aren’t wasting any time making changes to a coaching staff that saw some areas of underachievement in 2015.
As with the firing of former Special Teams coach Shawn Slocum after the ’14 season, head coach Mike McCarthy makes his statement stronger – he will not suffer his football team’s success by continuing to accept mediocrity, even from his close friends.
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Fontenot’s release from duty was the more surprising of the two.
While it was no secret that the running backs failed to impress (for the most part) during the season – despite James Starks having a solid season as a change of pace back – primary TE Richard Rodgers was good for 8 TDs in 2015 and served as one of Aaron Rodgers‘ more solid pass catchers in the red zone.
His propensity for finding the end zone was good for one of the highest rankings in the NFL this season, but the most telling stat was his yards per-catch: just 8 yards per catch, nearing the bottom of the spectrum in such categories.
One could argue that certain player inefficiencies or setbacks by the offense as a whole cannot rightfully be blamed on the position coaches.
Clearly you can also make the argument that those deficiencies can directly be related to the coaching staff.
In McCarthy’s defense, Fontenot should have been able to get production out of a TE room that includes a promising big bodied, sure-handed Richard Rodgers and a veteran playmaker in Andrew Quarless.
Though Quarless did suffer an injury that stunted his season and ultimately saw him named on the injured reserve list twice, Rodgers has the capabilities to be a slower version of Jermichael Finley – a matchup nightmare that the Packers haven’t been able to replace since his early departure due to neck injury in 2013.
He did have his moments this season (see his 150-plus-yard performance against the Lions in which he caught the game-winning Hail Mary), Rodgers largely underachieved for his role in a struggling Packers’ offense.
As for the running backs, the writing was on the wall for Sam Gash when rumors began circulating about pounding back Eddie Lacy‘s poor offseason production and workout regimen. This was the heaviest that we have seen the bruiser since he was drafted in the ’13 offseason and single-handedly kept the Packers in playoff contention as the offense was missing QB Aaron Rodgers for 7 games due to a collerbone fracture.
Lacy was named the Rookie Offensive Player of the Year in 2013 and enjoyed back-to-back 1,000-plus-yard seasons with the Packers before showing up to training camp overweight and unprepared to handle the lion’s share of the RB duties.
Fellow running mate James Starks, while not a long-term answer at primary running back, has been incredibly consistent as a change-of-pace back to bring shiftiness and speed to McCarthy’s 1-2 RB punch.
He did handle a good bit of the carries for the stretch of the season, but had fumbling issues that made him a liability in critical situations.
Lacy’s weight made him unfit to carry the team when the passing game was struggling mightily; he was not quick to the holes in the line and he didn’t have the stamina to punish defenders at the second level like we are used to seeing.
He had a frustrating time with injuries, as well, keeping him on the sidelines more this year than we have experienced in the Lacy era.
Both Fontenot and Gash have opportunities elsewhere, but it’s always a shame when coaches are fired because of the lack of production from their players.
With that being said, it might exorcise some demons for the Packers to shake some things up on the offensive side of the ball.
With McCarthy announcing that he will resume play calling duties “from here on in,” and Fontenot and Gash gone – there are some vacancies that new, fresh blood might be positive.
Likely, McCarthy will still work closely with Tom Clements as an assistant to the offense, but it might be a good idea for Alex Van Pelt to handle the quarterbacks only, instead of both the QBs and the WRs together.
There wasn’t a wealth of success from the receiving room this year either with the loss of Jordy Nelson; it might need a specialist going forward.
Look for McCarthy and the organization to find some guys to fill the voids who will challenge the players to take the next step this season, and more.
For now, Packers Nation will wait … wait for the announcement that the Packers have found the next big thing in the coaching world – guys who will take the talent that clearly exists on this roster and transform it, reverting back to the offensive juggernaut we know and love.