Redskins hire Ben Kotwica from Jets

January, 15, 2014
Ben Kotwica once saw action as part of Iraqi Freedom. And that meant he saw plenty of danger as well, which was to be expected as an Apache helicopter pilot. Kotwica once told Metro New York that he provided air reconnaissance and convoy security. They provided air security as well.

Gunfire was never far away.

"There were bullets going each way," Kotwica said. "They were shooting at us, we were shooting at them."

Trying to revive the Redskins' special teams can't seem as daunting after enduring such tales before he became an NFL coach. Kotwica has been hired as Washington's special teams coordinator, replacing the fired Keith Burns, as Jay Gruden continues to fill out his staff.

One person who worked with Kotwica in New York sent an unprompted text before the hiring to say what a great "get" he would be for the Redskins.

Washington's special teams were a disaster for multiple reasons. Burns changed the system the players were used to and some struggled to buy in. But a bigger factor, too, was the lack of quality players at his disposal. Certain rookies failed to excel on special teams, notably Bacarri Rambo and Brandon Jenkins. That left some older players such as Nick Barnett playing a role they had never held in the NFL and didn't necessarily want. Washington finished last in kick return average as well as defending punt returns. The Redskins were 28th returning punts. They did manage to defend kickoffs well, finishing 10th.

Kotwica served one season as the New York Jets' special teams coach, replacing the legendary Mike Westhoff, who retired. The Jets offered him a deal to stick around, but they also let him interview for other positions. Kotwica had been with the Jets since 2007, spending time as a quality control coach on both offense and defense in addition to his special teams duties. He served overseas in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in South Korea. He posted more than 1,000 combat hours in Iraq during Operation Freedom II.

He left the military in 2005 and was hired by the Jets two years later. Kotwica was considered a leader on his Army teams -- they went 4-0 against Navy.

Kotwica built a rapport with his Jets players.

"It helps that he can relate," Jets special teamer Nick Bellore told Metro New York. "He knows what we're going through -- not only was he a player but he was also a leader, a leader of men in the military. He is a natural leader and that's very apparent."

John Keim

ESPN Washington Redskins reporter



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