Koch transitioning to coaching role creates win-win situation for Ravens

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Sam Koch has “no doubt” he could still punt in the NFL, which is why the Ravens needed to handle this succession plan delicately.

Not only do general manager Eric DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh keep an eye on the future, but Baltimore does special teams better than anyone, making it unsurprising that the Ravens selected Penn State punter Jordan Stout in the fourth round of last month’s draft. The retiring punter who once teamed with original Ravens Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, and Matt Stover received a heads-up of what was happening, part of the reason why Koch will remain with the organization as a special teams consultant.

“I knew this time was going to come to an end,” said Koch, who will turn 40 in August and played in more games for the Ravens than anyone in their 26-year history in Baltimore. “Me and my wife had had many talks, but I appreciate them giving me that call. I remember saying to them, I was like, ‘Look, this is a business decision, and this is your business. You guys have to do what you think is best for the Ravens.’

“They made their decision, and at that point, I think I knew. My time was over, and it’s OK. I am very excited for my next chapter in life.”

Keeping Koch in a coaching capacity is a win for the organization as special teams coordinator Chris Horton and the staff hope Stout will live up to the lofty expectations that accompany the fourth-round selection of a punter. And while Koch, a 2006 sixth-round out of Nebraska, made only one Pro Bowl over 16 seasons, anyone with special-teams expertise — including sports media star and former two-time Pro Bowl punter Pat McAfee — will tell you how influential he’s been to the position.

That’s the kind of resource you want to keep in your building and on the back practice fields in Owings Mills. And you never know what could happen should an unforeseen need surface at the position.

“You watch punters now in the draft, the punter we just drafted, punters around the league, they’re using the ‘Koch Hook’ and all these other Sam Koch punts,” said Harbaugh, who noted how straightforward punting was before Koch and the Ravens began experimenting with rugby-style kicks. “When you change something forever, to me, that’s kind of a revolutionary-type thing, and that’s the mark of greatness right there.”

With Koch so highly regarded as both a punter and holder — former Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg once labeled him the best in the history of the game at the latter job — the 23-year-old Stout will have gigantic shoes to fill. Koch’s workmanlike reputation and leadership qualities should make for a smooth transition, however. 

It’s one that’s already begun.

“I’m just excited to work with Jordan,” Koch said. “We are going to try to make him the next best punter of the Ravens and do everything we can to make him the best punter in the league. I look forward to this opportunity. We’ve spoken. We’ve talked. We’ve already worked on some punting and holding aspects of his game.

“I’m just going to try to teach him everything I have and put everything I have into making him the best punter this league has seen.”

Any good decision-maker strives to remove emotion from the equation when making such difficult choices. But that doesn’t mean such decisions aren’t emotional to make.

Along with five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle and Ravens Ring of Honor member Haloti Ngata, Koch proved to be a key part of the second draft that DeCosta ran as Baltimore’s director of college scouting in 2006. Respecting and valuing that relationship allowed the Ravens to fortify their future at the position by keeping Koch around to mentor his talented successor.  

“It wasn’t easy. You agonize over it just like we have with other players,” DeCosta said. “But this is a special one. I just appreciate Sam. He came in, and we had several great conversations along the way. I was actually overjoyed when he said, ‘You know what? I want to coach. I appreciate the organization, and this is the next chapter in my life.’

“It brings me a lot of joy — it really does. We’re excited about the future.”