Coach Mike Singletary, who used a piecemeal approach to the 49ers? return game this season, promised Monday that an improvement on punt and kickoff returns are among his chief priorities.
?Some of the things we?ll do this offseason will reflect that,? Singletary said, while announcing the hiring of special-teams coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer.
The 49ers averaged a lowly 4.4 yards on punt returns for the season, with Arnaz Battle averaging 2.9 yards on 21 returns. The 49ers will look to add quality returners via free agency and/or the draft.
?It?s every individual of the 11 that are out there doing their job to the best of their ability, finishing blocks and taking the proper angles that make that returner better,? Schottenheimer said.
?Athletic guys, you might try more sideline, you might try more misdirection. But I?ve always liked a guy that is a downhill guy that can catch the ball and find a lane. He can hit the lane and that way you don?t have to hold blocks as long.?
Schottenheimer, 60, the younger brother of former NFL head coach Marty Schottenheimer, served as Kansas City Chiefs special-teams coach from 1989 to ?94. One of his top special-teams players in 1994 was current 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Schottenheimer has also coached with Manusky, as well as 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye.
Schottenheimer has not been a special-teams coach in the NFL for 15 years, but he has spent most of that time coaching defense. That is a background that should serve him well as a special-teams coordinator, Singletary said.
Schottenheimer was defensive coordinator for Gunther Cunningham with the Chiefs (1999-2000) and Redskins (2001). He was also defensive coordinator of the Lions (2002-2003).
?I am very thankful that we were able to add Kurt to our coaching staff,? Singletary said. ?He brings with him invaluable experience from more than 30 years of service in the NFL and college coaching ranks. Kurt has a diverse background and a tremendous knowledge of personnel, both of which will serve the 49ers well in producing a top-notch special-teams unit.?
Schottenheimer interviewed with Singletary on Friday. Singletary previously interviewed Larry MacDuff and Bobby April for the opening. Two days after Singletary met with April, the Philadelphia Eagles hired him to Andy Reid?s staff.
Singletary dismissed former special-teams coach Al Everest because of an undisclosed personal matter, Singletary said, and not because of the ?miscommunication? that led to a fumbled punt and the turning point in a late-season loss at Seattle.
?If I were that shallow as a coach, I need to be out of the game,? Singletary said.
Schottenheimer was out of coaching in 2009. He said he studied the principles of the spread offense in visits to Texas A&M and Illinois. He is defensive coordinator this week at the East-West Shrine Game in Orlando, so he is getting a head start evaluating draft-eligible players.
?Our job and responsibility is to make sure everybody moves up in the draft,? he said. He said he has coached in the Senior Bowl, and the ability to work with those players ?gives you a tremendous advantage.?
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