I have to get this off my chest, because I talk to football players all day long, and I cannot understand why players do not want to play special teams.
Special Teams are super important in football. I myself was a specialist as a kicker, and I feel the biggest secret in the game of football is Special Teams. People must not look at NFL rosters the way I do for a living. When you look at the game of football it is broken down into three phases.
I am sure if you are a football fan you have heard this before. You know there is Special Teams, Offense and Defense. Yes, we always hear about Offense and Defense because they are the areas of the game that get the most love from the media and the fans, but if you want to gain attention from NCAA teams and professional teams you need to play special teams.
I was going to go on this rant the other day, but I figured I would wait, but then I listened to BJ McNorton a former Pittsburgh Steelers NFL Scout talking to Beyond the Negotiation Podcast this morning on the Bleav Network and I realized I need to discuss why it is important to play special teams.
Let’s break it down, because it is super important and if you can show that you can play special teams, you can stick around.
Why should I play Special Teams if I am the star player on my team?
I get this question all the time. Do you want to know why? Because you are the star on your football team. You win the game when you have the best players on the field. I remember working with the Orlando Predators, we would call for special teams and all the players would somehow disappear. IT PISSED ME OFF, but I learned something. I would much rather have a player who wanted to be on the field than a player who thought Special Teams didn’t matter. We had a defensive tackle that was 300 plus pounds who would run out on the field to play special teams. When you called Special Teams he would run out there. I lined him up and let him run down the field.
People thought I was crazy, but he made plays consistently. Some people want it more than others. I would much rather have a player who wants it than a player who thinks he deserves it. Special teams can cost a team the game. Many games are lost because of Special Teams miscues, yet some players will cry and complain their team lost, and point fingers, but they did not want to come on the field when they had an opportunity. Just last week I lost on NJ Betting Sites because of Special Teams. The Titans punter hit a 17 yard punt, then turned around and had his punt blocked. As a star player you cannot blame the Special Teams Unit if you were not on the Unit. That is how I ran special teams.
So many players around the NFL have talent, but they have never played Special Teams. I will give examples, because I think it helps to be able to understand where I am going. Right now the Buffalo Bills (My favorite team), have Taiwan Jones, Andre Roberts, Tyler Matakevich, Siran Neal, and Andre Smith who have played primarily special teams only. That is five players out of the 53 on their roster who do nothing but special teams. That is not including the punter Bojorquez, the long snapper Ferguson, and their kicker rookie Tyler Bass. That is 8 players on a unit that play nothing but special teams. Now, I want you to think about that for a minute.
Andre Roberts has played 11 years in the NFL. He started off as a wide receiver in Arizona, but for the last six years he has 41 receptions for less than 400 yards, but he has stayed on a 53 man roster. He was also a Pro Bowl return man for the Bills last year. It is pretty impressive when you look at the stats. He has made a living playing Special Teams.
The Bills passed on players like Rashard Higgins, and other big time prospects in free agency because they wanted to keep a roster spot for Roberts. Rashard Higgins is a better wide receiver, but he does not play special teams. So does he add value to the Bills if they keep him over Roberts? No.
Look at Taiwan Jones. He has played in the NFL for 10 years. Yes, a 10 year NFL veteran and he is a running back. Guess how many times he has ran the ball in his career?
If you guessed 53 you are a beast, because in 10 years he has only ran the ball 53 times, yet he has remained on a roster as a 10 year NFL veteran. Do you see why it is important to play special teams now?
The Bills could have signed Lamar Miller, they could have signed another free agent running back like Jordan Howard, but if they did they would have to get rid of Jones. Why would you get rid of your Special Teams gunner when guys like Miller and Howard cannot get on the field.
You see many people will look at a roster and say the Bills need to upgrade their running backs. On paper they do not look great. Why are we keeping Taiwan Jones. We could sign Jordan Howard, or (other running back), but those guys cannot add value to Special Teams.
Special Teams is real. Tyler Matakevich is a 5 year NFL veteran and has 84 tackles in his career. Almost all of them came on Special Teams. Yes, they are holding a linebacker spot for an undersized linebacker who runs down the field and makes plays on special teams. There is a reason these guys have a job. They have a job because they made Special Teams their job.
Maybe you are a star running back at Stony Brook or another small school, and you do not understand why you need to play Special Teams. Well here is why. You maybe the star at Stony Brook but you maybe considered an undrafted free agent when you add the FBS, and other small schoolers to the list of players to draft from. When you do that, you have to add something to your resume that can help you separate yourself. The easiest way to do that is Special Teams.
If you are the 10th best running back in the FCS, and you play on the return team, hands team, are the gunner and also on punt block, guess what happens? You become more valuable to NFL teams. You are not just a solid running back that can carry the ball if we need you too, but you can be used as a gunner on special teams and if our running back goes down we can play you there too. You help fill holes.
NFL teams keep around 5-8 players on every roster for special teams alone. NFL teams when scouting college players will give guys a boost in their grade when they play special teams. Many colleges look at high schoolers are looking for guys that can add help at multiple positions, so here is my question. Why does your Special Teams coach have to pull teeth to find players to run down the field and hit someone?
A great special teams player can get paid. Look around the league. Even gunners are getting paid. Special teams is the easiest way to boost your draft stock and boost your wealth as an NFL player. Think of it being bi-lingual on a resume. If you can play two phases and excel at them, are you more valuable that someone who can only play one?
YOU DAMN RIGHT!