O'Brien not likely to join Packers

GREEN BAY -- Packer special teams coach Mike Stock announced his retirement last week. Whether or not the 69-year old Stock had much say in the decision is certainly debatable. What isn't up for debate is that Green Bay's special teams are in no ...

GREEN BAY -- Packer special teams coach Mike Stock announced his retirement last week.

Whether or not the 69-year old Stock had much say in the decision is certainly debatable. What isn't up for debate is that Green Bay's special teams are in no better shape today than when Stock arrived three years ago.

Stock's units took a major step backwards in 2008 and played a large role in the Packers' disappointing 6-10 season. Head coach Mike McCarthy -- a close friend of Stock's -- was unlikely to retain Stock had Stock decided to continue coaching.

Stock was unavailable for comment, but issued the following statement through the team:

"My passion for the game was strong through the very last contest, but in thinking further about the commitment needed for another season and discussing it with my family, ultimately I decided this was the best decision for us," Stock said.


"I've been very fortunate throughout my life to play and coach a sport I love very much. I thank the Green Bay Packers for the opportunity to spend three wonderful years here. I'll miss the games, and I'll miss the people. But I look forward to spending more time with my wife, my three children and five grandchildren."

Assistant special teams coach Shawn Slocum, son of former Texas A&M head coach R.C. Slocum, could be in line for the job. Slocum joined the Packers in 2006 after 17 years in the college ranks -- nine as a special teams coordinator.

Scott O'Brien, a Superior native and one of the game's top special teams coaches for years, was recently let go in Denver along with the rest of Mike Shanahan's staff. Cleveland's Ted Daisher, who oversaw some of the game's top special teams units this year, is also looking for work after coach Romeo Crennel's staff was fired there.

O'Brien, the highly successful special-teams coach with state ties, appears headed for another job and won't be a candidate in Green Bay, an NFL source said Tuesday.

O'Brien, 51, coached with McCarthy and assistant special-teams coach Shawn Slocum at the University of Pittsburgh in the late 1980s.

O'Brien spent the last two seasons with the Denver Broncos but isn't expected to return.

He also has coached special teams in Cleveland, Baltimore and Carolina.

A native of Superior, O'Brien played at UW-Superior and went to training camp with the Packers in 1979 as a defensive end. Later, he coached at UW-Superior from 1980-82.


The trajectory of Stock's units mirrored that of the stock market during his three years in Green Bay.

In 2006, Stock's units ranked 32nd in the Dallas Morning News' annual special teams rankings. That was the same ranking the unit merited in 2005 under John Bonamego.

Green Bay jumped to seventh a year ago but is expected to rank in the bottom third again when this season's results are released next month.

"I would like to thank Mike for all of his contributions over the past three years," McCarthy said in a statement. "The energy and passion he consistently displayed as a coach is something I've admired since we first worked together in Kansas City in 1995. Mike had a positive impact in developing many of the younger players on our roster, which we will continue to benefit from in coming seasons."

The Packers declined in every major special teams category this season except punt-return average. And three areas stood out as major disappointments in 2008.

The Packers' punting game was dreadful after they cut Jon Ryan and replaced him with Redskins castoff Derrick Frost. Green Bay finished the season 27th in gross average (41.4) and 24th in net (35.7).

Kicker Mason Crosby struggled through a difficult season. He missed potential game-winning kicks at Minnesota and at Chicago and ranked just 28th in the NFL after making 79.4% of his kicks.

And Green Bay tied for last in kick-return average (20.1). A year ago, the Packers were 22nd in the same category.


The midseason release of special teams ace Tracy White certainly hurt the units. Still, the sharp decline was a huge surprise, considering the team returned many of its core parts from 2007.

"We took a big step backwards," said Jarrett Bush, one of the key special teams players. "We all thought special teams would be strength, but clearly it wasn't.

"I think guys liked playing (special) teams. It was a way to get on the field. We just didn't get it done, for whatever reason."

Green Bay's players supported Stock's scheme and said it was relatively simple in theory. Each player had a responsibility and didn't have to go outside their comfort zones to make a play.

"It was easy to understand and should have been easy to execute," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "We just didn't do it. I don't know why. It wasn't Coach Stock's fault. We just didn't have a good year."

Stock spent 26 years at the college level, including five years as head coach at Eastern Michigan (1978-82) and three years at the University of Wisconsin (1975-77) where he was the running backs coach and later the offensive coordinator. Stock also spent 18 years in the NFL, 16 as a special teams coach.

"Kind of like the whole team, special teams had a rough year," Crosby said. "I know coming into the year, we all thought special teams was going to be an area where we'd have a pretty big advantage on some teams. Hopefully next year, we'll get it figured out."

-- Copyright (c) 2009, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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