Raiders special teams
Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites - Franchise Sports Media



Silver and Black Muse w/ Rooz

Raiders Special Teams Emphasis


What’s the quickest way to improve your football team? The casual fan will proclaim loudly “Draft a franchise quarterback!”, but the more astute fan will scream “Get some linemen to protect your quarterback, then find a few pass rushers on defense.”. Both statements are true, yet they don’t appropriately address the question. I didn’t ask what is the ‘best’ way, rather the “quickest” way to improve the team. The most correct answer is Special Teams.


Yup, you read that correctly. After all, special teams are 1/3rd of the game. Two of the most successful NFL head coaches of all time, Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, emphasize the importance of special teams on the first day of mini camps. They understand that NFL games are overwhelmingly decided by exactly 3 points (15% of the time). The next most common margin of victory is 7 points (9%), followed by 10 points (6%). How convenient that a field goal is worth 3 points, and a touchdown is worth 6 (plus 1 point if the kicker makes the extra point). 


Photo Credit: Robert B. Stanton/NFLPhotoLibrary

When he coached in Dallas, Parcells put up a sign in the locker room that read “Hidden yardage wins games.” He felt so strongly about it that he came up with a ‘hidden yardage’ formula. He believed every 100 yards in an NFL game is equal to 7 points. A perfect example of hidden yardage is when your punt returner fails to secure a punt and allows the ball to roll an additional 10-20 yards. Another is when your kick returner decides to bring the ball out from 5 yards deep in his own endzone only to get tackled well shy of the 25-yard line. Boneheaded plays like that will make every coach’s blood boil.


Tom Brady and Bill Belichick get all the publicity and rightfully so. They are on the NFL’s Mt. Rushmore at their respective positions. Kickstarted by the infamous Tuck Rule play, the duo went on a 20-year run that will likely never be matched. Peel back the layers and you will find what the catalyst was for their run, it was special teams. During a blizzard versus the Oakland Raiders in the 2001 AFC Divisional Round playoff game, it was kicker Adam Vinatieri who delivered two of the most clutch kicks in NFL history to win the game. The margin of victory, 3 points.


The following week in Pittsburgh, it was special teams that stole the show again. Troy Brown got the party started with a punt return for a touchdown. Midway through the game, quarterback Tom Brady was knocked out and unable to finish the game. Not to worry though, a blocked field goal attempt was returned by safety Antwan Harris for a TD. Pittsburgh made a valiant effort to get back in the game, but once again Vinatieri delivered a clutch 44-yard field goal to hold the Steelers off for good. The margin of victory, 7 points.


In Super Bowl XXXVI the Patriots faced the St. Louis Rams which featured an offense dubbed “The Greatest Show on Turf”. New England entered the game as 14 point underdogs. Most analysts felt they reached the Super Bowl by pure luck. A series of fortunate plays went in their favor and surely the clock would strike midnight on their Cinderella storied season. Only it didn’t. Once again Adam Vinatieri delivered in the clutch as he kicked a game-winning 48-yard field gold as time expired. The margin of victory, 3 points. 


The following season Vinatieri and the Patriots did it again. This time the Carolina Panthers were their victims. In a frenetic second half, the game swayed back and forth like a teeter-totter. With the score tied in a 29-29 deadlock, enter Vinatieri. 41 yards later and it was over. All you saw next was confetti raining from the sky. The margin of victory, 3 points.


One of Gruden 2.0’s initial hiring was special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia. It was Gruden that gave him his first NFL opportunity in 2002 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


Photo Credit: Raiders

Suffice it to say they have a tight bond. Prior to his arrival to Las Vegas by way of Oakland, Bisaccia earned the respect of players and coaches across the league. His units were consistently ranked among the best in the NFL. The previous two seasons Bisaccia saw Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther stock their pantries with shiny new toys to work with. He waited patiently for his turn. This offseason his patience was rewarded handsomely. 


Bisaccia did an admirable job with what he had to work within 2018 and 2019. The roster was in full-on rebuilding mode. This is particularly troublesome for special teams coordinators as they only get a handful of core special team players to work with. The rest of their units are a hodgepodge of moving parts. The majority of these guys are bottom of the roster players. They’ll be in your meeting room on Wednesday, and by lunchtime Thursday afternoon, they’re on a flight to Cleveland to see if they can catch on there. 


Year 3 of Gruden 2.0 brings something abnormal around here, continuity.


Photo Credit: San Francisco Chronicle

Bisaccia is slated to see the return of gunners Keisean Nixon, Nevin Lawson, and Isaiah Johnson. Long snapper Trent Sieg, kicker Daniel Carlson, and punter A.J. Cole. As well as core special teams players Kyle Wilber, Dallin Leavitt, Jalen Richard, Marquel Lee, and Derek Carrier. These fellas might not be household names but their value cannot, and should not be underestimated. 


This offseason brought in a deluge of elite special teams talent. In free agency, the Raiders added safety Jeff Heath, wide receiver/punt returner Nelson Agholor, linebacker Cory Littleton. Littleton was an undrafted free agent who quickly ascended to a Pro Bowl special teams ace. Not satisfied with just playing on special teams he worked his way up to the top linebacker on the open market this offseason. The draft saw the team add self-proclaimed “Special Teams War DaddyTanner Muse, running back/kick and punt returner Lynn Bowden Jr. aka The Joker (Gruden’s nickname for him), along with cornerbacks Damon Arnette and Amik Robertson


Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites- Franchise Sports Media

Immediately following the draft, the Las Vegas Raiders added UNLV linebacker Javin White to the roster along with Utah State kicker Dominik Eberle. White, Bowden, Muse, and Robertson understand that they can immediately cement their status on the team by making impact plays on special teams. The learning curve from college football to the NFL can be steep. A player can flatten that curve if he is consistently the first to arrive at the ball carrier. Much like Littleton did with the Rams, it isn’t out of the question to see a dynamic athlete like Javin White snatch one of the final roster spots and push a veteran player like Wilber or Leavitt off the roster. 

Gruden’s style of coaching leads to numerous close football games. The difference between winning and losing can come down to a missed tackle on a kickoff return, a bad snap on an extra point, a blocked punt, or an untimely holding penalty negating a huge return. With margins of victory so thin it was imperative that we upgraded the special teams this offseason. I can unequivocally say that Gruden and Mayock did so in spades.


It’s not out of the realm of possibility to see Muse blocking kicks, Javin forcing fumbles, Nixon causing fair catches, Carlson nailing clutch kicks, and Bowden lighting up the scoreboard with his kick and punt returning prowess all the way into January.


raiders special teams   raiders special teams   raiders special teams   raiders special teams   raiders special teams   raiders special teams   raiders special teams   raiders special teams   raiders special teams   raiders special teams   raiders special teams   raiders special teams
Raiders special teams 

silver and black   silver and black   silver and black   silver and black   silver and black   silver and black   silver and black

silver and black   silver and black   silver and black   silver and black   silver and black   silver and black   silver and black

silver and black   silver and black   silver and black   silver and black   silver and black   silver and black   silver and black

-Rooz – Franchise Sports Media

Follow The Franchise on social media