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Search for special teams improvement leads Packers to Shawn Mennenga
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Search for special teams improvement leads Packers to Shawn Mennenga

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Shawn Mennenga photo

Shawn Mennenga worked for Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine in Cleveland, where Pettine was the Browns’ coach in 2014 and '15 and Mennenga was the assistant special teams coach.

GREEN BAY — New Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur finally has his third and final coordinator: special teams boss Shawn Mennenga.

An NFL source confirmed what ESPN initially reported Thursday morning — that Mennenga is LaFleur’s pick after a month-long search. The Packers have not yet announced the hiring.

Mennenga takes over for the fired Ron Zook, the Packers’ special-teams coordinator the past four seasons whom LaFleur did not retain.

LaFleur retained defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as one of his first staff decisions on Jan. 11 and hired ex-Jacksonville Jaguars assistant Nathaniel Hackett as his offensive coordinator on Jan. 16.

Mennenga comes from the college game, having spent last season as Vanderbilt’s special teams coordinator, but he has extensive NFL experience — and worked for Pettine in Cleveland, where Pettine was the Browns’ coach in 2014 and 2015 and Mennenga was the assistant special teams coach under Chris Tabor.

Mennenga spent seven seasons in Cleveland as an assistant to Tabor, who was hired as the Chicago Bears’ special teams coordinator on Jan. 12.

When Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason hired him last year, he said of Mennenga, “He’s bright, he’s organized and he’s a great teacher, and can make football really simple and let guys play fast. He’s going to be a great addition to this staff. He’s truly a special teams (coach); he can work with all facets — kickers, punters and snappers. He’s going to be vital to this team as we look to play better on special teams.”

LaFleur interviewed at least four other candidates for the special teams job, including former Miami Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi; Jacksonville assistant special teams coach Mike Mallory; New York Giants assistant special teams coach Tom Quinn; and Maurice Drayton, who served as Zook’s assistant last season.

Mennenga will have his work cut out for him, as the Packers finished last in the 32-team league in 2018 in NFL columnist Rick Gosselin’s annual special teams rankings, which factor in 22 categories for a composite score. Under previous head Mike McCarthy, the Packers were perennially in the lower half of the league on special teams and were last in the league three times in 13 years.

Under Tabor and Mennenga, Cleveland finished 14th in Gosselin’s rankings in 2012, 25th in 2013, 17th in 2014, 19th in 2015, 26th in 2016 and tied for 27th in 2017.

More staffing

The Packers announced running backs coach Ben Sirmans, defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery and defensive backs coach Jason Simmons have been retained from McCarthy’s staff. … Simmons’ title is slightly different — and was announced as a promotion by the team — as he held the title of secondary coach last season. … The Packers also announced Ryan Downard has been promoted to assistant defensive backs coach. Downard served as the team’s defensive quality control coach last year and broke into the NFL as a defensive coaching assistant with the Browns under Pettine, assisting with the defensive line in 2014 and the defensive backs in 2015.

Jason Wilde covers the Packers for ESPN Wisconsin. Listen to him with former Packers and Badgers offensive lineman Mark Tauscher weekdays from 9-11 on “Wilde & Tausch” on your local ESPN station.

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