Keith Burns is returning "home", with a high pressure new job -- but a chance to create his own legacy in the shadows of a high school that helped build a two-time Super Bowl Champion.
Burns, who attended T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, is the new Redskins Special Teams Coordinator, replacing Danny Smith who left for the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago.
According to the Redskins press release , "From 2007-12, Burns worked with a unit that accumulated 10 combined punt and kickoff return touchdowns, tied for most in the AFC and second-most in the NFL. In that time period, the Broncos ranked fourth in the AFC and fifth in the NFL in punt return average (10.5 yards per return)."
Broncos return specialist Trindon Holliday had a kickoff and a punt return for a touchdown in the Denver playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens in January. Holliday led the NFL with a 32.5-yard kick return average while ranking fifth in the NFL with a 10.8-yard punt return average, after the Broncos signed him off waivers on October 11th.
Certainly those numbers are impressive and Burns must be given some credit, He served as the assistant special teams coordinator in Denver, where he assisted Jeff Rodgers who John Fox brought with him from the Carolina Panthers.
According to the Broncos official website "Burns has worked with special teams units that have accounted for 10 return touchdowns and three blocked kicks. In his six-year Denver coaching tenure, the Broncos have posted the sixth-best punt return average in the NFL in addition to the most touchbacks on kickoffs in the league."
Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan knows Burns as both a player and as a coach. The 40-year old helped Shanahan win two Super Bowl titles, while playing for the Broncos & then Shanahan hired him as a coach.
“Keith was an excellent special teams player and a strong influence in the locker room for two Super Bowl championship teams,” Shanahan said. “I know our players will enjoy playing for him.”
One thing that stands out to me on the surface, based on some people I've spoke with is Burns ability to communicate the plan, because he played the game and specifically special teams at a high level, while also being quick to knock down some doors.
Via text, I asked Redskins special teams captain and free-agent to be, Lorenzo Alexander for his thoughts on the hiring of Burns on Monday Night. He quickly relayed a story of how the two met at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii - where Fox's coaching staff with Denver was coaching. Alexander says they spoke for a "couple of hours" and that Burns is a "good dude" who "knows his stuff."
Alexander also mentioned this nugget based on the conversation he had with Burns at the Pro Bowl - apparently Burns told the "One Man Gang" that it was Mike Shanahan who convinced Burns to get into coaching originally.
The Redskins have yet to make Mike Shanahan or the newly hired Burns available as of this writing. Washington also has yet to officially hire a wide receivers coach to replace the departed Ike Hilliard.