The 49ers understood how bad their special teams unit was last season, and many of the offseason moves in 2022 point to some serious improvement.
The San Francisco 49ers found out the hard way a year ago why special teams are actually special in many ways.
Or not so special, as the Niners’ case from 2021.
Special teams can’t exactly win games on their own, but they certainly can lose them. And it seemed as if San Francisco was vulnerable to a near-weekly gaffe from this critical third phase of the game, perhaps the only outstanding positive moment being the blocked punt that was followed by a touchdown in the 2022 divisional-round win over the Green Bay Packers.
Again, the outlier. Not the rule.
According to Football Outsiders, the 49ers finished with the league’s 26th-ranked special teams unit in 2021. That’s not good. And while the notable special teams metrics, such as made field goals and average punt distance, weren’t overly terrible, the fact the Niners’ average starting field position last season was on their own 26.9-yard line (fourth worst in the league) says the return game was in dire need of help, too.
As a direct result of last year (and previous years) not being so great in this third phase, San Francisco bid farewell to its former special teams coordinator, Richard Hightower, who left to join the Chicago Bears in the same role.
But that was only the opening move in a series of significant changes, all of which point to the 49ers being seriously improved on special teams heading into 2022.
Here are three reasons why.