As anyone who has been even a casual observer of the team this year could tell you, Redskins special teams are not very good. But are they historically bad? One analyst believes they are in the running to be the worst special teams unit ever.
Mike Tanier writes about the NFL for Sports on Earth and he is one of the authors of the annual Football Outsiders Almanac.
In a recent post Tanier states the following.
The Redskins special teams are awful. In fact, they are on pace to be the worst ever. That’s not internet hyperbole, it’s science: Football Outsiders ranks the Redskins special teams as the third worst of the last 20 years. And they’re just a few punt return touchdowns or blocked field goals away from being historically terrible.
Their sins include two blocked field goals, a blocked punt, two punts returned for touchdowns, an NFL-low average of 60.1 yards per kickoff, and a return game that is among the worst in the NFL.
Not included in the statistical mix is possibly the Redskins most embarrassing special teams moment since Jim Zorn’s Swinging Gate fake field goal. Against the Vikings, half of the team knew that punter Sav Rocca was going to throw a pass on a fake punt and the other half, including intended receiver Niles Paul, didn’t know that the fake was on. Fortunately, the whole fiasco ended before it officially started due to a pre-snap motion penalty against the Redskins.
Throw it all together and, according to Football Outsiders, you have special teams that are 14.3 percent below average compared to the rest of the league. Only the 2008 Vikings and the 2010 Chargers have been that far below average for a full season.
But the news isn’t all bleak. Tanier noted that special teams tend to improve as the season goes on. This is usually due to more attention being paid to them by the coaching staff, personnel changes and work on specific techniques (such as Kai Forbath working on the height of his field goal attempts).
Also, historically bad special teams do not necessarily doom a team to an unsuccessful season. The three worst units over a full season—the above-mentioned ’08 Vikings and ’10 Chargers plus the 1995 Eagles—were all teams with winning records on the season.
It’s not as though this Redskins team is strong enough in other areas to compensate for historically bad special teams play. But if things do get better—and we’re still waiting for our first game in the last six without a costly and/or comical special teams gaffe—perhaps the kicking game can become an asset to the Redskins. Or, perhaps, at least not a hindrance.