John Bonamego, a 16-year veteran coach in the NFL, joined the Lions in January 2013 and enters his second season as the team’s special teams coordinator. During his coaching career, he has worked 15 previous years in the NFL and 11 years at the college level.
LIONS COACHING HIGHLIGHTS: In his first season as Lions special teams coordinator in 2013, Bonamego brought a polished approach to Detroit’s kicking, punting and coverage units, which included the emergence of fifth-round draft selection P Sam Martin as a valuable weapon in the Lions’ special teams game.
While with the Jaguars in 2012, Bonamego oversaw the development of rookie P Bryan Anger, who was selected by the Jaguars in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Anger set franchise records for punting average (47.8) and net punting average (40.8), with both totals leading all rookie punters. He finished sixth in the NFL in punting average and seventh in net punting average.
During the 2011 season, Bonamego was the assistant special teams coach for the New Orleans Saints.
From 2008-10, Bonamego served as the special teams coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, where he developed young specialists including K Dan Carpenter, P Brandon Fields and KR Ted Ginn, Jr.
Bonamego guided Carpenter’s development after he signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted rookie in 2008. During his first two seasons, he made 46-of-53 field goal attempts (86.8 pct.). As a rookie, he established a new Dolphins rookie record with 11-straight made field goals. He was selected to the 2009 Pro Bowl after making 25-of-28 attempts.
In 2009, Bonamego’s special teams units featured Fields setting a franchise record for net punting average (39.9) and Ginn, Jr. becoming the first player in NFL history to record two kickoff return touchdowns of 100 yards or more in the same game (at NYJ, November 1, 2009). Ginn, Jr. also was the first NFL player in 42 years to have two returns for touchdowns in the same quarter while also recording 299 return yards, the second-most single-game kickoff return yardage total in NFL history. That season, the Dolphins’ 2009 special teams units were ranked 10th in the NFL by universally respected Dallas Morning News special teams rankings.
Prior to his time in Miami, Bonamego was the New Orleans Saints special teams coordinator from 2006-07. In 2006, his units played a critical role in the team’s 10-6 record, as they claimed the NFC South title and appeared in the NFC Championship game.
Two of the Saints’ biggest plays that season occurred on special teams when S Steve Gleason blocked a punt vs. Atlanta that was recovered for a touchdown in the first quarter in the season opener, which was the first post-Katrina game in the Superdome. The Saints also blocked a field goal later in that opening game.
In Week 5 vs. Tampa Bay, RB Reggie Bush returned a punt 65 yards for a game-winning score. The Saints finished 2006 ranked sixth in opponent punt return average (7.0) and fourth in the NFC in kickoff return average (23.0). The Saints did not allow a kickoff return of more than 40 yards.
Bonamego’s experience in the NFC North includes a three-year stint as the special teams coordinator for Green Bay from 2003-05. In 2005, the Packers registered the League’s longest punt return for a touchdown (85 yards vs. Chi). In 2004, Green Bay finished as one of only four teams in the NFL that did not surrender a return touchdown or have a kick blocked. The Packers allowed only 20.2 yards on kickoff returns and ranked sixth in field goal percentage (85.7). The club had four game-winning field goals in 2004, the most by the team since the 1970 merger.
During his first season in Green Bay (2003), Bonamego’s special teams units ranked fourth in field goal percentage, fifth in kick return average and did not allow a blocked punt or field goal. The Packers blocked a field goal and a punt in the same season for the first time since 1997 and won the NFC North title.
Bonamego’s first stint in the NFL was from 1999-2002 with the Jacksonville Jaguars. For the first three seasons, Bonamego worked as the assistant special teams coach under legendary NFL special teams coach Frank Gansz and was promoted to special teams coordinator in 2002. In his first season as special teams coordinator, the Jaguars were ranked third by The Dallas Morning News. The unit blocked four kicks (two field goals, two punts) and led the AFC in kick coverage (19.5-yard avg.). The Jaguars also led the AFC in gross and net punting average and were one of only two NFL teams that did not allow a return touchdown or a blocked kick. P Chris Hanson was selected to the AFC Pro Bowl squad in 2002.
Before entering the NFL, Bonamego worked 11 years on the college level, including six years at Army (1993-98) and at Lehigh in 1992.
From 1988-91, Bonamego was an assistant coach at Maine. While serving as an assistant coach, he earned a master’s degree in physical education in 1992.
In 1987, Bonamego served as the head junior varsity coach at Mt. Pleasant (Mich.) High School, and in that same year he spent time in Europe as a player-coach with the Verona (Italy) Redskins.Bonamego graduated from Paw Paw (Mich.) High School before moving on to Central Michigan University, where he played wide receiver and quarterback. In 1987, he earned a degree in health fitness from CMU. In 2009, Bonamego gave the graduation commencement speech and received an honorary doctorate degree from Central Michigan. He and his wife, Paulette, have three children – Javier, Giovanni and Bellina.
Detroit Lions 2013-present
Jacksonville Jaguars 2012
New Orleans Saints 2011
Miami Dolphins 2008-10
New Orleans Saints 2006-07
Green Bay Packers 2003-05
Mt. Pleasant High School 1987
Verona (Italy) Redskins 1987
Special teams coordinator John Bonamego puts responsibility for missed field goals and return troubles squarely on his own shoulders
If special teams coordinator John Bonamego had to choose between a flashy return man or a very good coverage unit, he chooses the latter.