Washington Redskins' Special Teams Better Get Its Act Together

By Jason Bailey
Special Teams
Rob Carr-Getty Images

What’s the first thing you do as a first-year head coach and your club fields the worst special teams unit in the NFL? Get covertly admitted to see a psychiatric therapist before you hit the field, invest ridiculous hours evaluating the roster, studying last year’s film, or attend any team meetings. You smirk, but the reality is it’s an approach incoming gridiron skipper Jay Gruden likely entertained before setting up shop at Redskins Park, to maintain a relatively healthy measure of internal sanity.

Not even wrapping several layers of duct tape around Washington’s special teams unit would doctor the state of its really bad coverage execution last season. Duct tape rectifies everything — except stupidity. And I see no other way of assessing the glaring lack of discipline, execution and generated will in the Redskins special teams return game or kick coverage. You couldn’t have fueled excitement into the unit if you had jammed a taser under their behinds. Washington’s special team’s company flashed chronic indifference throughout the duration of 2013.

The not-so-special team’s detachment was in all likeliness suffering from a responsibility, learning and execution impairment — in that order. The Redskins, “easily fielded the NFL’s worst special teams unit, surrendering field position to their opposition with their inability to contain opposing kick returners … Washington allowed four kick returns for touchdowns last season, easily the worst in the NFL. They even had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders in Week 3.”

Special teams ineptitude and a spirited surge of passive-aggressive behavior deliberately mocked Washington’s fan base and coaching staff against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14. The unit’s defensive gunners all but provided Chiefs road runner Quintin Demps with a rather unorthodox contingent of kick return protection, nonchalantly conceding creases and running lanes down the field that Helen Keller could have driven a barge through.

I’m not sure, but I’m kind of doubtful that the Redskins front office appreciated that display of negligence. What do you do when mutiny and indifference plagues your depth chart?

Consider the front office and personnel management of seasoned gridiron skipper Andy Reid. When he assumed command of the Philadelphia Eagles, he took an industrial-caliber blow torch to the dysfunctional feathered coup with the refined surgical procedure of a fiery personnel turnover. It was short, sweet and quite direct. Everyone fully understood his memo: there’s the door.

In Washington’s case, you employ the services of the U.S. Army to make all parties on the depth chart sit up straight. The team has hired New York Jets special teams master Ben Kotwicka. The former Apache attack helicopter pilot helmed a Jets special teams unit that “ranked among the top 10 in the NFL in kickoff return yards and 17th in kick coverage last season,” per the Washington Post. Prior to that stint, he spent six seasons on the staff as a quality control assistant with his focal point being special teams and defense.

Special teams coordinator Kotwicka is in the house. And while his presence doesn’t necessarily guarantee that Washington’s unit will be the envy of the NFL this fall, it should provide some measure of assurance, at the very least, that the club’s name won’t be used as a punch line on the Tonight Show.

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