Last week, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy announced his decision to relieve special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum of his duties. The team has not yet chosen a replacement, but according to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, McCarthy intends to promote assistant Ron Zook.
Zook joined the Packers last offseason as an assistant to Slocum. His previous two stops were as the head coach of the University of Illinois and the University of Florida. He served as a special teams coordinator at Florida prior to his promotion and before that with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the mid-to-late 1990s. Zook's units in Pittsburgh ranked 23rd, 12th and 23rd by the Dallas Morning News' annual breakdown.
While Zook hardly qualifies as a popular name (though when it comes to special teams coordinators it's difficult to ascertain who might actually qualify as one), he does come with some strong recommendations. Here's what some current special teams coaches told to McGinn about Zook.
"Ron's a dynamic guy," an NFL special teams coach said Tuesday. "Full of piss and vinegar. He was so ambitious before. He was always looking for that next job. Now he'll probably do a better job coaching special teams."
"He's a real positive, upbeat guy," another NFL special teams coach said Tuesday. "He was always labeled a great recruiter in college, and you can see why.
"I always think that can reflect in coaching. As a special teams coach you've got to ask guys to do stuff they don't want to do. So, they better be on your side."
On the surface that feels like a reach, but a good special teams coach must get his players -- generally youngsters on the back of the roster who've played little to no special teams before -- to buy in. Zook certainly can be persuasive. He convinced a cavalcade of blue chip recruits to commit to Illinois over much bigger programs in far more attractive destinations.
Still, it's not a done deal that Zook replaces Slocum. The same report states that Joe Marciano, a coaching veteran of 28 years, has sought out the Packers' special teams vacancy. Marciano most recently worked for the Minnesota Vikings.
In the end it's difficult to judge a special teams hiring before seeing the work product. The questions surrounding whomever the Packers choose won't be answered for at least another 12 months.
UPDATE (Feb. 5): One of the Packers players is the first one to confirm Zook's hiring, as inside linebacker (and frequent special teams contributor) Sam Barrington tweeted congratulations to Zook on Thursday:
Congratulations to our new Special Teams coordinator Ron Zook.— Sam B (@Sam_Barrington_) February 5, 2015
UPDATE (Feb. 5): Okay, file Barrington's report under the "don't believe everything you read" category. Apparently Barrington has no inside information, and likely was due to McGinn's Journal-Sentinel article. As such, we should not assume that Zook has been hired on just yet.
My tweet earlier was not official. It stemmed from an article I read.— Sam B (@Sam_Barrington_) February 5, 2015