An Ode To Special Teams

Chris Schisler

You hear all the time coaches saying that special teams is 1/3 of the game. Its a coach speak comment that most fans don’t take to seriously. Special teams however plays a huge role in the game of football. Special teams units play a pivotal role in the field position battle. Special teams units can put points on the board and prevent the opponent from doing so themselves. You cannot underestimate the importance execution on special teams.

The obvious example is the last second field goal to win the game. The field goal kicker is the center of attention as the game lies on his foot. When the ball goes through the uprights he is the hero. Most of the game however the kicker is the last thought on the football fans.

Even when special teams is hailed the bulk of the players never get any credit. We credit the kicker; forgetting the long snapper, the holder and the 8 men blocking. We credit the returner for an amazing touchdown even if it was sprung by an epic block. Special teams is the only thing on the planet that can get respected and disrespected at the same time.

The most underrated aspect of football strategy is field position. Scoring can be at a premium in the NFL, where nothing comes easy or free. Its no coincidence that most scoring drives occur when the offense has good starting field position. In a game where offenses have to earn each successive first down you want to give the opponent a long field.

I always thought we went about kickoffs the wrong way. Touchbacks should never be the goal. I’m sorry but why give away 20 free yards? The goal should be to pin the opponent inside their 20 yard line. Find the deepest spot of the end zone the returner will attempt a return, kick it high and go get him. Kickoff team is not a hard job. Stay in your lane and hustle, its pretty simple. For kickoff returns there is a simple rule, if you can get more than 20 take it out of the end zone, if you cannot take the touchback.

One of the most important duties is given to the punt returner. His ability to field the ball can make a huge impact on field position. He needs to know when signal for a fair catch and he should never run backwards. If the ball sails over the 10 yard line he needs to let it go seeing as it is a likely touchback, and catching it would be risky. The more punt returner can smartly field, the better field position your team will have.

Special teams is how many young players earn their stripes in the NFL. Without them many football jobs would be lost or would never begin in the first place. The best way to make the team is to hustle on special teams. Special teams mistakes hurt a team badly, good play helps them very much. The value of special teams cannot be overstated.

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