As Redskins special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica worked with his units during OTAs and minicamp, one thing stood out: he wasn’t the only coach doing the teaching.
Wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard and running backs coach Randy Jordan tutored the returners. Defensive backs coach Raheem Morris instructed the gunners on the finer points of punt coverage. And linebackers coaches Kirk Olivadotti and Brian Baker showed players how to take better pursuit angles and tackle.
“When you incorporate those position coaches and you talk about how important it is, and you have a Raheem Morris out there helping out, or a Kirk Olivadotti or an Ike Hilliard, those guys are working with their players, so it gets reinforced,” said Kotwica, hired in January after a stint with the Jets. “Those guys have been great. They have been very, very helpful and they’re a part of it.”
Having the position coaches involved also helps Kotwica get more teaching done in less time. Which is critical for a special teams coordinator, particularly given the fact that the overwhelming majority of precious practice minutes are dedicated to offense and defense.
“It’s very important for our assistant coaches to get involved …so we can have more of an individual-type teaching process and better utilize our time instead of having 22 guys out there standing around [as the coordinator] teaches one drill,” head coach Jay Gruden said. “Ben does an outstanding job of utilizing everybody and getting the most out of his 10-15 minute allotments. You see guys running around, all types of different areas, working tackling drills, cover drills, punting, kicking, protection, all that.”
Gruden said the involvement of the position coaches has also added a new sense of urgency to special teams drills during practice.
“It’s something that has to be taken as seriously as offense or defense,” Gruden said.
Since joining the Redskins, Kotwica has sought to get as many players and coaches involved on special teams as possible in an effort to get the right mix.
“Anytime that you time to form a unit or an organization you want to instill a culture,” said Kotwica, a West Point graduate and a decorated combat helicopter pilot who served in Iraq. “So there are some things that I’ve brought from my military background. I put an ‘apply within’ sign on my front door. We’re taking all applicants. I think guys have bought into that. We’ve had a lot of guys sign up, a lot of guys interested to help this ball club.”
He added: “And just like I [told] the team early on: at one point or another everybody is going to have a role on special teams, whether it’s DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon, you got hands team, your field goal protection. I think if you look across the board, those teams that are successful are the ones that internalize special teams and it touches the whole gamut of the roster.”