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Let's give Danny Smith some credit

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I'm not going to rely on traditional metrics to measure the worth of Special Teams Coach Danny Smith, because that would probably take a really long time, but rather will let Football Outsiders do all the work. Their metric is explained in the previous link, but let me just say it is far more sophisticated than merely return yards or field goals or what have you. It is based on the average amount of points certain field position is worth, the league average of punts in similar situations, whether there are returns (remembering that all things equal, non-returned kicks/punts are better than returned ones since most returns yield positive yards), etc. etc. If you are interested in reading through it in its entirety, please go here. I am positive you will return confident in their evaluation of special teams.

First, why doesn't Danny Smith get any love? lists the staff in what presumably is a loose heirarchy from most important to least important, starting with Coach Gibbs and ending with our Assistant Strength/Conditioning Coaches (Bobby Crumpler and Harrison Bernstein, since you were dying to know) with Danny occupying the space immediately above our Asst. Coach - Special Projects -- he's the guy who ices cakes for player's birthdays I think -- and below every single positional coach on the team.

We ask because Danny kind of deserves some credit over the past two years. We've had uneven STs since 1997 per FO, ranking 13th, 26th, 26th, 29th, 5th, 31st, and 7th prior to his tenure here. You will either a) notice that we'd been incapable of putting together two consecutive quality ST years in a row or b) conclude that STs fluctuates dramatically from year to year so much so that it's difficult to make much of anything from these numbers. I'm going to dismiss b) because I want reader(s) to discuss that possibility in the comments.

Danny joined the team in 2004 and, since then, we ranked: 26th, 5th, and 11th. Two very solid performances in a row is uncanny for the Redskins. Overall we rank, on average, ~19th sans Danny Smith and 14th under him, with some serious upward trajectory looking improvement with our most recent data. Last year we didn't really excel anywhere besides our return units, as we were 5th in punting and 7th on kickoffs. Our FG/XP was a mediocre 23rd, though can be chalked up to having uncertain kickers for most of the year, hopefully Shaun Suisham will become that guy. Kickoffs were weak for the same reason; 18th. Derrick Frost wasn't nearly as bad as I sometimes made him sound, as we were 11th in punting.

What I see is that we were very solid in making some field position for ourselves on returns, but struggled in either coverage or distance on kickoffs. I would wager that it was distance, since the impression is this team has a lot of ST aces marauding about. We're only just now beginning to see what Rock Cartwright can do on kickoff returns, as 2006 was the first time he had a significant role in the return game (and he performed admirably). Randle-El remains a dangerous player anytime he catches a punt as well.

Hopefully our uncharacteristic (and perhaps statistically insignificant) back-to-back success on special teams will continue into the 2007 season. If so, maybe Danny Smith can get some prime time real estate closer to Coach Gibbs and the gang, concurrant with his importance to this football team.