The New Orleans Saints recently hired Bradford Banta, among a number of other coaching moves, as their newest Special Teams coordinator.
Banta, the 46 year old Baton Rouge native, replaces long-time New Orleans Saints coordinator Greg McMahon, whose unit struggled heavily in 2016.
This will be Banta’s first opportunity as an NFL coordinator. Banta had a long career as a long snapper and tight end, playing for the Colts, the Jets, the Lions, and the Bills. He never put up much in the way of stats. He started two games for the Colts in 1995, but finished the season with only 5 targets.
After his playing career, Banta went on to serve as a construction supervisor for two years in Chattanooga, TN. But he couldn’t shake the football itch. In 2007 he took a job as a Tight Ends coach for the Chattanooga Mocs.
Banta must have done some good things in Chattanooga, because he was scooped up a year later by the Detroit Lions. The Lions had him as an assistant Special Teams coach from 2008 to 2011. They then promoted him to an assistant linebackers coach in 2012.
With Banta on Special Teams staff, the Lions saw upticks in production across the board. In 2010, their kickoff return team saw the third-biggest improvement in the league, and their coverage team saw the fourth-biggest. Meanwhile, their punt return team improved its average from 8.8 to 12.1 yards a return. In 2011, kicker Jason Hanson put together a solid year with 126 points, and Special Teams player John Wendling tied for first in the league in ST tackles.
After two years as the assistant LB coach, Banta moved on to Washington as an assistant ST coach. I’d assume the position was a promotion, although the title remained the same.
In Washington, as with Detroit, the Special Teams unit saw immediate improvement with Banta on board. In Banta’s first year, punter Tress Way tied for first in the league in punting average. Banta coached with former Saints kicker Dustin Hopkins, and in 2016 Hopkins set the franchise record for made FGs. Hopkins was a solid prospect in N.O., but really blossomed in Washington. And finally, Jamison Crowder broke out as a return man in 2016, and finished the season as a Pro-Bowl alternate.
The hope is that Banta can bring some of that juice to the Saints return game. With Kevin O’Dea likely staying on as an assistant ST coach, I’d assume O’Dea will handle most of Wil Lutz’s development. So Banta will have free reign with the return and coverage teams. It’s been a while since the Saints have had anyone but McMahon at the ST helm. Let’s hope it’s as refreshing a change as it seems.