Special Teams are Like Umpires

Whether he wants to admit it or not, Rod Carey cannot say his special teams by delegation produced better results than any of Ed Foley’s special teams at Temple.

Special teams are like umpires. If you don’t notice them, they are great. If you do, they are like Angel Hernandez.

Terrible.

If you don’t notice them, they are John Libka–generally considered the best balls and strikes umpire in the game today.

Last year, Temple football’s special teams were closer to Hernandez than Libka.

After Brandon McManus kicked this game-winning field goal against UConn, head coach Steve Addazio said: “Our goal was to put the ball in the center of the field and let the best kicker in the country win it for us.” He did.

For about a decade before that, nobody really noticed Temple’s special teams. Maybe not coincidentally, that started in 2009 when head coach Al Golden also assumed the head coach of the special teams’ role.

When Steve Addazio took over for Golden, he promoted tight ends coach Ed Foley who made Temple’s special teams legendary for excellence. Foley was a guy who rose to his level of competence. He’s a very competent special teams’ coach, one of the best, but as an interim head coach he proved to be a bridge too far. There can be little doubt if Foley, say, won either the Wake Forest game or the Duke game as an interim, his chances of being Temple head coach today would have been far greater than they are now.

Last year, in an administrative move, Rod Carey took Foley from the field to an off-the-field role and that caused Foley to go to Baylor and now the Carolina Panthers.

The Owls were the Keystone Cops of AAC special teams and that stung Temple fans were used to Owls making big plays in that third of the game.

“If we’re great on defense and special teams, we’re going to be in every game,” Golden said in 2009. “That’s two-thirds of the team. I really felt that special teams was an area I had to take charge of myself.”

Maybe it was Carey’s fault for letting Foley go. All we know is that, under Foley, the kicking and return coverage games were great. With pretty much the same personnel last year, they were terrible. In order to gain trust of Owls fans, it’s going to have to improve this year.

Will we ever see this stat again under this staff? Got to hope so. In this case, we’re from Missouri (show me state) and they are from NIU.

Last year, the Owls couldn’t make a routine extra point at Cincinnati and that might have cost them the East title. A block was missed. Was that the fault of the new special teams “coaches” (Carey has a couple of coaches in charge)? Maybe not. But it didn’t happen on the regular under Foley.

Under Foley, Isaiah Wright was a dynamic punt and kickoff returner in 2018. Under Carey’s coach by committee in 2019, he was just another guy. Temple always flipped the field on kickoffs. Too often last year, the Owls started drives deep in their own territory. Maybe Foley would have been able to communicate how important it was for Wright to eschew the fair catches for the reward of a big play.

The Owls were aggressive on special teams for a decade, going after blocked punts and field goals. High risk, high reward. The philosophy changed to no risk no reward last year. Disappointing. If you’ve got no athletes, that’s probably the way to go but Temple has always had athletes out the wazoo, notably but not limited to 6-5 wide receivers like Branden Mack with a 91-inch wingspan who liked to block punts. They played scared on special teams. That might be the NIU way but that’s the opposite of Temple TUFF.

Now the rebuilding of the Owls’ special teams begins. The Owls recruited a couple of high-profile kickers and Will Mobley’s job appears to be in jeopardy. Rory Bell has a longer leg (Mobley a very reliable extra point kicker) and a pedigree for success at the high school level.

Looks like to me Bell is the guy for kicking. For punting, Adam Berry had his moments and most were not good. Did not like his body language after failing to field a snap or shanking a punt. Hopefully, he has matured but thanks to recruiting, the Owls now have some other options.

Golden was right. This is 1/3 of the team and deserves attention. It did not get that last year. If the Owls are going to be successful in this department, we will not notice this aspect of the team at all.

Monday: Did You Ever Get The Feeling?

7 thoughts on “Special Teams are Like Umpires

  1. Valid Point, Great point, Mike
    I forgot how un-impressive the Special Teams pays were last season.
    Also it was a let down where Isaiah Wright was not nearly as exciting and productive as in his prev season. That was a real Bummer too, maybe the other teams’ D had him scoped out, who knows…..

  2. Other than the part about Wright, the rest I agree with. Wright had very few opportunities to return the ball. 9 out of 10 times i believe he correctly called a fair catch. Because of his All-American year, teams placed special emphasis on stopping him. They gave up distance for height and also directionally punted to impede him. Also, I think the accolades he won went to his head because he was not the same player he had been.

    • I agree John about Wrights lack of chances for returns last season, (but not him having a big head necessarily unless you know something I don’t). I mentioned this last year watching him wisely fair catching when surrounded by opposing players – it happened a lot. But sometimes it seemed like he must have been told to fair catch it when he did have some running room. Who knows? Also the lack of even trying to block kicks was obvious. Carey also chased at least one good kicker away and brought in a guy who made far too many mistakes and not very good punts. Hope they make some changes this year.

      • You look at every opposing punt (well, I’d say 99 percent) and our punt rusher stops at the first blocker without even being blocked. That’s got to be the scheme. Maybe they are afraid of a roughing penalty but it’s the complete opposite of being aggressive and aggressive is the Hallmark of Temple TUFF.

      • I based what I said about Wright on the fact that his participation on offense diminished as the season went on which I believed implied that the coaches weren’t happy with him something I attributed to something off the field.

  3. Matt Rules special teams were awful Y1, and things turned out okay. Don Bitterlich had a few rough games before settling in and drilling FGs from Mt. Pleasant Ave and Vernon Rd and heading to the NFL. Special teams seem to be a bigger priority in Y2.

    • To me, one guy has to be in charge. It’s that way in the NFL. John Harbaugh was one of the best I’ve ever seen do that job when he was with the Eagles and he got a head job (coaching, not Monica Lewinsky-type) based on it. 🙂

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