Lost amid the rumors about the Redskisn potentially getting a new defensive coordinator was the loss of special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica. The team will certainly miss Kotwica after a great 2018 season.
Special teams aren’t something that gets a lot of attention from the casual NFL fan. Even more sophisticated NFL fans tend to focus mostly on offense and defense and ignore the specialists altogether. That said, as we’ve seen in the playoffs, specialists can have a major impact on the outcome of games. And for that reason, the Redskins’ switch on special teams could be a negative for the squad.
The Redskins lost their special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica to the Atlanta Falcons earlier this offseason. It was a lateral move. Kotwica became the special teams coordinator for the Falcons after the ‘Skins gave him permission to pursue other options. The lateral movement of Kotwica was concerning, as it demonstrates a lack of faith in the front office, so it was already bad news. However, the move could have an impact on the performance of the specialists as well.
Kotwica helped lead the Washington specialists to excellent seasons in 2018. Tress Way was arguably the best punter in the league and could be considered the Redskins’ MVP. He averaged 45.3 yards per punt and pinned his opponent inside the 20 a whopping 41 times on 63 kicks. And, most impressively, he did that without recording a touchback.
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Elsewhere, kicker Dustin Hopkins had one of the best seasons of his career, converting 26-of-29 field goals for a career-high 89.7 field goal percentage. He also went 4-of-5 from 50-plus yards. That type of success had eluded him in his previous three seasons, as he had gone 5-of-13 from that distance.
Kotwica deserves some praise for the improvement of Hopkins and the immense success of Way. And in addition to the solid performance of this duo, the team’s long snappers played well. Nick Sundberg has long been one of the more consistent long snappers in the NFL, but even after he was injured, replacement Andrew East didn’t miss a beat. Kotwica got him integrated fast and made sure the unit was comfortable working with one another. In short, Kotwica did a great job but never really got the recognition he should have for the performance of his units.
Losing the special teams coordinator that led them to a No. 8 ranking in special teams DVOA (per Football Outsiders) is certainly not going to help these units. The Redskins may land a fine replacement, but if there is any sort of regression from the special teams, the departure of Kotwica will likely be blamed.
We’ll see who the ‘Skins end up hiring as their special teams coordinator. No matter who they bring in, the departure of Kotwica will loom large after one of the unit’s best seasons in recent memory.