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Players, Not Coach, Will Dictate Special Teams Success


There is a lot to like about the Eagles (reported) hire of Dave Fipp yesterday as Special Teams Coordinator.

First, Fipp coached as an assistant on one of the top units in the league last year with the Miami Dolphins. Second, Fipp has known Chip Kelly for a long time and is aware of the pace and speed he likes to practice at. Finally, Fipp comes in as a young coach still looking to build a name for himself in the league. He'll be hungry and not in the Andy Reid way.

The harsh reality, however, is that almost none of that matters.

More than any other coaching position, the success of the special teams coach is directly tied to the level of players he has to coach. A defensive coordinator can hide a bad linebacker, a defensive line coach can scheme to make up for a lack of talent, an offensive coordinator can keep a player from running a certain route. A special teams coordinator does not have that luxury. Schemes can be drawn up, trick plays can happen, Riley Cooper can lay down and try to hide, but that won't matter if the talent isn't there or the players are not motivated. At the end of the day, special teams are won by effort and the level of the backups on the team.

The Eagles learned that the hard way these past few seasons.

Bobby April came to the Eagles considered one of the best special team's coaches in the league. Needless to say, things did not exactly pan out the way Andy Reid hoped it would. The numbers speak for themselves as April's unit scored a grand total of two touchdowns during his time in Philadelphia, with one coming in garbage time at the end of last season. While April does deserve part of the blame, the fact is that as this team has continued to slide down from the top of the Reid era the talent has not been there. Reid thought a great special team's coach could change that- he learned with April that is not always the case.

It's clear last season that the motivation on special teams was not there. When Brian Rolle was released it was reported that part of the reason for his departure was his attitude on special teams. If true, that speaks to how people view special team's on the "Dream Team"- they didn't think they belonged on it. Outside of Colt Anderson, the talent and effort was not there last year.

Which brings us to Fipp. Fipp very well might be the coach that get's things turned around. The fact that he is young and motivated will only help to motivate his players to try harder. That isn't to say April was not hard on his players, but April already has a reputation when he came into the league. Just like the rest of the Eagles team, April thought he was great before the players even touched the field. Fair or not, Fipp won't think that when he gets here.

At the end of the day, however, the success of the special teams will come down to talent. The Eagles need more depth before they can expect the special teams to excel. They have returners who could do something- Brandon Boykin, Damaris Johnson, DeSean Jackson- but they need better blocking. That isn't scheme. That is talent and effort.

What do you think- is special teams success due more to the coach or the players? Is that more true of the special teams coach then it is other position coaches/coordinators?

Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks

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