GREEN BAY, Wis. – Shawn Mennenga may have the toughest job on Matt LaFleur’s new coaching staff, but he has the kind of background that the new Green Bay Packers coach liked.
Together, they will have to turn special teams from a hindrance to a help.
LaFleur all but completed his first coaching staff on Thursday, when he hired the former Vanderbilt special teams coach for the same job with the Packers, a source told ESPN.
In Mennenga, LaFleur found a coach with ties to one of the most highly respected special teams coaches in the NFL, Kansas City’s Dave Toub.
Prior to Vanderbilt, Mennenga served as the Browns' assistant special teams coach from 2011-2017. In Cleveland, he coached under Chris Tabor, the current Bears special teams coach. In his first stint with the Bears, Tabor worked under Toub for three seasons as Toub’s assistant.
A source said Mennenga planned to implement the same schemes run by Toub and Tabor.
The Packers finished last in Rick Gosselin’s annual special teams rankings, and LaFleur decided early on not to retain Ron Zook, who had coordinated the Packers special teams since 2015. Under Zook, the Packers ranked 17th, 29th, 16th and 32nd in Gosselin’s rankings. Zook replaced Shawn Slocum, who was fired after the 2014 season. The Packers also finished last in the rankings that season. In Slocum’s six seasons (2009-14), the Packers never ranked higher than 12th and were 29th or worse three times.
The Packers’ special teams units were penalty-riddled last season, tying for second in the NFL with 26 penalties.
“I want to attack matchups on special teams, and we always talk about penalty-free aggression,” LaFleur said in his introductory news conference. “We want to make sure that we are playing aggressive, but we’ve got to be smart. We don’t want to put ourselves in negative situations.”
LaFleur interviewed several candidates for the position, including former Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi. A source said the Packers made Rizzi a competitive offer, but that Rizzi declined the job for family reasons and that whatever job Rizzi takes, his family planned to stay in South Florida. He wanted a job that was more easily accessible to the Miami area.
With Mennenga in the fold, LaFleur has completed the majority of his staff. He probably will hire some assistant position coaches and quality control coaches, and he has yet to name his strength and conditioning staff.
Here’s a look at LaFleur’s staff as it now stands:
Offense -- Coordinator: Nathaniel Hackett; Offensive line: Adam Stenavich; Quarterbacks: Luke Getsy; Receivers: Alvis Whitted; Running backs: Ben Sirmans*; Tight ends: Jason Outten.
Defense – Coordinator: Mike Pettine*, Defensive line: Jerry Montgomery*; Inside linebackers: Kirk Olivadotti; Outside linebackers: Mike Smith; Defensive backs: Jason Simmons*
Assistant defensive backs Ryan Downard*
Special teams -- Shawn Mennenga
Strength and conditioning -- TBA
*Retained from previous staff