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Concerns for Patriots Special Teams Coordinator Jeremy Springer

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New England Patriots safety Brenden Schooler (41) talks with New England Patriots place kicker Chad Ryland (37) after Ryland missed a field goal with seconds remaining on the clockduring the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. Can new Patriots special teams coordinator Jeremy Springer help turn this unit around in 2024? (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

The New England Patriots began February by officially announcing their three new coordinators. It was previously assumed that Alex Van Pelt (offense), DeMarcus Covington (defense), and Jeremy Springer (special teams) were being hired to the posts. However, the franchise had not confirmed as much until the Feb. 1 release.

Bill Belichick recently said in a thank you to Patriots fans that, “Nowhere in America are pro fans as passionate as they are in New England.” That passion brings plenty of enthusiasm, especially when things are going well. It also can lead to analysis, scrutiny, and criticism. These coordinators will be exposed to all of it, often within one game.

All of these coordinators come with enthusiastic endorsements. Most importantly, they received the approval of the brain trust in Foxboro. But while those things may have helped them earn employment in their current positions, some questions and concerns exist for all three. Why wait until a September slump to raise these issues when they can brought up now?

This article is the first in a three-part series. It kicks off with questions and concerns for the New England Patriots’ new special teams coordinator, Jeremy Springer.

Why hire a special teams coordinator from the Los Angeles Rams?

The Rams have an excellent franchise, but they did not have excellent special teams play in 2023. Los Angeles was historically bad last season. They were the only NFL team with worse special teams play than the Patriots. Anybody who witnessed what was happening with New England’s unit has to find that concerning. According to football analytics specialist Aaron Schatz, Los Angeles was nearly three times as bad as the next worst team (New England).

So out of any team to recruit a special teams coordinator from, why choose the team with the worst special teams?

The Rams were not just poor in one aspect of their special teams play either. Their kicking game was poor. Their punter ranked near the bottom of the NFL. Returners were ineffective. Coverage was porous, including allowing an overtime punt return for a touchdown that cost them a chance to upset the Ravens. What was the appeal of putting the assistant coach for this unit in the top spot for New England?

Will Springer have a special teams assistant?

New England has not always had a special teams assistant on their staff. In 2012 they added this position. Joe Judge served as Scott O’Brien’s assistant for three seasons before O’Brien retired from coaching. Judge took over head duties at that point, with former Patriots player Raymond Ventrone serving as his assistant. After three seasons, Ventrone left to become the special teams coordinator in Indianapolis. He was replaced by Cam Achord.

Judge left to become head coach of the New York Giants in 2020. Achord was promoted the special teams coach, where he remained for the past four seasons. Joe Houston has served as Achord’s assistant on special teams during that time. Houston joined the University of Florida staff last month. Will Houston be replaced as well? Bringing in some additional assistance for a 33-year old first-time coordinator seems like good business.

What is Jeremy Springer’s tie to the New England Patriots?

When Robert Kraft met with the press during the offseason staff changes he talked about how he likes to promote from within in his businesses. That did not happen here. Replacing Cam Achord did not come as a surprise since New England’s special teams play struggled under his watch. Perhaps the same holds for the idea of promoting Joe Houston as well. Since Houston was a former kicker himself, it is safe to assume that was a good portion of his focus. Things went smoothly with Nick Folk, but not so much last season with rookie placekicker Chad Ryland.

Jeremy Springer is not a former Patriots player or staff member. New offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt worked with New England executive Eliot Wolf in Green Bay. What is Springer’s connection to the franchise? Why is this important to know one might ask? Because if things go south for the Patriots’ special teams this season, some social media sleuths are going to start asking, “What is Jeremy Springer using to blackmail Robert Kraft?”

Credit to the Patriots for taking the risk of hiring Springer. If things work out well it will look like a genius hire. But if things do not improve, people will want to know how an inexperienced assistant from the NFL’s worst unit, who has no connections to the franchise, was ever considered the best person for the job.

Is Springer’s lack of experience a cause for concern?

Springer only has four years as a special teams coordinator. The first three were with the University of Arizona (2018-2020). Those teams went a combined 9-20. He coached placekicker Lucas Havrisik with the Wildcats, who ended up joining the Rams for the second half of 2023 after Brett Maher struggled.

After head coach Kevin Sumlin was fired by Arizona, Springer took the special teams job at Marshall University for the 2021 season. In 13 games, the Thundering Herd registered five blocks on special teams (four kicks and a punt).

Whether Jeremy Springer has had experience as an NFL special teams coach should not make or break how well he does in New England. He has experience as a special teams coordinator in college and has worked in the NFL for the past two seasons. He has been coaching special teams in some capacity for the past 11 years. Joe Judge had only one season as a special teams coordinator at Birmingham-Southern when he landed the main job in New England. And Judge managed to parlay that into an NFL head coaching job.

How can Springer help turn things around for Chad Ryland?

Chad Ryland is the person most responsible for turning around his career. The New England Patriots saw enough out of Ryland to select him in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Ryland struggled as a rookie, hitting only 16-of-25 field goal attempts (64%). Whether Brad Seely, Scott O’Brien, Cam Achord, or Jeremy Springer is the special teams coordinator, it’s ultimately up to the players to get the job done. If Ryland has not upped his game, he will be replaced, likely with his high draft position being pinned on the former decision-maker in Foxboro.

Coverage, returns, blocks, and penalty avoidance, however, are all measures by which Jeremy Springer can and will be evaluated.