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Seely Demeanor

Posted Feb 17, 2011

The evaluation process began nearly a month ago, and it’s a long, long way from being complete.

Nobody’s job is safe according to 49ers new special teams coordinator Brad Seely. With the new coach comes a new set of expectations.

And Seely’s are high. Very high. After all, he is considered by many to be one of the best special teams coordinators in NFL history.

Seely is all about competition and he doesn’t want to hand out any jobs based on past merit.

Ted Ginn Jr. ranked third in the league last season averaging 13.4 yards per punt return, but he may not have the job full time next year. Joe Nedney is the 49ers all-time leading field goal kicker by percentage, and he too is being looked at with a critical eye.

Since joining the 49ers coaching staff on Jan. 25, Seely has spent hours and hours in the film room. Still, he’s hours and hours away from even being close to finished.

“This is probably my third or fourth time through (the film),” Seely said when he met the Bay Area media on Wednesday.  “What I don’t ever want to do is make snap any snap judgments.”

But there’s more to Seely’s process than what the tape shows. He wants more than great football players. He wants great people.

And those things take time to figure out.

“Is the guy a good player every day? Is he a good person every day? Does he come to work every day willing to work? Is he a guy that the other guys want to have on their team?”

Those are questions Seely has started to answer, but they could linger for months if a new collective bargaining agreement isn’t worked out. The current CBA expires March 3, at 9 p.m. PT, and if a new deal isn’t reached by then a lockout will commence meaning no contact between players and coaches.

But Seely doesn’t see a potential lockout as a huge burden. For now, he’s going about his business as if this were a normal offseason. And if the players do get locked out, “that will affect everybody,” he said. So it won’t put him at any more of a disadvantage than the other 31 special teams coordinators around the league.

Seely began his NFL career in 1989 with the Indianapolis Colts, serving as their special teams and tight ends coach for five seasons. He then spent one year with the New York Jets before joining the start-up Carolina Panthers in 1995. Over the next four seasons he helped the expansion team reach an NFC Championship Game while coaching the first player in 35 years to lead the league in kick return average in consecutive seasons. In 1996, Seely earned Special Teams Coach of the Year honors.

From there it was on to New England where he won three Super Bowl titles between 1999 and 2008. Over those 10 years, the Patriots led the NFL in kickoff return average, were fourth in field goal percentage and ranked eighth in punt return average. He also coached three Patriots to the Pro Bowl. Seely spent the last two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, and in 2009 he once again was named Special Teams Coach of the Year.

With that résumé Seely was surely in high demand. So why did he come to San Francisco?

“I think there are a lot of good players on this team,” he said. “That is one of the reasons I came here because I felt like they have a chance to make a jump in a hurry. That’s what you’re always looking for when you look at an NFL team. I’m excited to work with the guys we have and we’ll just see how that goes.”

If his track record is any indication, it should go pretty well.

In addition to his role as special teams coordinator, Seely also holds the title of assistant head coach, which is a role he’s still trying to figure out. Seely has held this title in the past, but every time there have been different responsibilities.

Primarily, Seely expects to serve as a liaison between the assistant coaches and head coach Jim Harbaugh, who Seely knew very little about prior to his interview the 49ers.

Seely met Harbaugh through the head coach’s brother John, a former special teams coordinator and current Baltimore Ravens’ head coach. Seely and Harbaugh usually take their time in evaluating talent, but both felt they had a football connection almost immediately.

Plus, with a special teams guru in the family, Seely knows his new boss places a high importance on his craft.

“We’re all happy that it’s going to hopefully be a big factor in our success here,” Seely said.

As to how much importance Seely places on special teams, he doesn’t buy into the cliché that it’s one-third of the game.

He estimates it’s closer to one-fifth, but expects 100-percent from his players, which is why he’s taking his time in the evaluation process.

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