After twice ranking among the top-two in the industry-recognized NFL special teams rankings compiled annually by The Dallas Morning News, the 49ers dropped to No. 23 in Brad Seely’s final season as coordinator.
Seely was not retained on Jim Tomsula’s staff after spending all four seasons serving as Jim Harbaugh's assistant head coach/special teams coordinator. The 49ers are expected to announce the hiring of Thomas McGaughey as special-teams coordinator to replace Seely. McGaughey spent last season in charge of the New York Jets’ special teams.
The Jets finished 20th in the NFL’s special-teams rankings in McGaughey’s only season.
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Seely has coached special teams in the NFL every season since 1989 after breaking in with the Indianapolis Colts. He won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots from 1999 to 2008. The Raiders hired Seely this week to serve as Jack Del Rio’s special-teams coordinator.
The league’s 32 teams are ranked in 22 categories and assigned points according to their standing –- one for best, 32 for worst, according to the Morning News' Rick Gosselin, who publishes the rankings after every season. The Philadelphia Eagles, under former 49ers assistant Dave Fipp, topped the rankings.
The 49ers ranked No. 1 in the NFL in 2011 and No. 2 in 2013. In 2012, the 49ers ranked 15th.
Andy Lee’s net punting average dropped from 41.7 yards to 39.6 in 2014, as the 49ers tried to incorporate some new players into their coverage units. C.J. Spillman and Darryl Morris were among the team’s final cuts. Anthony Dixon left as a free agent, and Michael Wilhoite took on a full-time role on defense due to NaVorro Bowman’s knee injury, which sidelined him for the entire season.
The 49ers’ punt-return average as a team dropped from 8.9 yards in 2013 to 6.5 yards. LaMichael James led the 49ers in 2013 with a 10.9 average, while rookie Bruce Ellington led the 49ers last season at 8.2 yards.
Kicker Phil Dawson’s field-goal percentage dropped from .889 (32 of 36) in 2013 to .806 (25 of 31). The 49ers changed long-snappers for the second time in two seasons. Kyle Nelson replaced Kevin McDermott, just one season after McDermott won the job over long-time long-snapper Brian Jennings.