Brad Seely & Special Teams Rankings: Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers

Yesterday morning Dallas Morning News  columnist Rick Gosselin put together his annual NFL special teams rankings from 2010. The rankings look at 22 kicking/punting-related categories and assign points according to their standing (one point for top ranking, 32 points for worst ranking). The top ranked team was the New England Patriots with 269 points, while the San Diego Chargers finished last with 480.5 points.

For our purposes, the San Francisco 49ers were ranked 17th and the Cleveland Browns were ranked 3rd. I've posted all the categories after the jump, as well as some of the stats and rankings that I could find. I could only find official stats on half the categories, but it gives us a place to start. Cleveland ranked incredibly last year, but actually had to overcome a dead last kickoff return ranking, as well as relatively poor field goals, field goal percentage, and opponent net punting. I'd imagine they did a lot of that in the categories I couldn't find.

For comparison's sake, Football Outsiders has their own measurement for special teams. FO basically estimates how many points, compared to league average, each team receives from field goals/extra points, kickoffs, kick returns, punts, and punt returns. The total is then converted into a DVOA percentage that is added in to offense and defense to create total team DVOA.

In FO's 2010 special teams rankings, Cleveland ranked 12th and the 49ers ranked 23rd. One interesting category FO has is "Hidden." They describe this as representing the advantage teams have received from elements of special teams generally out of their control: opposing field goals, kickoff distance, and punt distance. The top team is the team that received the biggest advantage from these hidden categories. The Browns ranked 20th and the 49ers ranked 13th.

The 49ers biggest advantage in special teams last year involved punting. Andy Lee is, of course, the man. At the same time, the 49ers punt coverage had some issues as Lee's net punting yards struggled a bit. The 49ers ranked third in gross punt yards and 12th in net punt yards. Not awful, but something that Seely will hopefully improve. On the other side of the ball, Ted Ginn Jr. finished third in the NFL (among qualified return men) with 13.4 yards per punt return.

What do folks think a special teams coach could improve heading into 2011? Is it primarily areas like keeping discipline in your blocking and coverage lanes, or does it go beyond that? A punt or kick returner bases a lot of their work on instinct, but opening up space can be key. Is this something that can be improved by a coach?

Categories - Cleveland Browns (rank) - San Francisco 49ers (rank)
Kickoff Returns - 17.0 (32nd) - 19.5 (30th)
Punt Returns - 10.7 (11th) - 11.8 (7th)
Kickoff Coverage - 17.8 (1st) - 22.2 (15th)
Punt Coverage
Starting Point
Opponent Starting Point
Punting - 43.9 (t-11th) - 46.2 (3rd)
Net Punting - 39.0 (t-7th) - 38.2 (t-12th)
Inside-the-20 Punts 29 (t-8th) - 34 (3rd)
Opponent Punting
Opponent Net Punting - 37.8 (21st) - 37.4 (19th)
Field Goals - 23 (t-22nd) - 22 (t-24th)
Field Goal % - 82% (t-17th) -  82% (t-20th)
Opponent Field Goal % - 75% (t-5th) - 84.9% (t-20th)
Extra Point % - 100% (t-1st) - 100% (t-1st)
Points Scored
Points Allowed
Blocked Kicks
Blocked Kicks Against
Takeaways
Giveaways
Penalties

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