« The Dolphins philosophy on their free agents | Main | Sunday column: Miami's great QB situation »

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?