Why the Redskins Should Fire Danny Smith

Special teams mistakes have become the rule, not the exception—and the coach is to blame.

By: JP Finlay

It’s election season—and one clichĂ© applies to both the government and our football team after the meltdown the Washington Redskins suffered last Sunday in St. Louis. Politicians often talk about bringing accountability to Washington. I’m not sure that ever actually happens on Capitol Hill, but it’s about time it happened at FedEx Field.

It’s a trend that has been around ever since team owner Dan Snyder fired former coach Marty Schottenheimer. All Redskins coaches since, including the saintly Joe Gibbs in his second run, refused to blame players or coaches for their deficiencies. In St. Louis, in a game the Skins should have won and basically gave away, the lack of accountability was obvious.

Josh Morgan made a really stupid play, which Redskins players have been doing for most of Snyder’s tenure. There’s no need to rehash it—everyone saw the personal foul. It was a heat-of-the-moment brain fart. No way around it.

But in the days and practices afterward, the entire organization made excuses for Morgan. Drastic action like cutting Morgan was not the right recourse, but the coaches and the front office needed to be clear that boorish behavior will not be tolerated, especially in the closing minutes of a tight game.

What Morgan did was dumb, but wasn’t the biggest sin I see from the Skins’ loss to the Rams. The more egregious example of a lack of accountability is on display every week on the Redskins sideline. His name is Danny Smith, he coaches special teams, and he chews a lot of gum.

How in the hell does Smith keep his job? I have no frickin’ clue.

To open the season, Smith’s special teams allowed a blocked punt in each game. Last year, more than half the league went the entire season without any blocked punts.

Against the Saints in the opener, the blocked punt resulted in a touchdown that altered the course of the game and breathed life into a confused New Orleans team. For that type of error to occur again—the very next week—is simply mind-boggling.

When asked about the special teams errors, head coach Mike Shanahan tends to give a generic response about how one player missed one block and then blah blah bah. The players defend Smith, as well.

This goes beyond one player missing one block. For the Redskins, bad special teams have become the rule, not the exception. The players change from year to year, but the mistakes remain consistent. Who else is there to blame but the special teams coach?

Last year the Redskins suffered through similar special team collapses, though blocked field goals were the error du jour. But last year the team sucked, so the special teams gaffes were just one more thing that went wrong. When your starting quarterbacks prefer interceptions to touchdowns, people tend to forget about blocked kicks.

This year is different. This year, the Redskins will be competitive. This year, the Redskins have Robert Griffin III.

Griffin, and an offense capable of moving the ball and putting up points, deserves better than Danny Smith.

For whatever reason, players love Smith. I’m sure he’s a nice man, but for years he has proven inept at coaching special teams. Many of the game’s best coaches—think Bear Bryant and Bill Parcells—were never described as nice men.

There are positive marks on Smith’s coaching record, as the Redskins’ propaganda machine is happy to point out. But with the NFL’s move to reduce violent collisions on kickoffs, the impact of special teams in 2012 is felt more in the kicking game than the return game.

Smith may be a solid return man coach, but his preparation in the kicking game is clearly lacking. There is simply too much empirical evidence to think otherwise.

In a classic Redskins move, cementing the organization’s philosophical lack of accountability, news leaked this week that Smith received a contract extension. How or why this dude got an extension is beyond me, and most fans tend to agree. Wait for the next Redskins special teams botch and then check Twitter. I got five bucks that #FireDannySmith will be trending locally.

The Skins’ troubles go beyond just special teams. A perennially overhyped defense has not delivered thus far, and with season-ending injuries to All Pro Brian Orakpo and solid contributor Adam Carriker, the worst may be yet to come for the Skins D. Of course, the Danny extended defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, too.

For the first time in a long time, this year’s offense has the talent and explosiveness to keep the Redskins in every game (as long as RG3 stays healthy).

What they cannot afford are simple mistakes that give the momentum to the opposing team. Blocked punts are the new blocked field goals. Either one will cost the Redskins victories.

With or without Danny Smith, it’s time for some accountability at FedEx Field.

PICK: Redskins 34, Bengals 27

Find JP Finlay on Twitter @jpfinlay.