Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Critics weigh in on Randle El's punt returns
By Dan Graziano
For some reason, Redskins coach Jim Zorn has been stuck on Antwaan Randle El as a punt returner. The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg has compelling evidence that Randle El might be the least effective punt return man in the league. Steinberg listened to both Brian Mitchell and Joe Theismann go off on Randle El on Monday:
Brian Mitchell: "See, I have to go to Jim Zorn," Mitchell said on Comcast SportsNet's Postgame Live. "Because Jim Zorn has stated many times, Randle El is back there because of his sure hands. We've watched him drop one off the face mask, one off the chest, and he let numerous balls hit the ground. The first sin as a punt returner is to let the ball hit the ground. Pete Rodriguez -- one of the greatest [coaches] I've ever had, Wayne Sevier, all those guys would lose their minds."
Joe Theismann: "In every sunny day there's usually one little cloud that sits out there, and for us, it's Antwaan Randle El returning punts," Theismann said on ESPN 980 show. "He averages 3.9 yards a punt return. I will say this in all humility: I could do that. OK? As a matter of fact, I have done it. And I've done it better. I catch the football. This isn't an "I" thing, this is an I don't know what's going on in management, when it comes to putting Antwaan Randle El back returning punts. He dropped a second-down pass, hit him right in the hands. Muffed a punt again. You know, in a game that was close, we would all be clamoring about what Antwaan did. Now it just sort of gets overlooked....It's amazing to me, you cut Shaun Suisham because he misses two field goals, and yet you insist on allowing someone that has no production whatsoever to do a job returning punts."
Here's more from Theismann: "My God, how bad is Antwaan Randle El returning punts," he said. "Just FYI, in 1974 I returned punts and averaged 10.4 yards. Here's Antwaan Randle El the last two years: 6.5 in '08, 3.9 in 09. He's at 10.4 [combined]. I would never say that I could do something better than someone, but I can. Or I could, let's put it that way. And again, that to me is the biggest mystery that the Redskins have, that they're faced with. Why do you continue to make this decision? As a coaching staff, when you make this decision, what you're doing is you are sending a message to the other players that you are not putting the best people out there to do their job. And that is not the job of a coaching staff. And again, this is not personal. This has nothing to do with him. Terrific player, hard-working guy, great team guy. It's just that as a punt returner, Antwaan Randle El is not getting the job done. My golly, you cut Shaun Suisham for not getting the job done, the least you can do is find somebody back there who can make an impact on special teams."
By the way, Zorn indicated on his radio show today that Devin Thomas will be in the mix on punt returns the rest of the season. And if anyone can scrounge up some footage of Theismann, returning punts, I'd love to see it.