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Carolina Panthers – Meet the Coaches – Special Teams

This is Part Two of the “Meet the Coaches” segment here at Cat Crave. This article will focus on the coaches in charge of the units that on the field during kicking plays, the special teams.

Richard Rodgers – Special Teams Coordinator

PLAYING AND PERSONAL
Rodgers was a two-time second-team All-Pac 10 Conference selection at California (a teammate with Panthers head coach Ron Rivera), and was the Golden Bears’ special teams captain for three seasons.  Rodgers called “The Play” in the huddle to defeat Stanford in 1982. During the famed five-lateral kickoff return for a touchdown on the final play of the game, he was the second and fourth player to touch the ball in what Cal announcer Joe Starkey called “the most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart-rending… exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football!”

Rodgers played for three seasons in the Arena Football League as a  linebacker and wide receiver and appeared in the league’s first championship game in 1987, catching a 32-yard touchdown pass for the Denver Dynamite in Arena Bowl I.

He graduated from California with a degree in political science.

COACHING

Rodgers’ first coaching stint was as an assistant at Diablo Valley Community College from 1989-94. He then moved to San Jose State where he worked with the secondary and special teams from 1995-96.

Rodgers also gained valuable exposure to professional football by participating in the NFL’s Minority Internship Program with the Oakland Raiders during training camp in 1996. He then worked four years at Portland State from 1997-2000 and oversaw the Vikings’ secondary and special teams as well as serving as the team’s strength and conditioning coordinator. He also was the defensive backs coach for the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe in 1998.

Rodgers coached the secondary at New Mexico State from 2001-04 as the Aggies had 45 interceptions and lowered their passing yardage allowed in each of his final three seasons.

He coached at Holy Cross from 2005-11, handling the secondary in 2005 and spending his last six seasons as the defensive coordinator . Rodgers developed the Crusaders into one of the top defenses in the Patriot League and five players from his unit earned All-Patriot League honors in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Rodgers came to Carolina in 2012 with 23 years of college experience under his belt. He started the year as special teams assistant and took over as the Panther’s interim special teams coordinator for the final seven games last season.

During those final seven games, Carolina improved from 31st to 14th in the NFL in punt return average and from 18th to 10th in punt coverage. Rodgers’ unit also led the league in opponents’ kickoff return average following a 30th place finish in 2011.

He will be in his first full season as the team’s special teams coordinator in 2013.

HISTORY
Defensive back: California 1980-83. Pro linebacker/wide receiver: Chicago Bruisers (AFL) 1987, Denver Dynamite (AFL) 1987, Los Angeles Cobras (AFL) 1988, Sacramento Attack (AFL) 1992. College coach: Diablo Valley Community College 1989-94, San Jose State 1995-96, Portland State 1997-2000, New Mexico State 2001-04, Holy Cross 2005-11. Pro coach: joined Panthers in 2012.

Bruce DeHaven – Special Teams Assistant

PLAYING AND PERSONAL
DeHaven played basketball at Southwestern College and led the team in scoring two consecutive years. He also participated in track and field and is a member of the athletic department’s hall of fame. DeHaven graduated with a degree in history and political science.

COACHING

DeHaven began his career as a high school coach and worked his way into a college assistant coaching position at Kansas where he handled defensive backs, offensive line and recruiting from 1979-81. He moved to New Mexico State in 1982 and oversaw the offensive line and was the recruiting coordinator.

He worked three years in the USFL, first as an assistant offensive line coach and special teams coach for the New Jersey Generals in 1983. The next season, in1984, he served as the offensive line and special teams coach for the Pittsburgh Maulers and then as the running backs and special teams coach for the Orlando Renegades in 1985 .

DeHaven began his NFL coaching career in Buffalo and spent 13 seasons with the Bills (1987-99),  He directed Buffalo’s kickoff coverage unit to the top of the NFL four consecutive years from 1987-90. He became special teams coordinator in 1991 and consistently produced outstanding special teams units that greatly contributed to the Bills making four consecutive Super Bowl appearances, winning six AFC East championships and appearing in 21 playoff games over that period.

Under DeHaven’s watch, the Bills developed elite special teams players like Steve Tasker who played in seven Pro Bowls as a special teams player for the AFC, and kicker Steve Christie became the franchise’s all-time leading scorer while setting team records in 1998 with 140 points and 33 made field goals.

In 1991, the Bills’ punt coverage unit led the league in fewest punt return yards allowed with a then NFL record 53.  A 1996 ranking by The Dallas Morning News named DeHaven’s units the best in the NFL.

Prior to that, DeHaven was a special teams coach with San Francisco 49ers from 2000-02 and helped develop more elite special team players like returner Jimmy Williams, who compiled an NFL-leading 16.8-yard punt return average in 2002, and punter Jason Baker who earned all-rookie honors in 2001.

He spent three seasons with the Dallas Cowboys (2003-06) and in 2004, Dallas’ kickoff coverage unit paced the league, holding opponents to an average of 17.5 yards per return and in 2006 and punter Matt McBriar ranked first in the NFL with a 48.2-yard gross average and fourth with a 38.6-yard net average.

DeHaven’s next stop was in Seattle and was special teams coach with the Seahawks from 2007-09. In his first year with Seattle, his return schemes helped Nate Burleson to touchdown returns on both a punt and a kickoff and kicker Josh Brown set career highs with 28 field goals made, 127 points scored and 13 touchbacks.  In 2008, the Seahawks finished second in the NFL with a 25.3-yard kickoff return average as Josh Wilson set team records with 69 kickoff returns and 1,753 kickoff return yards.

The past three seasons marked a return to Buffalo and DeHaven’s second stint with the Bills also brought great success. The Bills led the NFL in kickoff coverage, limiting opponents to 20.4 yards per return, and finished third in the league in 2011 with a 12.7-yard punt return average and in 2012, his special teams units set franchise records with an NFL-leading 17.1-yard punt return average and 27.0-yard kickoff return average, which was fourth best in the league.

DeHaven will be in his first season with the Panthers this season and will serve as special teams assistant.

HISTORY
College coach: Kansas 1979-81, New Mexico State 1982. Pro coach: New Jersey Generals (USFL) 1983, Pittsburgh Maulers (USFL) 1984, Orlando Renegades (USFL) 1985, Buffalo Bills 1987-99, 2010-12, San Francisco 49ers 2000-02, Dallas Cowboys 2003-06, Seattle Seahawks 2007-09, joined Panthers in 2013.

NEXT: Defensive Line Coaches

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