Rick Gosselin’s 2011 NFL Special Teams Rankings
SF special teams coach Brad Seely wins his third crown with a third different franchise
(Published February 2012)
How far can the best special teams in the NFL take you?
One game short of the Super Bowl, as the San Francisco 49ers learned in 2011. Forced to play Sunday without sure-handed return specialist Ted Ginn Jr., because of a knee injury, San Francisco lost two fumbles on punts and fell in overtime to the New York Giants. Those were the only two turnovers of the season on special teams for the 49ers.
It was an unspectacular end to an otherwise spectacular season on special teams for the 49ers, who fielded the best kicking game in the NFL according to rankings compiled annually by Rick Gosselin.
The league’s 32 teams are ranked in 22 categories and assigned points according to their standing – one for best, 32 for worst. The 49ers finished first with a composite score of 225.5, five points better than the runnerup Miami Dolphins.
When first-year coach Jim Harbaugh was building his staff last January, he lured Brad Seely away from the Cleveland Browns with the title of assistant head coach/special teams coordinator. His impact was evident, as the 49ers vaulted from 17th in the league in special teams a year ago all the way to the top this season.
It marked the third time in his coaching career and the second time in the last three years Seely has fielded the best special teams in the NFL. He did it with the Colts in 1992 and again with the Browns in 2009.
The 49ers either led or shared the league lead in kickoff returns, net punting, field goals, extra-point percentage and ball security. San Francisco finished in the Top 5 in six other categories and in the Top 10 in one more category.
Kicker David Akers and punter Andy Lee were both selected to the Pro Bowl for the 49ers. Akers set an NFL record with 44 field goals this season and Lee set another record with his 44-yard net average. Ginn was brilliant, averaging 27.6 yards on kickoffs with a touchdown and 12.3 yards on punts with another score. The 49ers led the NFL in kickoff returns and finished fifth in punt returns.
Four division champions finished in the Top 10 in special teams and one of them is headed for the Super Bowl. The AFC champion New England Patriots finished fifth this season in special teams, the New Orleans Saints eighth and the Denver Broncos 10th. The NFC champion New York Giants finished 22nd in the kicking game.
Washington finished 19th in an unusual clump. All four NEC East teams finished in consecutive order in the rankings _ the Redskins at 19, Eagles at 20, Cowboys at 21 and Giants at 22. The best special teams were played in the AFC East, where all four teams finished in the Top 11.
The Miami Dolphins staged the biggest one-season improvement, vaulting from 24th a year ago all the way to second under coach Darren Rizzi. The Dolphins finished in the Top 10 in 14 categories and, like the 49ers, their kickers were a strength. Dan Carpenter was 13-of-16 in field goals from 40 yards and beyond and Brandon Fields had a net punting average of 41.1 yards.
Here’s a breakdown of the 22 categories:
Best: San Francisco, 27.2 yards
Worst: Indianapolis, 18.6 yards
Best: Chicago, 15.7 yards
Worst: Indianapolis, 3.4 yards
Best: Buffalo, 20.4 yards
Worst: Indianapolis, 30.7 yards
Best: Atlanta, 4.8 yards
Worst: Oakland, 13.5 yards
KICKOFF STARTING POINT
Best: NY Jets, 26.1-yard line
Worst: Indianapolis, 19.6-yard line
OPPONENT STARTING POINT
Best: Cincinnati, 20.3-yard line
Worst: Oakland, 25.4-yard line
Best: Oakland, 50.8 yards
Worst: Cleveland, 40.1 yards
Best: San Francisco, 44.0 yards
Worst: Carolina, 34/1 yards
Best: Seattle, 34
Worst: Carolina, 13
Best: Chicago, 42.7 yards
Worst: Kansas City, 47.6 yards
OPPONENT NET PUNTING
Best: Arizona, 36.2 yards
Worst: Dallas, 41.8 yards
Best: San Francisco, 44
Worst: 4 teams tied with 19
FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE
Best: Atlanta, 93.1 percent
Worst: Buffalo, Pittsburgh, 74.1 percent apiece
OPPONENT FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE
Best: Philadelphia, 66.6 percent
Worst: NY Jets, 96.6 percent
EXTRA POINT PERCENTAGE
Best: 25 teams tied at 100 percent
Worst: Washington, 96.1 percent
Best: 15 teams tied with 0
Worst: NY Jets, 6
Best: Minnesota, New England, 3 apiece
Worst: 13 teams tied with 0
Best: Seattle, 6
Worst: 10 teams tied with 0
BLOCKED KICKS AGAINST
Best: 8 teams tied with 0
Worst: Washington, 6
Best: Arizona, 24 points
Worst: 8 teams tied with 0 points
Best: 11 teams tied with 0 points
Worst: St. Louis, 24 points
Best: San Diego, 8 penalties
Worst: Tennessee, 29 penalties