WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Redskins veteran linebacker Bryan Kehl, who went down with a season-ending ACL tear in the team’s 31-16 loss to Dallas on Sunday, says Washington’s special teams unit is lacking the ‘want to’ to find success.
The unit – led by first-year special teams coach Keith Burns – gave up 176 yards on two massive returns by the Cowboys, the first being an 86-yard punt return touchdown to Dwayne Harris, and the second a 90-yard kickoff return, also to Harris, which would later set up a Dallas touchdown.
Kehl, a member of the unit that’s had to fill the void left by its previous captain, Lorenzo Alexander, spoke open and honest about its deficiencies in an interview with 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Chad Dukes on Wednesday.
“You know, I’ve been around the league, been on several different teams – four to be precise – and had several different special teams coaches, and I can tell you that every special teams coach has different philosophies,” Kehl said. “You know, it’s just funny. It’s almost comical sometimes, because you’ll be sitting there getting told to do something and you know in your mind, your opponent, oh is getting coached to do the opposite thing and it’s kind of comical to you.”
This is the same special teams unit that just fourteen days and a bye week before, gave up both a touchdown on a blocked punt, and a first down on a fake punt by the Raiders.
“Is there a right way, I mean who knows?” Kehl said. “Tomato/tomato. Every special teams coach has their own philosophies, and Keith’s no different, and he has his. And um, as far as guys buying in, I can’t really speak for everybody else. I can tell you that there’s a lot things, me personally, that he coaches, that I wouldn’t naturally do it that way, but I’m fine with it.”
However, Kehl seemed to speak more from a place of a leader looking to inspire his brethren in his absence, rather than a guy looking to spend the rest of year on the sidelines in judgment.
“Technique aside, the biggest thing with special teams is just ‘want to,'” Kehl said. “And if you don’t have guys with ‘want to’ out there, then you’re not going to have success.”
“Do you feel like that’s an issue then — having guys with ‘want to?'” Paulsen asked for clarification.
“I’m not going to throw anybody under the bus, but I mean the results speak for themselves,” Kehl said. “If you had eleven guys with their hair on fire, I’ll tell you right now, that returner, you know what I’m saying, eleven guys covering a kick with their hair on fire, you know – ‘I’ve got to get to the ball, I’m gonna make this tackle, I’m gonna get there before the next guy gets there’ – if you have eleven guys like that, I’ll tell you right now, you’re not gonna have a kick return for a touchdown. You’re not gonna have a kick returned inside the ten.”
“Bryan, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but it sounds like, you know, that there are issues both coaching and personnel-wise, as to why the special teams turned in that performance last game,” Dukes insisted.
“I wouldn’t even put it on the coaching,” Kehl said. “It’s all on the players in my opinion, especially like punt. You take punt, cause punt is just, I mean it’s a, just a free-for-all. In kickoff coverage, there’s a lot more coaching and technique because there’s blocking, it’s just a lot more structured.
“Punt, a punt return is the closest thing to backyard football that you find in the NFL. Absolutely the closest thing to backyard football in the NFL is a punt return, because it basically is a free-for-all, and that’s where it comes down to having enough guys that ‘want to’ get to the ball, that it’s like their life depends on it. And whenever you see a big return, guess what, you didn’t have enough guys with that desire, because I’ll tell you right now, if you have enough guys with that desire, there’s not gonna be a big return.”
Listen the the full interview below.