The loneliest players on any NFL team come from the special teams and are usually the placekicker and punter. However, a position the gets overlooked the most, but is essential to the specials teams, is the long snapper. For the San Francisco 49ers, Brian Jennings has held the title of long snapper for the past 13th seasons making him the longest tenured Niner on the Super Bowl roster.
Jennings has been a part of the good, the bad and the good again since joining the 49ers in 2000. He is the only player currently on the 49ers roster to have played for Steve Mariucci and he endured through the coaching fiascos of Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary. Before the Jim Harbaugh era, he experienced the last time the 49ers finished with back-to-back winning seasons and made the playoffs.
The importance of having a good long snapper can mean the difference between a win and a loss. Before last year’s playoff win over the New Orleans Saints, Jennings was on the 49ers team that last won a playoff game. In the 2002 Wild Card playoff game against the New York Giants, which is equally remembered by Niner fans for the 25-point comeback and for the way it ended, the importance of a long snapper was witnessed by Jennings.
After the 49ers went up 39-38, the Giants drove down the field and had one last chance to win the game with a 41-yard field goal attempt. However, Giants long snapper Trey Junkin, who was signed out of retirement less than a week before the playoff game, sent the snap wide left. The bad snap threw off the timing of Matt Bryant’s field goal which resulted in one the wildest finishes to game in NFL history. (Click here to watch recap of the game. The botched snap is at the 1:55 minute mark.)
Junkin on the botched snap:
For 19 years, I tried to be invisible in my profession. Once I put my hands on that ball that day, that (expletive) snap was my fault. I think about it every day. It still jolts me from sleep.
A recent example of the importance of a long snapper was early this season at the season opener for the Oakland Raiders. They lost their regular long snapper midgame and had an unknown backup linebacker, Travis Goethel, takeover with disastrous results. Goethel, who had never been a long snapper at the NFL level, rolled and bounced two snaps on punts on Monday Night Football. The Raiders lost 22-14.
If you think about, Jennings was a steal in the 2000 draft after the 49ers selected him in the seventh round (230th overall). He has been a consistent presence on special teams and is a two-time Pro Bowler (2003, 2011). His name does not come up often and that is a good thing. Because when long snappers get attention, it is usually the bad kind.
Jennings is so dedicated to his craft that he runs a camp called Jennings 1-4-1 that teaches the art of being a long snapper. The name of the camp is based on his philosophy, which is one-for-one. Meaning, focus on the next snap and nothing else.
Being the longest tenured Niner on the roster, Jennings is one of 48 players who have spent 10 or more years in San Francisco. One difference is most of those players on the list have a Super Bowl ring. Jennings is hoping to join the group by getting his first Super Bowl ring on Sunday.