Mike Shanahan Defends Keith Burns After Miscues
The special teams coordinator, in his first season after six as an assistant with the Broncos, has overseen units that rank in the bottom of the league through five games.
BY ZAC BOYER
ASHBURN – Mike Shanahan stood by first-year special teams coordinator Keith Burns on Monday, even after a season-long pattern of special teams miscues peaked a day earlier in the Redskins’ 31-16 road loss to the Cowboys.
“I think Keith Burns is a very excellent football coach,” the head coach said. “Very capable. Like I’ve said, to get at this level and to be in charge of something, it takes a lot of years of work to be put in this position, and I feel very confident that he’ll get the job done even though we’ve started out a little bit rough.”
Burns spent the previous six seasons as the assistant special teams coach with the Broncos and was hired in February to replace Danny Smith, who accepted the same job with the Steelers.
His units have consistently ranked among the bottom of the league in several categories. On Sunday, receiver Dwayne Harris returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown and then returned a kickoff 90 yards, becoming only the third player in league history with a return of longer than 85 yards in each phase in the same game.
The Redskins also missed a 49-yard field goal, committed six penalties on special teams and asked receiver Joshua Morgan to return punts for the first time in his six seasons in the NFL. Plus, Burns himself was called for unsportsmanlike conduct on the 86-yard punt return when head linesman Steve Stelljes ran into him on the sidelines.
Shanahan said he’d spend more time overseeing special teams in practice and in meetings this week in the wake of the team’s struggles, but any improvements will be up to the players.
“Lorenzo Alexander is not going to show up, so somebody has got to take control of those special teams,” Shanahan said, referring to the former linebacker and special teams captain who is now with the Arizona Cardinals. “One guy has got to define himself, or two guys have got to define themselves, and it’s us working as a group. It takes just one guy to look pretty average.”