Packers lose out on coveted special teams coach Darren Rizzi
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers are no longer in the running for former Miami Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi and have begun seeking other options, NFL sources said.
Rizzi was the premier special teams coordinator on the market and was intrigued enough in the Packers' job to visit with new coach Matt LaFleur at the team’s facility last week.
But despite what was described as a great visit between the two, the Packers allowed the well-respected coach to leave town without a deal. Given the state of their special teams last year, losing out on the best available coach is a blow to the Packers’ hopes of turning things around quickly.
Losing their bid means they are going to have to hire someone with lesser credentials than the 48-year-old Rizzi, who survived two head-coaching changes in nine years with the Dolphins.
Despite there being eight head-coaching changes this year, not many special teams coaches are available. Four teams retained the coach from the previous regime and two others were quickly hired elsewhere.
Rizzi was associate head coach under fired coach Adam Gase in Miami and was a candidate for the head-coaching job. Preferring to move on from the Dolphins, Rizzi drew interest from several teams, including the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings, sources said.
It is believed Rizzi’s price was high, so a team would have to make a considerable investment to lure him. It’s unclear where Rizzi will land, but apparently another team was more attractive to him or made a better offer than the Packers.
Last year, the Packers were awful on special teams under veteran coach Ron Zook and were prone to mistakes and penalties during much of former coach Mike McCarthy’s tenure.
Because of the Packers’ draft-and-develop philosophy, the special teams coach was constantly trying to put together competitive units from mostly a pool of low draft choices and undrafted free agents.
Only once in McCarthy’s 13 years did the Packers rank in the top 10 (2007) in Rick Gosselin’s special teams rankings and only two other times (’11 and ’12) did they rank in the top half of the league.
There were two 32nd finishes, one 31st and two 29ths.
Zook was not retained after the season and the status of his assistant, Maurice Drayton, isn’t known.
Rizzi joined the Dolphins under coach Tony Sparano in 2010 and the next two head coaches, Joe Philbin and Gase, kept him on the staff. Gase promoted him to associate head coach in 2017.
In Gosselin’s special teams rankings, the Dolphins under Rizzi ranked in the top 10 four times and only ranked in the second half of the league once — in Rizzi’s first year.
The 2018 rankings aren’t out yet, but they ranked 11th in ‘17, seventh in ’16, 16th in ’15, 12th in ’14, eighth in ’13, fourth in ’12, second in ’11 and 24th in ’10.
Meanwhile, a source confirmed the Packers have hired former San Francisco 49ers assistant offensive line coach and Marshfield native Adam Stenavich to replace offensive line coach James Campen. The Packers allowed both Campen and his assistant, Jeff Blasko, to accept jobs with the Cleveland Browns.
The 35-year-old Stenavich has two years of NFL coaching experience. He coached for San Jose State (2015-’16) and Northern Arizona (2014) before joining the 49ers last year.