DeHaven to special teams coaches: Beware of the future



(Photos courtesy of the Buffalo Bills)


Carolina’s Bruce DeHaven has been one of the best and brightest special teams coordinators in the NFL for nearly three decades. In fact, every year his units figure at or near the top of Rick Gosselin’s special teams’ rankings, and every year we wonder how he does it.

Only this year is different. Because this year the NFL is tinkering with the kicking game again, this time moving extra-point kicks from the 2-yard line back to the 15, with the ball in play if an attempt is blocked or a two-point conversion fumbled or intercepted.

Sound familiar? It should. It’s the second significant change in four years for special teams (the NFL moved kickoffs forward from the 30 to the 35-yard line in 2011), which got us to thinking: What’s going on with that part of the game, and what does it mean for special teams coordinators in, oh, say, five or 10 years?

So we asked DeHaven on the Talk of Fame Network’s latest broadcast, and his message couldn’t have been clearer.

“I’m kind of glad I’m at the end of my career,” said DeHaven, currently on a medical leave of absence. “With some of these changes that they are making, we’re closing in on a time where there may not be any kickoff returns … which means there’s not a whole lot of coaching to do on kickoffs.

“You’re getting fewer and fewer parts of the game where you need a coach to coach it. At some point and time my biggest fear is that … if you’re a special teams coordinator, (it’s) wait a minute: They’re going to start looking at us and wonder why they’re paying us all this money to coach special teams when there’s not that many plays anymore.”

San Diego kicker Nick Novak recently said predicted that the latest rules change would make kickers more valuable – an idea DeHaven doesn’t necessarily embrace, even though he conceded extra points aren’t “quite as automatic” as they once were.

“I think the effect will be minimal,” he said. “For the most part, kickers will be good from that range. But in critical situations it will put a little more stress on the kicker. At some point, if you get into the playoffs I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these guys misses one. (But) there will be a little bit better rush now (so) the injury possibilities go up in those situations.”


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