It’s about time teams gave more consideration to special-teams coaches

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Special-teams coordinators rarely get the respect and consideration that they should, when teams are hiring head coaches. The Giants decided to reverse that trend on Tuesday, making Patriots special-teams coach Joe Judge their new head coach.

It’s about time. John Harbaugh has proven that special-teams coordinators can make very good head coaches. Like Harbaugh, Judge added a season as a position coach (receivers) before making the jump, but the reality is that special-teams coordinators continue to be viewed as outside-the-box options.

They shouldn’t be. They work with players from every room, offensive and defensive. They don’t develop a “system,” so they won’t be tied to any specific offense or defense when the time comes to become a head coach.

And they are football coaches, no different than offensive coordinators or defensive coordinators or position coaches. Since few head coaches have a special-teams background, they almost always have a heightened degree of autonomy.

A few cycles ago, Chiefs special-teams coordinator Dave Toub was regarded as a candidate for a head-coaching job. When, however, Colts G.M. Chris Ballard didn’t give Toub serious consideration as the replacement for Chuck Pagano, Toub’s name fell off the media’s knee-jerk list of candidates.

Judge’s success, or otherwise, in New York will be a factor in whether other special-teams coordinators get a chance. But that shouldn’t matter; Harbaugh’s success should be enough to open the pipeline for those who run the part of the team that smart head coaches regard as being just as important as the offense and the defense.

26 responses to “It’s about time teams gave more consideration to special-teams coaches

  1. Interesting the GOAT coach’s name isn’t mentioned. BB first coaching job was special teams. BB mentions that a lot as why it helped him.

  2. Surely there’s more than one example of a successful coach who made the jump from Special Teams directly to HC?

  3. You need a great QB, and you need good players. You can be a young coach or an old coach. A new coach or a retread. An offensive coach or a defensive coach. And yes, you can be a special teams coach. But if the other team has better players, they usually win the game. Do you think Bill Belichick was being out-coached when the Browns fired him for losing too many games? Do you believe Barry Switzer was out-coaching the rest of the league when he took over in Dallas and won the super bowl? Any good coach can win, but lots of great coaches lose because they don’t have players. It helps to have a good owner, but it’s more important to not have a bad owner. You need good personnel evaluators too. Nick Saban was on Belichick’s staff in Cleveland too. How did they lose a game?

  4. Not even sure where to begin to disagree with this article. First, the example literally stated the dude was a position coach this year. So not just special teams. Second, no they are not just like OC’s and DC’s. It’s not even close. What complicated schemes, play calling, and adjustments are special teams coaches doing and making? “Hey, kick this one into end zone for a touchback. Hey, pint this one high today the 10 yard line.”

    Position coaches will and should be considered well ahead of special teams coaches. Like it or not, ST coaching is a starter job when it comes to coaching players. I’d take a Linebackers coach first. What next, Kickers coach should be considered for defensive coordinators more?

  5. As a Steelers fan, I truly envy the Ravens’ special teams play. Under Harbaugh they are always very well coached and situationally aware, and it wins them games.

  6. Joe Judge Has been an excellent coach up here in New England for years, he’s coached opposition groups and Bill speaks very highly of him, I think it’s a great hire good luck Joe

  7. On the other hand, not being tied to an offensive or defensive system makes it more crucial to get good coordinators, or at least the right ones for your roster. Harbs is a good coach overall, but he has taken some heat, legitimately, for not always being able to do this. When you have the right coordinators, things can be good, as this season shows, but it’s an ongoing task.

    I don’t think that it’s a ST thing to be open minded, as much as it is a trait of good coaches generally.

  8. The number one Special Teams unit this year was the Bengals (if you can believe that). Darrin Simmons has been solid for years. Probably the only decent coach the Bengals have right now.

  9. Vermeil started as a ST coach. I think it is long past time John Fassel was made a HC. Raiders ST were never better than when he was there. McKenzie made a big mistake not keeping him. Raiders had 9 return TD with him. Tons of blocked FG including a pair that kept them alive for playoffs until wk 17 loss. Blocked a few punts at least one for a TD. Had successful fake punts, a fake FG turned into a TD pass. The number of times Hekker has been successful throwing is unreal. You have to be looking for it by now and Rams have still had success.

  10. What is there to coach?
    Run down the field and tackle/block the guy.
    Belichick is the exception.

  11. “Position coaches will and should be considered well ahead of special teams coaches. Like it or not, ST coaching is a starter job when it comes to coaching players. ”

    Congrats on one of the most ignorant posts of all time. It’s tough to have that long of a post and be wrong on absolutely everything, but you nailed it.

  12. I totally agree with everything said in Florio’s article! Our ST were almost last in several catagories, and it killed us every game! Those yards for field position, our punter was terrible this past season, etc. It is past time, for a lot of focus to be placed on ST!!! I remember an article posted in here, a very long time ago, talking about a kicker. One of the comments I read said, “Oh, he’s just a kicker”. I never forgot that idiot posting that one. I thought, well, just how many times will your kicker win or lose a game for you?? Great article!

  13. Oh please. Any person in the coaching tree is a candidate. We’ve seen guys get the head job that have been out of work, a wide receivers coach, a guy from college,

    To set back in your armchair and protest that, specifically, special teams coaches are not getting a fair shake, is far too left, and completely laughable.

    Forcing teams to hire based on ethnicity doesn’t work, and forcing them to hire based on prior coach position won’t work either. How about, NFL teams hire whomever they believe is the best candidate. Otherwise, just randomly assign a gender neutral non binary ethnically diverse head coach every 2 or 3 seasons.

  14. Oh, some think I was wrong earlier? Well, other than the fact that the guy that called me out didn’t give a single reason why I was wrong, even the article writer couldn’t give more than a single example. And others be giving examples and names from like 30 years ago. I never said special teams coaches shouldn’t move up the chain. But to state they are no different than OC’s and DC’s?! Ridiculous.

  15. Bengals, Chiefs, Saints, Jets, Texans, Redskins, Jaguars, Lions, Steelers.

    There’s your top 9 special teams teams of 2019. But ya, special teams are every bit as even and important as the offense and defensive coaches.

  16. I certainly agree with hiring special teams coaches. What about special ops coaches who specialize in surveillance and espionage like Belicheat?

  17. Fact – QB is the single most important position in the sport. Logically then, having a coach who can get the most out of that position is single most important aspect. By hiring a special teams coordinator as head coach, every time you have a good quarterback coach/offensive coordinator, you are at a high risk of losing them elsewhere to a promotion and having to guess again at who can successfully run an offense. There are exceptions to the rule, but your best bet at sustained, continual success is to find a head coach who has a way to get success from the quarterback position. Look at who has been continually in the playoffs or in contention the past three years. Houston, Kansas City, Green Bay, Dallas, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Los Angeles. All have offensive-minded head coaches. Baltimore, New England, Minnesota, Seattle are non-offensive minded and one of those is a ST coach while another is the GOAT. Yea, odds are pretty clear that having offensive success is more correlated to overall success than any other background.

  18. This seems so logical. Special teams PLAY calling has been diminished specially for kick offs. Take the touch back, and start on the 25, or run the ball out to maybe get to the 20. risk a fumble or risk a penalty to move it back to the 10.

    To me, the special team coach teaches discipline to the players. Not so much for calling plays. He also has a huge say on who makes the team. Cause most special teams players are Back ups. If a guys is on the bubble the special teams coach gets the first choice on keeping them.

    Position coaches are teaching specific positions while the special teams coach is coaching a smaller team.

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