Like most assistant coaches on NFL staffs undergoing change, Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi is trying to stay employed. Unlike many of his counterparts, he can present a solid, tangible case for keeping his job based on his unit's 2011 performance.
According to the annual study of the NFL's 32 special teams, done by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, the Dolphins staged the biggest one-season improvement on special teams from 2010 to 2011, vaulting from 24 a year ago all the way to second under Rizzi.
The Dolphins finished just behind the San Francisco 49'ers in the study that judges 22 elements of the kicking game -- with each element receiving votes from 1 to 32, with the lowest scoring unit accounting for the best score.
The Dolphins finished in the Top 10 in 14 categories and, like the 49ers, their kickers were a strength. Dan Carpenter was 13-of-16 in field goals from 40 yards and beyond and punter Brandon Fields had a net punting average of 41.1 yards.
Four division champions finished in the top 10 in special teams and one of them is headed for the Super Bowl. The AFC champion New England Patriots finished fifth this season in special teams, the New Orleans Saints eighth and the Denver Broncos 10. The NFC champion New York Giants finished 22nd in the kicking game.
Congratulations to Rizzi, Carpenter, Fields and the rest of the Miami special teams unit.