Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay announced earlier this week following the end of the season that the team would be keeping all of its staff unless they left for better opportunities. Said McVay, “If there are changes, it’ll only be because of better opportunities. I feel really good about our coaching staff.”
This comes as a surprise to some considering the performance of one of the three units on the roster. In his first season as the special teams coach, Chase Blackburn led one of the worst special teams units of all-time. According to DVOA, the Rams’ special teams unit was the sixth-worst in NFL history. To put it in perspective of just how bad the Rams special teams unit was, with a -9.2% DVOA, they were nearly three times as bad as the Green Bay Packers who ranked 31st.
McVay has gone through his share of special teams coaches since opting not to bring back John Fassell. Blackburn was McVay’s third special teams coach in four seasons. The other twi special teams coaches, John Bonamego and Joe DeCamillis were let go for far less.
The Rams were the only team in 2023 to allow multiple punt return touchdowns. Against the Baltimore Ravens, it resulted in a walk-off loss and then the return against the New York Giants lost cost Los Angeles another win. Ethan Evans had just 20 punts land inside the 20 which was tied for the 23rd fewest. While Evans ranked sixth in yards per attempt, the Rams punt team ranked second to last in average net yards per punt attempt. This is partially due to poor coverage, but also Evans consistently out-kicking his coverage.
That was outside of the Rams’ kicking woes. While the Rams didn’t invest in the kicker position, coaching has to be partially to blame for just how bad it was. The Rams brought in Christopher Dunn and Tanner Brown to start the spring before opting to go with Brown. Brown didn't make it past the preseason. Los Angeles signed Brett Maher before cutting him halfway through the season.
They then signed an unproven kicker who had made just 34-of-53 field goals in college in Lucas Havrisik. The Rams considered cutting Havrisik in favor of Mason Crosby, but Havrisik made all of his field goals in tough conditions that week in Baltimore. Following more inconsistency, Maher was brought back for the playoffs.
Following the conclusion of the season, the Rams decided to bring back Tanner Brown on a reserves/future deal to presumably compete for the kicking position next offseason. Eight months later and we’re right back where we started.
Now, there is something to be said about the lack of depth on the Rams roster and that undoubtedly had an effect on special teams. With that said, Blackburn didn’t have a great track record before coming to the Rams. With the Carolina Panthers, Blackburn had units that ranked 18th, 31st, 16th, and 24th in DVOA. The Rams 32nd ranked special teams unit is the second time Blackburn has had a bottom-two unit and third time he’d led a bottom-10 unit.
It looks like the Rams’ assistant special teams coach, Jeremy Springer is getting attention elsewhere as well. New England Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo is expected to interview Springer to be his special teams coach. It’s fair to question whether or not McVay should have let Blackburn go and just promoted Springer.
#Rams assistant special teams coach Jeremy Springer is expected to interview for the #Patriots special teams coaching job under new coach Jerod Mayo, source said. Another rising young coach getting a look in NE.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 19, 2024
The Rams special teams unit only has one direction to go and that’s up. What they do at kicker over the offseason will be under a microscope given how historically bad they were in that regard in 2023. While Blackburn may be safe heading into the offseason, he will likely be on the hot season depending on how much the Rams special teams improves next season.