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What's so special about special teams?

Everyone remembers last offseason the Dolphins spent a lot of time and resouces during free agency improving their special teams.

Keith Davis was signed to help on special teams. Charlie Anderson was signed to help on special teams. Reggie Torbor, we were told, would help on special teams. The Dolphins made a lot of elitist fans, people who think they know more about football than the average Mando, really happy because they were spending tons of time on their special teams.

Me? I want more points on offense and want the defense to yield fewer points. But I digress.

Earlier this week, a special teams study in the The Dallas Morning News showed which teams had great special teams play in 2008, and which did not. And, not surprisingly to anyone who watched the Dolphins throughout the season, Miami's special teams weren't really that special.

But the chart also shows something the elitists didn't expect: Special teams play is seriously overrated. That's right, spending undue time, effort and salary cap resources on special teams was something of a no-win proposition, at least in 2008.

If you study the overall chart, the worst special teams in the league belonged to the Indianapolis Colts, a team that won 12 games. The Dolphins were 30th and they won 11 games and the AFC East. The Arizona Cardinals were 28th and they won the NFC title and went to the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl champion Steelers were 20th, for goodness sake!

And the great special teams units, the ones that dominated the NFL? They didn't fare so well. 

Take the Buffalo Bills.

They have the distinction of being the best special teams in the NFL for the third time in five years -- and they have not made the playoffs any of those seasons. In fact, the Bills haven't been in the playoffs since the dawn of the new century.

The Cleveland Browns had a great special teams, according to the rankings. They were No. 3 and they didn't make the playoffs. The Oakland Raiders were No. 5. and they were terrible overall. In all, seven of the NFL's top 10 special teams units spent the postseason in front of their TVs watching teams with poor special teams compete for a Super Bowl berth.

So next time you hear a team, specifically the Dolphins, talk of improving the special teams, your reaction should be: So?


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First..Very informative blog.

Miami's special teams have sucked since we lost Mike Westoff, Doug Blevins and Larry Izzo. Thanks again WANNY!!!

Does anyone remember the end of the Oakland game? Special teams almost gave that game away! If our ST had been better, maybe my heart wouldn't have been in throat right up until the end.

Good article, Mando, but replay the '08 Raiders game, and then tell me that a horrible special teams doesn't undue everything a great Offense and Defense does.

I agree 1000% with Baba Booey!
Thanks for the place to vent, 'Mando!

The problems on special teams were the special teams coach's fault. There was holding all the time, including when Ginn took the opening kickoff to the house against Seattle. When you have penalties on special teams, thats all on the special teams coach. He almost lost his job last year, thats how undisciplined and bad that unit was. And I agree with the posters above, special teams almost lost us the Oakland game single handedly.

I believe this year was the exception rather than the rule in regards to special teams.

And yes, Wanny's ridiculous firing of Westhoff after the Dolphins had the best ST's in the entire NFL in Gosselin's 2000 study was one of his worst non-draft decisions. The Jets had the worst ST's in the AFC East in 2000; within two years, Miami had dropped to 20th in the NFL and the Jets were in the top 12. Coincidentally or not, the Jets went from just barely missing the playoffs in 2000 to making it in 2001 and 2002, while the Dolphins went from an 11-5 team getting in with a big assist from ST's play in 2000 (remember the punt return vs. the Packers? the surprise onside kick vs. the Lions?) to on the outside looking in 2002, with poor ST's play being a major factor in the loss at New England that slammed the door.

Armando seems to be implying that taking an injured punt returner with the #9 overall pick may not have been the wisest decision. Oh, wait........we didn't just draft an injured punt returner, we drafted his entire family with the #9 overall pick.

Didn't you have a blog this past season talking about better play on special teams?

From my couch it looks to me like we lost a lot of games because of special team play in the past and we lost a couple at the beginning of this because of poor special team plays.

It seems to me that most teams play for field position. The better the position the more risk you can take. This seasons stats were an aberation more than the rule.

Nice. Thinking that field position is important makes you an elitist snob. Didn't know that.

Giving your offense a short field or your defense a long one has nothing to do with scoring more points or giving up less, apparently.

I am, once again, overwhelmed by the brilliance of the South Florida sports reporting community.

Good Story, Terrible opinion. Bills have no talent except for special teams. Parish Td vs Sea and McKelvin TD vs Browns on MNF. Oakland took lead on us late in 4th with punt td. It was their first lead of the game. Houston took lead over us with punt td. It took momentum from us and they ended up winning.

Last year vs Eagles, Ginn returned one and we went up 7-0. Mcnabb was out with injury and we should of won that game. Instead Feeley comes in and they win. Talentless squad lost that game, not special teams. Same with bills. I mean J.P. Losman started 18 games more than he should have. Garbage. A good special teams always helps out but expecting to go to playoffs (like bills) which mando is doing is weak.

2nd paragraph, last sentence is missing a word to complete the sentence, probably the word "know."

May I have a job now?

Methinks some of you are taking Mando a bit too seriously. As much as he gets his chain jerked (sometimes deservedly, most times just spitefully), he's allowed a shot or two back into the peanut gallery.

I think it is an interesting study, but I agree with a previous poster that says this past year was the exception rather than the rule.

A *GREAT* offseason project for Mando to do would be to expand upon this premise and track it over the past 5 years.

How 'bout it Mando? Show us what you know!!!

In my opinion, we shouldn't even have a seperate special teams, other than the kicker, who should handle punting and kicking. The best players, including starters, should just go out on the field a few extra times a game and take care of business. We also don't need a long snapper. Our regular centers should be able to handle this duty. I'm not sure how fast Dan Carpenter is, but perhaps we could try using him as a wide receiver or safety to help out also.

Excellent Armando! My brother lives in Dallas and he turned me on to Gosslin a long time ago. No disrespect but he may be the best NFL writer in the country. His mock drafts are uncanny. I don't know where he gets his information from but he consistantly picks over 20 1st rounders and usually hits over 10 dead on.

Mando, why don't you ask Parcells and Sparano if special teams is an overated aspect of NFL football?

One blogger had it right when about Buffalo. They had inconsistencies on offense and defense. Cleveland, don't get me started there. Arizona wasn't really a great team until the playoffs and they played good special teams in the playoffs. Nobody remembers them getting lambasted every time they came east during the year? Pittsburgh had a dominant defense to make up for their average special teams. As usual Mando, your analysis is short sighted and doesn't explain the entire story.

Well, isn't that special.

1 out of every 6 play is a kick.
That equals a lot of opportunities in a game to improve field position.
That said, it can be done with good coasching/preparation not by throwing money at it.

How many games more is the club with the very best special teams gonna win because of them versus the team with the very worst ones? 2? Can't see it being higher than 3.

Having those victories could be huge -- the difference between the playoffs and not -- but what happens in the other 13 or 14 games still comes down to the O and D.

this is a no brainer. ofcourse worse teams will be rated higher. they get more kickoff returns. simply put, team gets scored on then they return kick. usually a team will gain more yards on a kickoff return than a punt return so...very deceiving stat.

I don't think it's so much that good teams need to have good ST, but if you're taking over a bad team, the cheapest/quickest/easiest thing to fix is presumably ST. Look at the 2007 Dolphins, with all of the close games they lost, doesn't it make sense that an extra ~80 yards a game (between kickoffs/punts/returns) could have impacted one or two of those games? It takes more significant, harder to acquire to turn around an offense or defense, but ST requires only adding backup-type players. All bad teams should invest in ST.

When I was little and we used to play football, every one of us used to play every position. I kicked, threw, caught. Now, granted I was the worst player ever. I couldn't throw a spiral, kicked backwards half of the time and caught more criticism than balls, but still. Why can't our kicker also punt and play offense or defense and the same with other special teams players?

"So next time you hear a team, specifically the Dolphins, talk of improving the special teams, your reaction should be: So?"

You write the article. Let us do the critical thinking.

There's probably a million people on the morning drive with the radio on getting their canned opinions, and sound bites for their ready made arguments to whip out at a moment;'s notice when something tugs at their emotional nature and they need a preformed idea to support their 'gut feeling' even if it lacks cedibility or rationale. Religious zealots, political messiahs who polarize, and apathetic shock jocks who spew filth under the auspices and guise of media conglomerates then go home to their mansions and penthouses and have about as much in common with their audience or are as in touch with reason as I do with Paris Hilton.

Just like the Herald called you out and made you pull that article yesterday, I'm going to scold you like a teacher. Come on, you can do better than this, Armando.

I read the article and wasn't impressed. I saw the categories, but what were the weights assigned to each? If you are saying that there is going to be a direct correlation between special teams and winning, it might not be so simple. You can have great special teams and a poor offense that turns the ball over, or a porous defense. I think your own argument that "Me? I want more points on offense and want the defense to yield fewer points." makes the point that it takes a team effort. Conversely, give me a good offense and defense and poor special teams and it will matter.
If you are consistently starting inside your 20 or 15 and the opponents are going from the 4o its going to add up, ALL THING BEING EQUAL. You cant just use stats or make the case in a vacuum or say if we have a good offense and defense we will win , as if we are the only team in the league.

Scott Norwood - wide right. Adam Vinateri in the snow against the Raiders. 1981 Kellen Winslow blocking Dolphins kicker Uwe von Schamann's chance to win the game on the last play of regulation of arguably one the greatest games in history. Another block in OT. When you get to the playoffs, you usually have at least good offenses and defenses on both sides of the ball. Sometimes the difference in a good offensive or defensive struggle is special teams.

You should improve all areas of your team. Special teams is one area. To focus on a single area is being myopic. The greatest teams excel in all phases. The Dolphins should strive to a great team and therefore strengthen all areas.

Interesting, and surprising. That said, it would still be nice to have a decent special teams unit! 30th in pretty much any category spells trouble.

This article as it pertains to the Dolphins is missing a big piece. Players who are not good enough to be regular starters make rosters via special teams. We had no depth anywhere outside of running backs and we needed a complete overhaul. Special teams is easier (and less expensive) to improve via free agency than is offense or defense. The thought was bring in guys who can play special teams and weren't good enough for other teams defense/ offense and improve special teams with the idea that they are probably also good enough to play offense/ defense for us. A good team isn't gonna put the same effort on special teams, but we were not a good team going into last year.

Titans # 2, Giants # 4, Falcons #10, Chargers # 11 Panthers # 12 Eagles #13 Maybe not Super Bowl winners but all playoff teams who had ok years. Pat # 7 without Brady. So there.

Stats are like a bikini. What is revealed is nice, but what is hidden is vital.

85.4 % of stats are made up on the spot.

Stats are a tool... so are you.

Not sure where the slap at 'elitist fans' came from, but the article WAS interesting. In checking out the article it appears the ranking is pretty thorough.

But did we really spend that much anyway on those guys you mentioned? (Not a rhetorical question, I don't know). I would expect special team signing to be on the cheap side.

It's easier to score more points, and allow less when the Special Teams do a good job. But good info anyway.

Hi Ernest. Would you accept a trade to Arizona or Pittsburgh? It would give you new life and our team could really use a player like Larry Fitzgerald or James Harrison.

Weren't there 2 or 3 losses this year that the Dolphins' special teams directly caused? The first Jets game comes to mind. Clearly, special teams don't matter as much as offense and defense, if only because of the small number of plays involved in each game. Resources should be allocated proportionally. But it really was the difference between Miami being 11-5 and being 13-3.

It's true because think about it, the texans had a big return on us but we lost the game because of the defense -- fourth and goal and Schwab scored on a QB draw.

The Raiders had a TD on us but we won the game because of the defense.

Miami games were decided by either the offense or the defense all year long. Only game ST had any input in the outcome was against seattle and that was just because carpenter got a chipshot FG at the end. Whoopeeee!

It's not a sin to punt.

special teams is important but it don't matter how good your special teams is if your deffense is horriable or offense can't move the ball! that is the case for the teams that were in the top 5 of special teams. there speical teams would would return the ball to the 40 but the offense couldent move the ball 30 yards for a field goal! or there special teams would punt the ball and get the other team downed inside the 10 yard line so they would have 90 yards to get a touchdown and there deffense was so bad that they would give up 90 yards for a touchdown or 60 yards for a field goal! the miami dolphins special teams might of not been that good but the deffense was making up for it! and there offense was just good enough to move the ball and score enough to win games! so special teams does count! i would also like to say i wish people would stop crying so damn much about picking ted ginn jr. at #9 overall! believe it or not ted ginn is worth every penny and he was worth the overall 9th pick! in his rookie year he had 420 yards reciving 34 receptions and 12.4 yards per catch and 2 td's! 2nd year he had 790 yards 56 recptions and a 14.1 yards per catch with 2 td's and his rushing yards also went up by like 80 yards! point is his numbers dramtically improved in his 2nd year even though he had a new coach new QB and new playbook and a complety new team all the way around coaches front office and players! so it was like he was a rookie all over again and he still improved by alot! this is his 3rd year comming up i guarentee he has over 1,000 yards reciving this year it's allways 3 years before a reciver breaks out! and he is going to break out bigtime i bet he has over 1100 yards reciving and that is with pennington at QB just wait intill 2010 when chad henne is the QB and he starts throwing it to ginn down the field. henne will start throwing the ball verticaly all the time to ginn and deep down field which the type of reciver ginn is and then he will have 1500 yard seasons! truthfully i wish the dolphins would give henne a chance to fight for the starting job this year and let him and pennington comepete for the job! if henne wins then let pennington back up henne! also if u still ain't covinced ginn should of went 9th put it like this if the dolphins didn't pick him at 9 the texans would of picked him at 10! also the only reason why everybody got so mad that we picked ginn is because everybody wanted poster boy child brady quinn and guess what brady quinn is a huge bust! so put it like this we would of had a huge bust at number 9 in quinn been stuck with all that money he had to pay him and he would even be playing! ted ginn was a way better pick then brady quinn would of ever been! that is why the dang guy slipt all the way to 26th to the browns! so stop crying because ginn is the man he has shown what he can do already he is doing fine in year 2 now watch out for year 3 when he has 1500 yards reciving and makes the probowl!

MR BUNGLE,who you kidding about playing pee-wee football,you were the team manager(towel boy).who then went on the blog 24/7 to tell everybody what the team needs.If anybody doesn't think st is important just take a look at the oak game(they almost blew that themselves}

Rob, have you ever heard of me?

ROB, have you ever heard of me? ( slipt?)

I guess special teams wasn't a huge deal in that Houston loss, huh?

Failing to catch interceptable balls and covering Andre Johnson was a huge deal in that Houston loss.

I was wondering if at some point in the off season or at the start of training camp, we could get an article about the mystery that is special teams. For instance who plays on each coverage unit (I know it will be in flux during this time, but an idea would be nice), what positions each unit has and that positions responsibilities, and any other general information about the special teams. We only hear whether the Dolphins have a good or bad special teams, not how or why. This information would be greatly appreciated.

Mando has a new article, So!

Rob, have you ever heard of me?

Posted by: Paragraph | February 13, 2009 at 12:11 PM


Oh that was good. Props.

Good special teams play sets up your offense to score by shortening the field and pins the opposing team deep in their side of the field. It is an important phase of the game, but Armando is right: I'd rather field a quality offense and defense than have a strong special teams unit.

A dynamic returner like Devin Hester could be a difference maker, but it's not as important as many make it out to be. All what they have to do is not allow big mistakes and you'll be set.

In a 16 game season, where special teams can win or lose a game for you. It is NOT overrated. What a stupid premise. Who cares if the eventual super bowl champion had a mediocre special teams. You just keep showing your ignorance on sports. Ask any coach if they think special teams is overrated.

I have a question how many games did devon hester win for the bears on special teams a few years ago?Still think ST don't matter?

I have a question how many games did hester win on ST for the bears a few years ago? How soon we forget how ST can change a game!!!!!!

Armando got busted by profootballtalk.com

Ernest, luckily you got busted ... back to the inactive list. This way you have all day to spend on blogs and forums, like me.

is it true vick coming to miami?
posted by cooper

this is my first time to write here and i like it a lot.the only thing idon't like so far is MR bungle.


Yall smell my butt real good ok? Go ahead and stick your nose way up in there and take a deep breath.

Go on, do it . You know you want to.

rex rayan;who are you pig?

rex rayn must be a real dolphins fan???

billy bob

Anybody who thinks the Dolphins lost to Houston because of special teams either didn't see the game or is a homo with a boyfriend playing ont the Miami defense -- the unit truly responsible for the loss

come on gorggoatee; you don't have a clue .you sound like you need the menace to come here give you a lesson about football.

billy bob?

CUBAN MENACE is cooper,rex ryan ,the imposter mr bungle and a social parasite .

As THE man in charge of THE Miami Dolphins,i've been doing what I do and that is shaking trees and looking under rocks to build this eventual DYNASTY and evidently missed the article by Mando that was pulled..can anyone please inform as to the latest joke of an article by the boy BLUNDER?????

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