'Fiery dude': Rich Bisaccia's passion expected to extend beyond Packers' special teams
PALM BEACH, Fla. - Although Rich Bisaccia was hired to fix the Green Bay Packers' moribund special teams, Matt LaFleur believes his new coordinator will benefit his team beyond punting, kicking and returning.
Bisaccia, one of the NFL’s most revered assistant coaches, has already made his mark on the Packers’ personnel. General manager Brian Gutekunst signed kicker Dominik Eberle, who spent last season as a rookie on the Las Vegas Raiders practice squad with Bisaccia, and special-teams veteran Keisean Nixon on the new coordinator’s suggestion.
“I would say that there’s definitely been a pretty good collaboration there,” LaFleur said, “in terms of just getting his opinion. Obviously, he’s done it for a long time at a high level. I think he’s one of the more respected special-teams coaches in the league.”
It’s Bisaccia’s personality as a coach that had LaFleur even more excited Tuesday morning at the NFL owners meetings. Bisaccia, who finished last season as the Raiders' interim head coach after Jon Gruden was fired, has been in charge of an entire team before.
LaFleur believes the new special teams coordinator’s intensity will permeated throughout the roster.
“Just wait,” LaFleur said. “Buckle up, baby. Buckle up. Buckle up. He is a fiery dude, man. Which, I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see how he interacts with our players, and just that dimension that he’s going to bring not only to the special teams, but I think really to our entire team.
“He’s got high standards, he’s going to be demanding, but he cares about not only as players, but he cares about people. I just think from my interactions with him, he’s going to be a real asset to us.”
Packers hoping to punt on inconsistency
In his first significant step to improve the personnel on special teams, Gutekunst plucked something he hoped to be more of a sure thing.
The Packers had one of the NFL’s most talented punters last season. Corey Bojorquez, who led the NFL in gross punting with the Buffalo Bills in 2020 but has always struggled as a placekick holder, showed he had a powerful left leg few in the league could match. But Bojorquez fell apart down the stretch, slumping through the season’s final six games.
That included a blocked punt in the playoffs that resulted in the San Francisco 49ers’ game-tying touchdown, the signature play of a shocking loss at Lambeau Field.
The Packers will have a new punter for the third straight season after Gutekunst signed longtime Chicago Bears veteran Pat O’Donnell. Entering his ninth season, the former sixth-round pick might not have Bojorquez’s potential.
Gutekunst believes O’Donnell’s consistency will make him a better fit.
“Not only as a punter,” Gutekunst said, “but as a holder, and his directional punting is excellent. I think bringing Rich in, he had some familiarity with him there, and as we went through the process of how we wanted to build our special-teams unit going forward – which is obviously a major focus this year. It has been in the past, but certainly we have to be better than we were last year. He just kind of became the guy we thought was best for the job.
“Corey did a great job for us last year coming in the last minute like he did. We just thought this one was a little bit more all-around consistency for us, and holding was a big part of that.”
LaFleur wants more Black head coaches
Count LaFleur among the NFL figures lending their voice for more diversity among head coaches.
“I think when you look at the landscape,” LaFleur said, “and especially when the majority of your players are Black, and the fact that there aren’t as many Black head coaches, that’s something that’s got to be addressed. No doubt about it.”
The NFL employs only five minority head coaches: Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, Washington’s Ron Rivera, Houston’s Lovie Smith, Miami’s Mike McDonald and Robert Saleh of the New York Jets. Saleh is one of LaFleur’s best friends.
LaFleur has employed a minority assistant coach on each of his four staffs. He retained running backs coach Ben Sirmans from Mike McCarthy’s staff, hired defensive backs coach Jerry Gray before the 2021 season and promoted defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery to defensive running game coordinator this offseason.
Of the four coordinators LaFleur has hired, one was Black. LaFleur fired special teams coordinator Muarice Drayton after last season, his only in that role.
Eight of the 21 assistant coaches on the Packers 2022 staff are minorities, including minority fellowship intern Quinshon Odom.
LaFleur not only said the NFL should hire more Black head coaches, but had a good candidate in mind.
“I feel like there’s a guy I have a lot of respect for, Raheem Morris,” LaFleur said. “We were talking about it yesterday with coaches. I think it’s a shame he’s not here right now, leading one of these teams. Because he’s not only one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around, but one of the best coaches.”
LaFleur coached with Morris in Atlanta. Morris was the Falcons' assistant head coach, offensive pass-game coordinator and receivers coach while LaFleur was quarterbacks coach.
Morris later switched to the defensive side with the Falcons, serving as coordinator in 2020. He was the defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams last season.
From 2009 to 2011, Morris was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head coach for three season. He was fired after a 4-10 record in 2011, one year after leading them to a 10-6 record.
LaFleur believes Morris should get a second chance at being a head coach.
“He’s a guy that’s been a defensive coach, obviously a defensive coordinator, but he was a receivers coach in Atlanta. So I think he’s got just a great football mind, he’s a great person, and I think he’s had an opportunity. I think that was quite a long time ago, and there’s been a lot of growth since then.
“So I would hope that next year at this time, he’s sitting in these meetings as well."