The Bills have hired Danny Crossman as their new special teams coordinator, per a report in the Detroit News. This news has been received by fans in Buffalo with, let’s say, something less than an enthusiastic response.
1. Danny Crossman was the special teams coordinator for the past 3 seasons in Detroit. What were the unit’s strengths during this time? What were its weaknesses?
In Crossman’s first season, the coverage units excelled. This was a positive improvement from the struggles under Stan Kwan, who was fired and ended up in Buffalo as an assistant. The return units were also quite good in Crossman’s first season.
Since then, it has been nothing but mediocrity. The coverage units took a step back in 2011, and they fell apart in 2012, allowing a pair of return touchdowns in back-to-back weeks. That is by far the biggest weakness based on the last two seasons — an inability to prevent big returns. The coverage units did improve over the course of the 2012 season, but by then the damage had already been done.
2. Are there any extenuating circumstances that are to blame for the 2012 Lions having the 24th ranked special teams, according to Pro Football Focus?
One reason for their struggles that may be valid is a lack of talent. Early on especially, injuries forced a couple key special teams players into the starting lineup at defense, and perhaps their absence on special teams contributed to the coverage issues. And perhaps Crossman was forced to keep punter Nick Harris and returner Stefan Logan, who both had awful seasons. I don’t know if those were his calls or not (leaning toward not).
While there certainly were some personnel issues for Crossman, I strongly believe his schemes were a big reason behind the Lions’ struggles on special teams. When you have an opponent saying they expected to score on special teams, blame has to be placed on the schemes.
3. As someone who follows the Detroit Lions as close as anyone, what should Bills fans expect if the report of his hiring is true? Is this a good hire?
I really don’t think it is a very good hire. Crossman’s special teams units in Carolina were ranked closer to the bottom of the league than the top more often than not, and that was also the case in Detroit. On the one hand, maybe he’s simply not had a lot of talent to work with. But the flip side of that is that good coaches are able to overcome a lack of talent. I certainly don’t place all of the blame for the Lions’ struggles on special teams on him, but I welcome a change for sure. Perhaps it says a lot about the Lions that a change is only happening because Crossman is taking a job elsewhere.
So there you have it. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. But as I’ve said several times up to this point, I’m willing to give the new coaching staff the benefit of the doubt. We’ll see how it all pans out I guess.
Thanks for the quick turnaround on these questions, Sean. Much appreciated.