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Former 49ers special teams coach interviewing with Panthers

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The San Francisco 49ers parted ways with their one-season special teams coach following the hiring of Chip Kelly. Can the team improve on last year's struggles?

The Carolina Panthers are searching for a new assistant coach for their special teams units, and Thomas McGaughey is on the short list. The brief San Francisco 49ers special teams coach and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Kevin O'Dea are both interviewing for the job, according to Alex Marvez. According to Matt Barrows, one of them would fill a role vacatedwhen the team let go of coach Russ Purnell.

The 49ers special teams were kind of a mess much of last year. We saw some improvement from Bradley Pinion, and Phil Dawson remained a rock at the kicker position. However, Football Outsiders ranked the team in the red in several categories.

Chip Kelly hired Derius Swinton II as his special teams coach, with Michael Clay serving as an assistant on the unit. They will be important, but a lot of this will depend on how the 49ers fill out that portion of the roster. We are always on the look-out for big name additions, but the lesser names the team will sign in free agency or add via late round draft picks are going to be the guys who make a sizable impact on improving the special teams.

The 49ers struggled in a big way on special teams, and that led to plenty of other problems in losing the field position battle on both sides of the ball. Chip Kelly's offense can bring all the bells and whistles it wants. The defense could build on last year and take this thing to another level. And yet, without strong special teams, it could very well end up for naught.