Days away from the NFL’s biggest game of the year, the Redskins coaching staff was delivered its second blow this offseason with news that special teams coordinator Danny Smith would be departing for the same position with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Smith, who had survived Joe Gibbs and Jim Zorn, had been a member of the Redskins coaching staff since 2004.
Your classic players coach, he brought fire and passion to the office every day, getting players to buy into the idea that it’s an honor to play special teams.
“Guys who were on that team said Danny made special teams something that you want to take pride in,” Mike Jones of the Washington Post told Lavar and Dukes Wednesday. “You’re not just on this unit because you’re not good enough to start on offense or defense.”
At 59-years-old, this career move is probably more of a homecoming for the Pittsburgh native than anything else.
“Pittsburgh has been interested in him for awhile,” Jones said. “He has family still in Pittsburgh. He’s from Pittsburgh. This is a situation that obviously Danny feels good about and that’s why he’s leaving.”
That Redskins hadn’t allowed other teams permission to talk to him in years past, although plenty of suitors have come knocking on their door for his services.
“Every year teams try to get Danny Smith away from the Redskins. And now this is a time, finally, the Redskins have allowed him to interview,” Jones said.
His departure comes with mixed reviews by Washington. His unit allowed five blocked field goals in 2011 and two blocked punts in 2012, but in the more recent campaign he discovered kicker Kai Forbath – who was a perfect 17-for-17 in field goal attempts until the final week of the season – and coached Lorenzo Alexander to his first Pro Bowl.
“I know that Danny has wanted to go on to somewhere else for awhile now,” Jones said. “If you have a guy who’s served you well since 2004 and he wants to move on, just out of respect, you might as well let him interview for that position and see what comes of it.”
This is the second coach to leave Washington in as many weeks. Roughly two weeks ago, Ike Hilliard – who spent eight seasons as a wide receiver for the Giants, and one coaching Redskins receivers – took the job as the new wide receivers coach for the Buffalo Bills.
“He’s going to coach with one of his buddies in Buffalo,” Jones said. “From what I’ve been told, Kyle Shanahan has a way of doing things, and he’s very hands on with his receivers. Maybe that position up in Buffalo gave him more of an opportunity to grow.”
At the conclusion of Washington’s 2012-13 campaign, many believed offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan would bolt for his first head coaching gig, as rumors flooded in of teams interested in his services.
“His name was being bounced around a whole lot right after the season ended,” Jones said. “People were impressed with what he did with the Redskins this year and although they think he’s talented, they’d still like to see a little bit more. He’s still got some of that Donovan McNabb stink on him.”
After losing to the Panthers in Week 9, Kyle Shanahan’s offense bolstered the Redskins for their charge to run the table the final seven games of the season, to end the year as NFC East division champs and give Washington its first playoff appearance since 2007.
It would appear they’re safe for now from having to find a new playcaller, but Jones said he still would be surprised if the Redskins didn’t lock him in as the elder Shanahan’s successor, should the offense continue to flourish in 2013.