Special Teams Will Keep You Employed
By FirstDown PlayBook on Dec 11, 2017

FirstDown Playbook is taking Mondays on our Coaches Community site to offer our perspective on a few things that a young football coach can do to advance in the coaching profession. If you missed the first two be sure to go back and read them.

The plain and simple truth is that special teams kept me employed as a college and NFL football coach as much as anything during my thirty year career.  Yes, I was fortunate to have gained experience coaching on both sides of the ball over this period of time too but the one thing that always seemed to be the difference maker when it came to getting a job was that I could coach special teams.

Sometimes the special teams experience was the main reason I was hired and the ability to coach the tight ends or linebackers was secondary to the head coach doing the hiring. As a young football coach it is extremely important that you embrace any and all opportunities to get involved with special teams because it is a great way to help the football team and in the process you are going to end up helping yourself.

What often happens with special teams is that coaches are just like players. I have never met a player who said “Man I got into playing football because I always wanted to cover a punt or execute the key block on a touchdown kickoff return!” At the same time you don’t ever hear of many coaches who at a young age decide they want to begin a career coaching football because they have dreamed of coaching the punt team. It’s only after they get into their careers that they see the value and importance of special teams that they end up either embracing it or mistakenly hiding from it.

You will see some young coaches who avoid these responsibilities early in their careers because they want to focus on being a great linebacker coach or the best receiver coach. This is a huge mistake. Several years down the line they do not understand when someone else gets hired for a job they want, but if you look closer it’s because the guy who got the job could coach the linebackers AND could handle one or two phases in the special teams area.

Now if you are a quarterback coach or an offensive or even a defensive line coach you may get a pass on this one. However, make sure you are a great quarterback coach or line coach because you are going to need it to stay employed. You get the pass because the position you coach generally will not have many players on special teams so you will likely continue coaching that position while the special teams are practicing. Once again, this puts the pressure on you to be an absolute expert at your position because you won’t have the opportunity to expand your expertise in the special teams area.

This is also the time of year when a young football coach can take a phase or two of special teams and just bear down on that before all of the live bullets start flying. Doing it at this time of the year will give you time to grow and learn before your head coach or coordinator has you locked up in the offensive or defensive staff room all day as spring and fall ball are taking place.

As the college and professional teams wind down their seasons in January also try to visit an expert at your special teams phase. Even though the rules may be slightly different the fundamentals and techniques alone will make this trip worthwhile. It will also stand out to that special teams coach that you care enough to work on your trade in the off-season.

Is it more work? Yes.

Are the players going to be falling down over themselves to be on your special teams unit? No.

Is the media going to have the slightest idea about how important your job is as a special teams coach? Not a clue.

However, as you begin to grow as a special teams coach, you will see that the advantages you bring to a football program and the head coach in charge of that program will often times be what makes him pick up the phone and offer you a job.

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