The Washington Redskins special teams unit were MIA last season. Actually, rival units hardly noticed the Redskins special teams when they reported for duty. So it could be argued that the unit, in fact, went AWOL.
The Redskins special teams surrendered miles of field position on kick coverage, unable to contain opposing return games; had four kick returns taken to the house; their punt protection shield was breached which triggered a blocked punt for six; and the unit’s place kickers misfired on five standard field goal attempts throughout the season. That’s 15 points that could have changed the course of a game’s outcome. Had those chip shots split the uprights, they would have. But they didn’t. Other than that, special teams operations were drafted and executed with no chronicled defects or field setbacks.
Party’s over. The unit had best buckle up. Former special teams coordinator Keith Burns was dishonorably discharged and a new coordinator is in the house. The Redskins have enlisted the services of decorated Combat Attack Helicopter Commander Ben Kotwica. Kotwica’s first order of business? It was really more of a defiant question. And he doesn’t make many of those.
“Who wants to join my special forces?”
Reportedly the Redskins roster has trooped to enlist. It would seem they have quite the incentive to engage under the commander’s charge. Kotwica’s reputation with special teams units in the NFL definitely precedes him. The second-year coordinator spent a year coaching the New York Jets before receiving summons from Washington. Under his command, the Jets special teams accounted for 10 combined kickoff and punt return touchdowns, tied for most in the AFC and second-most in the league. The Jets averaged a league-best 24.6 yards per return during Kotwica’s six seasons and had a returner finish in the Top 5 in the NFL in kick returns four times.
Not too shabby for a coach entering his sophomore season as special teams coordinator. If my sites aren’t off, he has already made a jarring impact among last season’s legion of incompetence. This by no means suggests that Kotwica’s 2014 special forces division will mirror the discipline, intensity and precision of the U.S. Navy SEALs. His success with the Redskins is based on deploying the right personnel to execute operations. But from the looks of things, Kotwica’s special forces unit could be a reckoning force in time.