The Buffalo Bills have reportedly hired former Detroit Lions special teams coordinator, Danny Crossman, to the same position with the team. The hire is interesting, because the Bills had one of the top kick/punt return units in the National Football League during the 2012 season, however, their coverage units were pretty awful. While the kickoff return team allowed an average of 22.4 yards per return, good for ninth in the league, the punt coverage team allowed 14.8 yards per return, the worst number in football by a whole yard.
Crossman has ties to both head coach Doug Marrone as well as assistant General Manager Doug Whaley. Crossman coached at the Coast Guard Academy with Marrone, and the two were teammates during their time in the World Football League. Crossman was a defensive back for the University of Pittsburgh, as was Whaley.
Crossman became the special teams coordinator of the Carolina Panthers in 2004, serving there through 2009. There, his units were decent, ranking as the No. 5 punt coverage unit in the league his first season, with a No. 11 ranking covering kickoffs. However, each year that he was coaching his units slid towards the bottom of the league in coverage rankings.
When Crossman took over the job as the Detroit Lions special teams coordinator in 2010, his units became some of the worst in all of football, ranking 27th, 31st, and 18th in punt coverage, and 7th, 26th, and 14th in kick coverage, while allowing eight return touchdowns in those three seasons.
Throughout Crossman’s coaching tenure, his punt coverage units have an average rank of 18.12, while his kickoff coverage units have an average rank of 17.1, while allowing an average of 1.6 touchdowns per season. The Bills have some solid talent on their coverage teams such as Ruvell Martin, Chris White, Brad Smith, and everybody’s favorite, Corey McIntyre. But the team’s real strength is in it’s vast group of return men, as quite a few players on the team have the ability to effectively return kicks and punts.
Leodis McKelvin, an unrestricted free agent, was arguably the best return man in the entire National Football League, averaging 28.3 yards per kick return, and a league-high 18.7 yards per punt return, while scoring two touchdowns.
While retaining McKelvin should be desired, the Bills have players such as T.J. Graham, Brad Smith, C.J. Spiller, Marcus Easley, and Justin Rogers, who are all more than capable of returning kicks effectively. The real issue is how the team defends those kicks, keeping the big plays and breakaway runs to a minimum.
Editor’s note: In case you missed it, check out the Crossman Q&A Del did earlier today with PrideOfDetroit.com’s managing editor, Sean Yuille.