49ers hope to upgrade special teams with Brian Schneider

Speical teams coordinator Brian Schneider of the Seattle Seahawks (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Speical teams coordinator Brian Schneider of the Seattle Seahawks (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The 49ers needed to get better on special teams heading into 2022, and former Seahawks special teams coordinator Brian Schneider should help that.

The 2021 San Francisco 49ers were a strong team in many ways, making it all the way to within minutes of reaching the Super Bowl.

Yet if there was one key weakness overall for any specific unit, it was special teams. According to Football Outsiders, the Niners boasted the league’s 26th-best special teams unit over the course of last season. And while there are so many gray-area stats that ultimately influence any special teams unit any given season, one of the more notable “need to improve” metrics San Francisco needed to address was its average starting field position: on the 26.9-yard line, which ranked 29th in the league.

Not great.

The 49ers’ special teams coordinator from 2017 through 2021, Richard Hightower, unceremoniously left the team during the offseason, part of a large turnover of assistants under head coach Kyle Shanahan this year.

That move needed to happen. While special teams hadn’t exactly been a Niners strength in any of the seasons Hightower had been present, 2021 revealed nearly a week-to-week gaffe from this crucial third phase of the game, perhaps the only exception being the 2022 divisional-round playoff game against the Green Bay Packers.

With Hightower having left for the Chicago Bears, San Francisco will now turn to former Seattle Seahawks special teams coordinator Brian Schneider.

Brian Schneider is an upgrade for 49ers on special teams

The 49ers announced the hiring of Schneider on Monday, effectively rounding out their coaching staff heading into the new season.

Schneider, who grew up in Southern California, began in the collegiate ranks at UCLA back in 2003 and finally cracked into the pros in 2007 with the Oakland Raiders as their special teams coordinator but then went back to college under then-USC head coach Pete Carroll in 2009, which ultimately helped transition him over to the Seahawks in 2010.

Schneider then held that spot for 11 full seasons in Seattle.

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While the overall nature of special teams can be volatile, thanks largely to the year-to-year rotation of back-of-the-roster players, Schneider has nevertheless had plenty of success in his role. Last year alone, the Seahawks’ special teams unit finished fifth, according to Football Outsiders. And the previous season, the same group ranked third.

Simply put, Schneider has had a lot more recent success than Hightower.

The Niners will hope to tap into that level of success this season, fully driving the need to transform special teams from a weakness into a strength.

Given how shoddy this unit was a year ago, Schneider certainly has his work cut out for him, but it’s still a great hire from San Francisco’s perspective.

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