Kotwica on lessons learned in the military: 'The enemy’s got a vote'

Kotwica on lessons learned in the military: 'The enemy’s got a vote'
July 5, 2014, 12:45 pm
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We’ve already covered a few topics surrounding Ben Kotwica, the Redskins’ new special teams coordinator. 

Last month, veteran Niles Paul said he’s confident Kotwica’s scheme and no-nonsense leadership will yield results this season. We’ve also reported on Kotwica’s nuanced approach to practice, which includes incorporating other assistant coaches in an effort to get more done in less time.

One thing we haven’t touched on is how Kotwica believes his military background translates to the football field. If you recall, Kotwica played linebacker at West Point and was a combat helicopter commander in Bosnia, Korea and Iraq before embarking on his coaching career. During his eight years as a helicopter pilot—he logged more than 1,000 combat hours during Operation Iraqi Freedom II—Kotwica was awarded the Bronze Star, the Army Achievement medal, the Army Commendation medal and the Meritorious Service medal.

The lessons he learned in combat are lessons he can apply to football, he said recently.

“I would suggest to you that one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned was that you can have a plan going in,” said Kotwica, who spent seven seasons with the Jets in various capacities before being hired in Washington on Jan. 15, “that you can have an operational order, whether it was in Bosnia, whether it was in Korea, whether it was in Iraq. But the enemy’s got a vote.”

In other words, Kotwica values the notion of being prepared for any and all situations and having the flexibility to change course should the original plan fail due to unforeseen circumstances.

Not to dredge up last season’s special teams debacle again, but one of that unit’s biggest deficiencies was its inability to learn from prior mistakes—those committed week-to-week and those committed quarter-to-quarter.

“One of the import things, much like it is on Sunday, you’ve got to have the ability to make adjustments,” Kotwica said. “You’ve got a plan going in that might work. But, again, the enemy’s got a vote. So whether it’s in the desert of Iraq or out on a football field on Sunday, you’ve got to have that ability to make adjustments and instill that confidence in your soldiers—or your players—that the job is going to get done.”

He added: “Being a commander or leader in the Army is kind of like coaching.”

Paul said last month that he can already see a marked improvement in practice. Just as important, Paul noted that he senses his teammates have bought into what Kotwica is selling. That wasn’t always the case last season under Keith Burns.

“It’s been great,” Kotwica said of his transition from the military to back to the gridiron. “Both careers have been excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed being in the military. And this has been a great run. I’m just anxious and excited about what we’ve got going here for the 2014 season.”