Carolina Panthers

Panthers Special teams coach Bruce DeHaven outlines philosophy

Bruce DeHaven of the Carolina Panthers.
Bruce DeHaven of the Carolina Panthers. AP

Before the Carolina Panthers’ special teams win any games, Bruce DeHaven wants to make sure the unit doesn’t lose any.

DeHaven, who took over special teams when Panthers coach Ron Rivera shuffled his staff this month, met with reporters Thursday at the NFL scouting combine to discuss his new job.

The background

A couple of Panthers games took bad turns last season because of special teams miscues, most glaringly a Week 13 loss at Minnesota when the Panthers had two punts blocked and returned for touchdowns.

After Carolina finished at or near the bottom in several special teams categories, Rivera promoted DeHaven from special teams assistant and reassigned former coordinator Richard Rodgers to defense.

The process

Before DeHaven agreed to the switch, he wanted to clear it with Rodgers, a longtime defensive coach in the college ranks now assisting with the Panthers’ secondary.

“I wanted to make sure he was OK with this move and he told me he was.” DeHaven said. “If he hadn’t been all right with it, I don’t think I would have taken the job.”

The qualifications

DeHaven, 66, has coached special teams at the pro level for 32 years, including 29 in the NFL. While spending two years as Rodgers’ assistant, DeHaven said he wasn’t sure if he’d get another chance to lead a special teams group.

DeHaven’s philosophy

Eliminate mistakes and avoid giving up big plays.

“Ideally, if you’ve had a good year and you’ve done your job, you won’t have cost the team any games on special teams,” DeHaven said. “And hopefully two to three games may have turned on a special teams play.”

The team’s philosophy

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said last month he is considering changing his approach to special teams, bringing in proven players for that phase of the game.

DeHaven said he’d take all the talented players he can get. But he believes “some of those special teams aces might already be on the team,” mentioning defensive end Mario Addison and safety Colin Jones as examples.

He said it

“As you get more experienced, the league starts to think that you can’t do this job anymore. You don’t know if you’re ever going to get that shot to be the guy in charge. I’m excited that that is what has transpired.” – DeHaven