SF 49ers: 4 assistant coaches who could be gone in 2021
By Peter Panacy
No. 1: SF 49ers Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower
Consistency is a rare but good thing for special teams, and the constant turnover among special teams contributors, who often make up the depth portions of the 53-man roster, makes life difficult for any special teams coordinator.
The SF 49ers’ own, Richard Hightower, has been holding this role ever since the Kyle Shanahan regime started.
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On the surface, that might appear to be a good thing. But aside from three-plus good years of place-kicking, field-goal and extra-point attempts, the Niners can’t exactly boast an elite-level special teams unit over Shanahan’s tenure.
Check out Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings for San Francisco dating back to 2017:
- 2017: 2.7 percent (11th)
- 2018: 0.3 percent (14th)
- 2019: 1.0 percent (12th)
- 2020: minus-0.6 percent (20th)
Again, personnel has a lot to do with these rankings, which factor in scoring, returns, coverage, etc. The SF 49ers have also failed to produce an effective return specialist over the past three-plus years, too.
But it’s entirely possible, perhaps even likely the Niners look to gain some improvement with a special teams coordinator who can help get this overlooked-yet-valuable unit consistently within the top 10 of rankings next season.
And that could mean Hightower has to go.