After a second consecutive disaster by the 49ers special teams, coordinator Richard Hightower is under more scrutiny than ever before. During his weekly press conference, Hightower tried to put things in perspective.
“What we’re going to do is we’re going to go back to work. Like we’ve always done, just like we do after a win or a loss and I need to coach better. And obviously they feel like they need to play better. We’ve had two weeks that are not up to our standard in a row and we can’t have that happen if we want to go where we want to go. And we know it’s not up to our standard and I believe that we’ll get back to our standard. They know, I’ve told them.
We played three bad games this year, two Seattle games and the Minnesota game. Every other game, I have to give those guys credit because they went out there and they did what they were supposed to do. And they did a hell of a job. And those other three games, when we didn’t play well, that falls on me and I have to get them better.”
San Francisco’s special teams under Hightower have never been elite, but they’ve certainly been better than what we’ve seen recently. The highest the 49ers’ special teams have ever been ranked in special teams DVOA since he got the job was 11th, back in 2017. Since then, they’ve been 14th, 12th, 23rd, and now 22nd.
While it might make Hightower feel better to bundle the team’s problems into a three game package, the simple fact is that package is not a small chunk of time. Three games represent 25% of the 49ers’ season to this point. Three games are the difference between clinging to a playoff spot by your fingernails (like the 49ers are right now) and competing for the top seed in the conference. Compartmentalizing the problems into that kind of a box minimizes the impact that those bad games have had on year as a whole.
At different times this season, both Kyle Shanahan and DeMeco Ryans have faced scrutiny for things that have happened this season. Now, not even the special teams unit is immune to the entire avoidable mistakes that both the offense and defense have made at times this season. Here’s hoping the symptoms abate soon.
Download today’s 49ers in Five podcast and hear more about Richard Hightower, Jimmy Garoppolo’s scouting report on the Bengals, and why he doesn’t throw the ball down the field very often. You can find it everywhere you get your podcasts, including Facebook.