Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

Five Takeaways From Special Teams Coordinator Nate Kaczor's Videoconference

Screen Shot 2020-01-09 at 2.52.49 PM

Special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor spoke to the local media Tuesday afternoon and discussed a variety of topics, including the possible roles for Antonio Gibson and the future of kickoffs in the NFL. Here are five takeaways from his videoconference:

1. He thinks virtual meetings will help coaches become better teachers.

Kaczor views himself as a hands-on kind of coach, which he believes is one of his strengths. So, it took some time to adjust to talking with his players on a computer screen instead of in person.

But having this option is better than the alternative, which is no communication at all. And once he got used to it, the method became "very user friendly" and beneficial given the circumstances.

"It's pretty amazing what you can get done," he said.

Teaching dozens of players virtually does force Kaczor to ask some vital questions before presenting information to them. What if the video is dragging badly? Can he go back to PowerPoint? Are the slides descriptive and captivating enough for players?

As a result, Kaczor and the rest of the coaches are constantly challenging themselves to present information in a visually stimulating way, which in turn will help them become better teachers. He said he can already tell a difference, and he thinks it will be difficult for coaches to revert back to their previous teaching styles.

"I don't think anybody is going to go through this and just fall back into being a coach that can't check his email, so to speak."

2. He has deep respect for head coach Ron Rivera.

Kaczor first met Rivera in January, but there is some familiarity between the two. From 2016-18, Kaczor was the special teams coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so he regularly received a close look at Rivera's style of leading a team.

Now that he is a part of Rivera's new staff in Washington, Kaczor has a deeper appreciation for the head coach.

"When you have a respect for someone immediately when you meet them, obviously that is a benefit," he said.

When Kaczor was interviewing for the chance to be one of two assistant coaches from the previous regime, he and Rivera discussed a variety of topics, including his teaching style, beliefs and teaching style. He was immediately impressed with how Rivera handled himself, but there are still moments that make Kaczor think, "I was right about him."

Kaczor has already seen Rivera lead in an offseason unlike any other in league history. Rivera is as impressive behind the scenes as he is in front of the camera, Kaczor said, and the head coach's actions in a time of social isolation has gotten his approval.

"He's just a rock," Kaczor said.

3. He has plans for Antonio Gibson.

Gibson likes to refer to himself as a weapon, and that can apply to a variety of roles. As to what the former Memphis running can do on special teams, Kaczor could see him fitting in well at several spots.

"He's not only a returner, he can bring some protection and speed and coverage," Kaczor said.

Gibson ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, so he clearly has the speed to be an NFL returner. But Gibson also weighs 228 pounds, so he also has the size to branch out and have other responsibilities.

"For example, he could be on the punt team and play a slot, which is very conducive to a running back skillset where they block rushes and release and help contain," Kaczor said. "He is big enough to play in the return game as a blocker, as an off returner."

Of course, Gibson won't solely be a special teams player. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner also plans to use him in his game plan, which means Kaczor will have less time with him. It seems he will have to take advantage of whatever time he is given with the speedster.

4. He knows there are "winds of change" surrounding kickoffs.

Head injuries continue to be a point of emphasis for the NFL, and the league has tried to tweak kickoff rules every year to decrease the number of concussions suffered during the season. There is another proposal put forth by the Philadelphia Eagles, who suggested that offenses are allowed the opportunity to convert a 4th-and-15 from their own 25-yard line instead of an onside kick.

Kaczor said he is interested to see what the league does with the proposal, but he also couldn't deny that there are "winds of change out there" to at least alter kickoffs.

"We need to really be diligent with that and improve that because that's our job," he said. "It is a definite ongoing process."

Kaczor couldn't say whether or not the proposed rule change would be effective if it were to be approved. He said he would have to look at the success rates of converting a 4th-and-15 compared to recovering an onside kick.

As the special teams coordinator, Kaczor said he wants to keep as many special teams plays in the game as possible, but he also acknowledged that the number of concussions is decreasing. Protecting the players is the most important factor to him.

"We've got to be able to adjust, adapt and really keep working to keep the game and make the game as safe as possible."

5. He really enjoys the virtual time he spends with the players during quarantine.

Like most people in the world, Kaczor has found ways to spend his free time during quarantine. He likes to ride his bike and get some cardio in for the day to keep himself in shape.

But the thing he loves more than anything is getting to see the team during its virtual meetings.

"I hate to sound like an old sap here, but I really enjoyed seeing the players."

Sure, there are some perks to working from home. He doesn't have a recliner at Redskins Park, so enjoys relaxing while he watches film.

But even the comfort of his recliner cannot take away from the fact that he enjoys seeing the players and coaches he works with.

"It is amazing the interaction that you get and how happy everyone is to see everybody else," he said.