Past Playoff Woes Stick with Panthers Special Teams Coach

CHARLOTTE, NC (WCCB Charlotte) — Bruce DeHaven will coach in his 31st playoff game this Sunday. He knows exactly how gut-wrenching this time of year can be.

“I have seen the positive and I have seen the negative. It’s what makes playoff football so popular,” DeHaven said.

DeHaven, the current Carolina Panthers special teams coach, had the same title for the Buffalo Bills during the 1999 playoffs. DeHaven became a Bills coaching casualty after the Tennessee Titans used a lateral pass on a kickoff return resulting in a walk-off, game-winning touchdown now famously dubbed the Music City Miracle.

“It’s one of the defining moments in my life,” DeHaven said. “It’s something that I don’t know if I’ll ever come to terms with. It’s your worst, worst nightmare as a special teams coach that you get knocked out of the playoffs on a play that occurred on your watch. I have said many times, I will take responsibility for it because it happened with my team.”

“There was a number of breakdowns. The end result, a lot of guys did not do their jobs.”

That was DeHaven’s final play as Buffalo’s special teams coach. It wrapped up a 13-year stint in western New York where he also saw Scott Norwood miss a game-winning kick in Super Bowl XXV.  DeHaven says the feel and pressure of a playoff game can cause odd and unpredictable things to happen. A perfect example: Minnesota’s Blair Walsh missing a 27-yard field goal that would have eliminated Seattle from the playoffs last Sunday.

“Once you get into the playoffs, everybody is pretty good,” DeHaven said. “Every time that margin of error shortens things like turnovers and special teams plays will often times mark the difference between winning and losing.”

Respect for Gano

DeHaven has the utmost confident in his kicker, Graham Gano, who set a franchise record with 146 points. Gano kicked two game winning field goals including one in prime-time against Indianapolis in overtime. Most of Gano’s rare misses came because the opponent blocked Gano’s kick–no fault of Gano.

“Graham doesn’t think he’s ever missed a kick,” DeHaven said. “He is extremely confident. All the good kickers I have been around are almost to the point of being arrogant about their ability. Very nice guys but when it comes to talking about if they can make a kick, they are almost beyond confident and that’s where Graham is. He’s in a good place right now.”