Danny Smith has been hired as the Steelers’ special teams coach so the Redskins’ longest-tenured coach is gone. A few thoughts on Smith’s departure:
Fans won’t have Smith to kick around any more—His departure was greeted with cheers by many—perhaps most—Redskins fans, who are dissatisfied with the performance of the special teams during Smith’s nine-year tenure. When you crunch the numbers the sentiments of the fans seem to have merit. Per the folks at Football Outsiders, the Redskins’ special teams have been below average seven out of Smith’s nine years on the job and every year since Joe Gibbs departed as head coach after the 2007 season.
Smith is highly respected by players and by teams around the league—Maybe the numbers don’t lie but this isn’t the first time that the Steelers have tried to lure Smith away from the Redskins. A number of other teams have tried to hire him away as well. He is as well respected a coach as there is. Players love the guy. "Danny is an awesome coach to play for,” safety and special teams regular Reed Doughty. “He expects a lot, but you want to play hard for him. I respect him immensely.”
Most in media like Smith but not because he’s a great quote—If you ask most of us who cover the Redskins I believe that the consensus of opinion would be that Smith leaving is a loss, perhaps a big loss, for the Redskins. Those opinions are based on the respect that players and other teams around the league have for him, not because he’s someone who is particularly accommodating to the media, as some fans have said. He would talk to us once a year, usually during training camp. That’s it. Yes, he would joke with us as we watched practice and he occasionally had a smile and handshake for a few of us as he left the field. But he didn’t particularly help us do out jobs on a regular basis so that’s not why he’s a media “favorite”.
Despite his reputation, the Redskins let Smith go—Smith was under contract to the Redskins for at least one more year, as he had been signed to an extension last offseason. So he had to have the team give him permission to talk to the Steers and to let him leave. This was a special situation with Pittsburgh being Smith’s hometown, the Steelers being in the other conference, and Pittsburgh not being on the Redskins’ schedule until 2016. Still, if they didn’t think they could get by without him they could have denied him permission to talk to the Steelers.
Who will replace him? One name to keep an eye on is Alan Lowry, who had been the Titans’ special teams coordinator for the last 14 years. He was fired earlier this month. Lowry drew up the Music City Miracle 13 years ago and his Titans returned four kicks for touchdowns in 2012. Another possibility is Richard Hightower, who has been the special teams assistant coach since 2010. Lorenzo Alexander lobbied for Hightower when the talked to the Washington Times yesterday.