Special teams coordinator looked like nothing special, but now ...
The Browns didn’t change special teams coordinators last winter because they wanted to. They had to.
Jerry Rosburg, whose return and cover units were the strength of the 2006 Browns, opted to jump a 4-12 ship and take a similar job with the Atlanta Falcons.
The Browns hired a peppery man with whitish hair Jan. 30. Ted Daisher did not look like an upgrade. Daisher was 49 when he landed his first NFL job, as an entry-level assistant with the 2004 Eagles. He spent 2003 as a North Carolina high school coach. Before that, he bounced around the college ranks after playing college ball at Western Michigan.
Despite working on a bad Raiders team in 2005, he has been a pleasant surprise. Under him, Joshua Cribbs made the jump from very good to elite as a return man. Kickoff and punt coverage teams have been respectable.
On Friday, Daisher visited with media for the second time during a season that winds to the Meadlowlands against the Jets, with the Browns at 7-5.
Some of his views:
Issue: Cribbs leads the NFL with 31.2 yards per kick return. The Jets’ Leon Washington is second at 30.2.
Daisher: Washington is an explosive guy and a tough guy for being smaller-built. We feel we have a very good kickoff return group. We know theirs is every bit our equal.
Issue: Teams are using directional, “mortar” and squib kicks to throw off Cribbs on kickoff returns.
Daisher: You just have to adapt. (Arizona) simply didn’t want Josh to touch the ball. That puts the ball in different people’s hands. We’ve worked very hard this week on getting those guys some reps on those types of kicks. But unless you’ve caught it a couple of times and run with it, it’s still a little different. We can do a better job than we did last week.
Issue: Washington has given the Jets three kick-return touchdowns. What about kicking away from him?
Daisher: We’ll kick it to him. We’ll kick it away from him. We have all the respect in the world for him, but the whole thing is: You’re trying to create field position. You base your plan on that, moreso than one particular returner.
Issue: Cribbs never returned punts before this year.
Daisher: Josh had a rookie-like error last week (fumbling at Arizona), where he should have not tried to catch a ball. It’s OK to run straight ahead and fair catch a ball. But it’s not OK to run up to the outside, because their gunner and our two outside players are going to be in that area. That’s a bad decision. Just like anyone who hasn’t done it a lot, he made a mistake. But he has made tremendous progress and his big upside is as a punt returner.
Issue: Cribbs is on the Pro Bowl ballot both as a return man and a special teams cover man. He leads the Browns in special team tackles.
Daisher: I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody that can return kicks and punts like him and can also cover kicks and punts like him. (Ex-Bill) Steve Tasker, if you remember back, was a great cover guy, but couldn’t return punts and kicks with the quality of Josh. He’s fearless on kickoff coverage. They run the wedge at him – he’ll just go throw it right in there, being physical, and he avoids it and makes plays.
Issue: Might Cribbs be the league’s all-around special teams MVP?
Daisher: From my perspective, there is no one who can do all the things that Josh can do. Is Devin Hester a great kick and punt returner? Yes. Devin Hester is phenomenal. I’ve yet to see Devin Hester go down as a “five” on kickoff and hit the wedge right in the mouth.
Issue: Numerous college quarterbacks have converted to another role in the NFL — a role other than special-teams gunner.
Daisher: Those two do not equate. But if you’re around Josh, you see how fearless he is returning the ball. He has that same mentality on coverage. To cover a kickoff, you have to have a certain mind set.
Issue: Daisher is one of the most upbeat men to have come through Berea, but he was visibly downcast after the Arizona game.
Daisher: If we would have been able to find a way to win that game, everyone in this room realizes what direction we would have been going with the season. We’ve made so much progress. We have gotten so much better as a football team. We had it right there. We had it. We just didn’t play to our ability. Yes, it was frustrating.
Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org