February 26, 2024

This week the Browns fired special teams coach Mike Priefer and everyone asked why they waited six weeks to replace him. They waited so the team could hire someone better and Bubba Ventrone is much better.

Long-time Browns fans remember him as a special team ace when he played for the team between 2009 and 2012. With the Browns, he had 31 special teams tackles in 56 games on kickoffs and kick return coverage. In 2009 the Browns on kickoffs had an NFL-best average starting position of 31.4 and held opposing kick returns to a league-best average of 18.9. Ventrone also played for the New England Patriots (twice), the New York Jets and the San Fransico 49ers. In his second stint with the Patriots (2008), he played in Super Bowl LXII. Between 2015 to 2017 he was assistant special teams coach for New England, winning a Super Bowl ring in 2017 when the Patriots beat the Falcons in overtime 34-28. In 2018, the Colts hired him to be their special team’s coach.

According to ESPN 2022 NFL team stats, the Colts finished first in special teams. They averaged 27.8 yards on kick returns and averaged 8.5 yards on punt returns. After cutting kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, the Colts signed former Brown Chase McLaughlin who was 30 of 36 (83.3%) on field goals with a longest of 54 yards and 21 of 21 on extra points. Colts’ punter Matt Haack punted 70 times for a 44.8-yard average. He had 28 punts inside the 20-yard line, three touchbacks and 22 fair catches. The punt return team allowed an average of 7.4 yards per return. In four of the last five years, Indianapolis was ranked in the top ten in special teams. They were second in 2018, 29th in 2019, fourth in 202o, second in 2021 and eighth in 2022 according to NFL writer Rick Gosselin who ranks the leagues’ special teams. During this time the Colts lead the league in kickoff return average (24.9) and were fourth in punt return average (10.3).

Prior to the 2022 season, Ventrone made The Athletic’s top 40 under 40 list, https://theathletic.com/3360579/2022/06/28/nfl-under-40-coaches-execs-agents/?source=emp_shared_article. In the article Ventrone was quoted as saying, “I made it as a ‘teamer. So for me, it’s an easy selling point to get those guys to buy in. I’ll show a few clips here and there of myself and when guys see that, ‘Oh, well, he did it, he played with that technique,’ they respect that.” 

As with the Jim Schwartz hire, this is a significant upgrade.

 

 

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