Add Dwayne Stukes to the list of Denver Broncos special teams coordinators over the last half-decade with memorable press-conference remarks. In 2017, it was Brock Olivo who was emphatic of his praise for then fullback Andy Janovich, declaring, “If we had 22 ‘Jano’s,’ we would be alright.”
Then from 2018-21, Tom McMahon had a variety of one-liners, including the time he spoke about his unit’s lack of discipline, equating it to his own life saying, “Look at me, I eat too much at night.”
On Thursday, Stukes, who has been a breath of fresh air to the media and fan base, didn’t mince words and appeared very frustrated at the podium.
When asked about the performance of punter Corliss Waitman against the Titans last week, Stukes said, “That was probably one of his worst performances of the year.”
“The wind hung his [Waitman’s] ball up, and we had some low hang times," Stukes continued. "Me and Corliss have talked... We have to have distance, hanging, and location. He knows that in order for us to cover those punts.”
Waitman is in his first year with Broncos, just like rookie returner Montrell Washington who was drafted by Broncos GM George Paton in the fifth round (No. 162) earlier this year. The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder from Samford has struggled mightily in nine games, having already fumbled the ball three times.
Washington has returned 21 punts for 181 yards and eight kick returns for 148 yards without scoring a touchdown or logging a return over 30 yards. Decision-making, productivity, and reliability are clearly troubling Denver’s special teams units, including the return game, specifically Washington as the No. 1 returner.
“I think he’s overthinking things, to be completely honest,’ Stukes explained. “We talked about the inside the 20 punts, and he knows he can’t catch the ball on the 5-yard line, 4-yard line. I think that played a factor in some of his decisions on Sunday. Some of those balls he could have caught. Especially the ball that hit at the 13-yard line. Again me and Montrell had a conversation. We’re watching film together. We’re trying to grow and get better together.”
The special teams coach was clearly fired up and particularly salty. Darren ‘DMac’ McKee, who hosts The Drive with Derek Wolfe on 104.3 The FAN, in Denver asked Stukes whether he has considered putting a more experienced player to return punts (video above).
“Do you have a suggestion on who we should use?’ inquired Stukes of McKee. “Just so I know.”
‘DMac’ responded, “Sure, Patrick Surtain.”
Suddenly the Denver media and Broncos Country were thrust into an awkward exchange between coach and local radio host with everyone’s eyes glued to the two men.
“Patrick Surtain,” Stukes confirmed before snapping back at a question that he obviously took exception to. “So, if he goes back there and gets hurt, who do you think will be in trouble? Myself? Or you?”
McKee, who has had his fair share of run-ins with players and coaches throughout the years, quickly shot back with, “Just to keep the conversation going, Deion Sanders did a pretty good job of it and there are a lot of players throughout the years who have done it.”
“Deion Sanders did it his whole career, though,’ Stukes replied. “Patrick hasn’t done it his whole career. And to put a guy back there who is our starting [cornerback], to put him in harm’s way, that would be idiotic by me.”
Who knew this weekly special teams media session would be so juicy?
“Now, if you said we could put Kendall Hinton back there or someone of that sort? Absolutely," Stukes explained. "But Kendall as explosive as Montrell— this is no disrespect to Kendall. Kendall is a very good athlete. He can catch the ball. He has good returner mechanics. We want an explosive guy back there. We feel Montrell gives us the best chance for an explosive return. That’s why he’s back there.
Maybe this dramatic exchange is a microcosm of what’s going on at Broncos HQ, which is dysfunction galore.
Folks are looking for answers and hoping for change at some level. Broncos Country has grown weary and intolerant of watching the same shenanigans while things simultaneously get worse for this once revered and respected franchise.
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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