Offense and defense will always get the majority of the glory when it comes to the game of football. However, there are three phases to the sport and special teams have tremendous value in terms of field position which can ultimately dictate the outcome of a game.
C.J. Goodwin joined the Dallas Cowboys in 2018. Since his arrival, he's taken the lead as the special teams ace in Dallas. This is a role most wouldn't take on due to the fact it doesn't get much recognition, but Goodwin fully embraces it.
“I take a lot of pride in that,” Goodwin said, via the team's website. That's my job. That's my main job, period, now. And I want to be a leader on the field and off the field to these guys, young and old. I take a lot of pride in that and try to be the best in the league at what I do.”
Goodwin only logged 50 special teams snaps his first year with the Cowboys. Over the last two seasons, he's led the team in that category. After setting a career-high with 289 special teams snaps in 2019, he reset that mark last season with 324.
The Cowboys re-signed Goodwin to a two-year, $3.5 million deal back in March. Coming back to Dallas wasn't hard for Goodwin, it was a matter of getting the numbers right for both sides.
“It was an easy decision on my part. We just had to come to the agreement,” Goodwin said. “I'm just blessed to be here, honestly.”
Goodwin's return to Dallas reunites him with two old teammates. Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee, who the Cowboys signed during free agency, played with Goodwin during his time with the Atlanta Falcons (2016-2017). Also, he reunites with Dan Quinn who was the Falcons head coach during that time.
Quinn was brought in to fix the Cowboys defense which gave up the most points in team history and finished 31st against the run a year ago. Goodwin's time around Quinn in Atlanta gave him an appreciation of what he brings to the table as a coach.
“He is a fresh face to have around here,” Goodwin said. “He's such a great coach, an X's and O's coach, and he's such a player's coach.”
Goodwin had a brief run-in with Quinn in 2020. In Week 2, the Cowboys and Falcons played in one of, if not the most exciting game of the season. After the Cowboys roared back from a 20-point deficit to pull within two points, Goodwin recovered the “watermelon” kick after it went 10 yards with just under two minutes left in the game. It led to a 46-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein to give the Cowboys a 40-39 victory.
When Goodwin and Quinn first spoke this offseason that particular play came up, and the Cowboy's special teams ace joked when he was asked about it.
“Yes, it did. He kind of got mad at me,” Goodwin said. “But it was funny. We forgave and we forgot.”
John Fassel was brought to Dallas before the 2020 season as the organization's new Special Teams Coordinator. After being putrid on special teams in 2019, the Cowboys showed improvements last season. But, there's always another level you can get to and that's Goodwin's focus this season.
“We can improve, top to bottom,” Goodwin said. “There's always room for improvement. We kind of, I'm not going to say ‘struggled' on the return team, but I struggled a little bit on the return-game aspect, and myself, I can improve that a lot. We're going to get in the end zone a couple of times this year.”
Goodwin might not get much shine with the role he has but he does the dirty work that leads to victories, and that holds great value.