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Darren Rizzi enters his seventh season as both an NFL assistant and as a member of the Dolphins’ coaching staff and fourth as special teams coordinator. He joined the Dolphins as assistant special teams coach in 2009.
Darren Rizzi enters his seventh season as both an NFL assistant and as a member of the Dolphins’ coaching staff and fourth as special teams coordinator. He joined the Dolphins as assistant special teams coach in 2009.

In his tenure at Miami, three members of the special teams (long snapper John Denney [two times], punter Brandon Fields and kicker Dan Carpenter) have been named to the Pro Bowl.

In 2014, Rizzi guided a special teams unit that set the franchise record with three blocked punts in a season. They also added two blocked field goals, giving Miami five blocked kicks on the year, the most since the team blocked seven in 1977. Explosive plays weren’t limited to the block units as Jarvis Landry won AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October when he returned five kickoffs for 178 yards (35.6), with a long of 54 yards. The 35.6 average kickoff return was the second-highest in the NFL in October and was the highest October average in franchise history. Landry finished the season with a 28.1 kick return average, the fourth-highest in the NFL and tops among rookies.

In 2013, for the third consecutive season, the Dolphins’ special teams under the direction of Rizzi were rated among the top eight units in the NFL based on the annual Dallas Morning News Special Teams rankings. Miami was one of three teams to remain in the top ten (along with Baltimore and Seattle) in both the 2013 and 2012 rankings. Additionally, from 2011-13, only Miami and Seattle were ranked by the Dallas Morning News in the top ten. Rizzi’s 2013 special teams units were highlighted by the play of Fields, who earned his first Pro Bowl berth. Fields ranked second in the NFL in punt average (48.8 yards per punt), second in net average (42.4, which is the eight best in NFL history), tied for third with 33 punts inside the 20-yard line and also recorded the third-longest punt (74 yards) during the season. Fields is one of only two Dolphins punters to be selected to the Pro Bowl, joining Reggie Roby (1984, 1989).

The 2012 campaign built off a strong 2011 season for Rizzi and the Dolphins special teams. Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News ranked Miami as one of the top five special teams units in the NFL for the second consecutive year, making the Dolphins the only team in the NFL to rank in the top five during both the 2012 and 2011 seasons, following a second place finish in ‘11.

In 2012, Fields continued to establish himself as one of the most productive punters in NFL history, leading the NFL with a 50.2 average, while moving into first place in team history for highest career punting average (46.4), highest career net punting average (38.7) and second place in NFL history for highest career punting average (46.4). Newcomer Marcus Thigpen became the first player in team history to return a kickoff (96 yards at Buffalo on November 5, 2012) and a punt (72 yards at Houston on September 9, 2012) for touchdowns in the same season. Thigpen also stood alone as the only player in the NFL to rank in the top five in kickoff return average (27.4) and punt return average (12.2) in 2012. Additionally, Miami became the first NFL team in the last 20 years to block a field goal, block a punt and recover their own onside kick in the same game when the unit accomplished that feat at the New York Jets on October 28, 2012.

Rizzi led an impressive 2011 season by the Dolphins special teams. The units showed the biggest improvement of any NFL special teams unit in the NFL from 2010 to 2011 according the annual special teams report compiled by Gosselin­. The improvement saw the Dolphins jump from their 2010 ranking of 24th in the NFL to second in 2011. The 22 place advancement was aided by Carpenter’s 13 of 16 in field goals from 40 yards and beyond and Fields’ net punting average of 41.1 yards, finishing just behind the special teams units of the San Francisco 49ers.

After Rizzi took over the special teams in week five, the Dolphins improved in almost every major statistical special teams category, including net and gross punt average, punt and kick return average, average drive start and opponent’s gross and net punt average.

Rizzi joined the Dolphins with four years of experience as a college head coach, including the 2008 season at the University of Rhode Island. Prior to taking over the program at URI, Rizzi was an assistant at Rutgers for the previous six seasons (2002-07), where he headed up the Scarlet Knights’ special teams unit. He also tutored the team’s running backs his first three years there and the linebackers for his final three. In addition, he held the title of assistant head coach from 2004-06 and associate head coach in 2007. In Rizzi’s six years at RU, he coached three players who earned first-team All-Big East honors in special teams including kick returner Nate Jones (2002), kick/punt returner Willie Foster (2005) and punter Joe Radigan (2006). Jones also was named the conference’s co-Special Teams Player of the Year in 2002 while Foster was the Big East Special Teams Player of the Year in 2005.

Before his stint at Rutgers, Rizzi was the head coach at the University of New Haven, where he guided the Chargers to a three-year record of 15-14 from 1999-2001. Rizzi was the special teams and linebackers coach at Northeastern University in 1998. He coached at New Haven from 1994-97, where he was UNH’s defensive coordinator in his final year there, after overseeing the special teams and defensive line his first three. Rizzi began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Colgate in 1993.

Rizzi played tight end at Rhode Island, where he first walked on in 1988. He went on to tally 160 receptions for 2,426 yards and 15 touchdowns in his collegiate career and was a consensus All America selection in 1992. Following his time at Rhode Island, Rizzi was signed as a free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles prior to beginning his coaching career. A native of Hillsdale, N.J. and a graduate of Bergen Catholic High School in New Jersey, Rizzi earned a degree in speech communications from URI in 1992. During the spring of 2013, Rizzi was inducted into the Bergen Catholic High School Hall of Fame. A two sport high school star, he concluded his prep football career with 69 receptions, a school record which stood for 22 years, while also excelling as an All-League outfielder for the baseball team.

He and his wife, Tracey, have two daughters, Mackenzie and Alexandra, and three sons, Christian, Casey and Cameron.

Recent Videos

  • Rizzi Discusses Special Teams Competitions

    (5:16) Posted Aug 5, 2015

    Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi responds to questions from the media about the competition at kicker between Caleb Sturgis and Andrew Franks. Also, get Rizzi's thoughts on the return game with Jarvis Landry, LaMichael James and others looking to factor in.

  • Darren Rizzi Media Availability

    (3:16) Posted Jun 1, 2015

    Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi speaks with the media about kicker Andrew Franks, who got all of the kicking work in Monday's OTA with Caleb Sturgis unavailable due to injury. Also, get Rizzi's comments on Jarvis Landry and the depth that the team is working to build at the receiver position.

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