Gruden debacle was only part of the challenge. On November 2, catcher Henry Ruggs killed a woman in a car accident in which her blood alcohol level was reportedly 0.16, twice the legal limit. On November 8, the team released cornerback Damon Arnette after a viral video in which Arnette had a gun and threatened to kill someone. They were the team’s 2020 first-round picks.
It was a lot to overcome, not that Bisaccia was looking for praise after becoming the first interim coach to lead his team to the playoffs since 1961.
“Coach Bisaccia’s son wrote this thing for himself and was kind enough to give me a copy,” quarterback Derek Carr said ahead of the Week 18 win over the Chargers. “It’s been in my office since we got back to Oakland. One part literally says, “Nobody cares. I’ve held on to that because no matter what you’re going through, no matter how many situations you’ve been through, how many head coaches and coordinators and players have been through the building, no matter where you you find, no one cares. You just have to win football matches. … No one cares what happened. It’s something I teach my children.
It would be words of wisdom for the Packers’ special teams if he is hired to replace Maurice Drayton. This year has been a disaster. In 2019 and 2020, veteran kicker Mason Crosby missed just two field goals. In 2021, he missed a league-high nine. There was an end-of-camp change to punter and a mid-season change to snapper. The comebacks for much of the season were rookies Amari Rodgers and Kylin Hill.
Packers Standings: Special Teams
Our ratings are based on performance against the salary cap. A dismal season for veteran kicker Mason Crosby has coincided with a total mess of special teams.
Classification of packers: safety
Our ratings are based on performance against the salary cap. Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage started all 17 games together.
Drayton never found an excuse, but he never had a solution either. All season he spoke with optimism.
“We have to keep improving and keep taking small steps every day,” Drayton said ahead of the first pre-season game. “If we improve a little bit every day, the first time the first pre-season game hits, the second pre-season game, the third pre-season game, the opener, we should be exactly there. where we need to be.”
Instead, one outage after another led to divisional disaster against San Francisco.
Drayton, 45, was a first-time coordinator. Bisaccia, 61, has just completed his 20th season.
“I’ve said it many times,” Bisaccia said after the Raiders clinched their playoff spot. “We tried to develop a group of men who care about each other, know what to do and compete with hard work. They’re a tough team to beat. And once they learn to respect each other’s work, it’s a nice place to come to work. And to respond to any adversity or whatever or prosperity that may appear that day, it gives you the opportunity to forge your identity.
Bisaccia was a go-to coach for Raiders players even before Gruden was fired. Crosby said visiting Bisaccia in his office was like talking to a friend. Several of his players lobbied for him to get the job, which eventually went to Josh McDaniels and made Bisaccia a free agent.
“When you’re looking for a head coach, you want someone who can lead the young men. Someone who can lead grown men,” veteran linebacker KJ Wright said ahead of the must-see final. “With the adversity we’ve faced this season, he’s been nothing but great for us.”
Ranking of specialists
K Mason Crosby ($3.16 million charge; ranked No. 10 among kickers)
Crosby missed two field goals in 2019. He missed none in 2020. His searing kicks continued on the season at San Francisco in Week 3 with a 54-yard first quarter and a 51 yard to win the game. .
But, with changes to the snapper holder operation, Crosby got into a funk. He missed kicks due to bad snaps, holds and protections. When the operation improved, Crosby did not. Among kickers with at least 20 field goal attempts, his success rate of 73.5% was second-lowest in the league. Only his 2012 season was worse from an accuracy perspective. Partly due to age and late-season games in the cold, his kickoff touchdown percentage ranked seventh from bottom.
A restructured contract reduced Crosby’s cap fee for 2021, but raised it to $4.375 million for 2022. The Packers could move on and save $2.395 million for next season, but incur a fee dead money until 2025. He will turn 38 just before the start of the season.
P Corey Bojorquez ($1.02 million cap charge; ranked #19 among punters)
Acquired in a trade with the Rams after the Final Cuts, Bojorquez ranked 11th with an average of 46.5 yards and 17th with a net average of 40.0 yards. His 82-yard punt in Chicago earned him the longest punt in the NFL for a second straight season. He had 18 punts inside the 20 with four touchdowns. Those are all improvements over the man he replaced, 2018 fifth-round pick JK Scott.
Still, his season seems like a disappointment because of the way it ended. From Week 6 at Chicago to Week 11 at Minnesota, Bojorquez had six consecutive games with net averages of at least 45.7 yards. In Week 12 against the Rams, he had a net average of just 39.8 yards because he had three punts inside the 20. It was a punt clinic. It all went off the rails in Week 14 against Chicago, with a four-game streak scoring 10.0, 42.0, 41.8 and 21.5 yards. Too many kicks went straight to midfield or were thrown out of bounds.
The punting is only part of the job. He must also be a flawless starter for Crosby. There were some real struggles, although he was pretty solid on the stretch, aside from a lost hold in the freezing cold against Minnesota in Week 17.
Bojorquez will be an unrestricted free agent this upcoming offseason. With an average of 50.8, the best in the league in 2020 and his generally solid performance in 2021, he is unlikely to come cheap.
LS Steven Wirtel ($366,667 charge; ranked #33 among long snappers)
Midway through the season, the Packers finally parted ways with 2018 seventh-round pick Hunter Bradley. Bradley was consistently inconsistent in his three-plus seasons, but Wirtel was not noticeably better. His snaps have never been truly awful, but the best snappers can spin him so perfectly that the starter doesn’t need to adjust the ball. It lacked that kind of precision. Wirtel got steamrolled on the fateful blocked punt that doomed Green Bay in the playoff game.
Take them for what they’re worth, but Pro Football Focus ranks long snappers. Bradley was fourth worst in the league and Wirtel was third worst.
The Packers don’t really have a problem finding long snappers. They have actually done well in this regard. They just have an impossible time realizing they’ve found them. Five former Packers were full-time snappers this season. The Packers drafted Clark Harris (Bengals) in 2007 and signed JJ Jansen (Panthers) in 2008, Rick Lovato (Eagles) in 2015, Taybor Pepper (49ers) twice in 2017 and Zach Triner (Buccaneers) in 2017 and summer camp. training in 2018.