Special Teams coach Al Everest was walking around with a shiny new piece of hardware Monday – a trophy he and assistant Jeff Rodgers received for winning Special Teams Coach of the Year from the Aguilar Kicking Academy. The academy sends ballots to every special teams coach in the NFL and Everest and his staff were the top vote getters.
And why not? Punter Andy Lee had a great 2007 season, finishing with a 41-yard net average, setting the record for punts inside the 20 yard line (42) and going to the Pro Bowl for the first time. Kicker Joe Nedney, meanwhile, was 17 of 19 on field goals and 22 of 22 on extra points.
In fact, the special teams as a whole had an excellent season. The only glaring red marks that come to mind are Allen Rossum’s kickoff return in Week 3 and Nedney’s slip-of-the-finger incident in Week 8. Oh, and they probably could have used a few more big returns, which is why they signed Rossum.
Rodgers, of course, is no longer with the 49ers having taken a job as Kansas State’s special teams coordinator. The 49ers have interviewed some candidates but have not yet settled on Rodgers’ replacement.
The NFL doled out 32 compensatory draft picks to 15 different teams. The 49ers, as expected, were not one of them. They'll go into the draft with six picks, the lowest total in the McCloughan-Nolan era. Compensatories are given based on a formula that essentially weighs free agents lost the year prior against free agents acquired. The 49ers brought in a lot of new faces in 2007 (Nate Clements, Michael Lewis, Aubrayo Franklin, Tully Banta-Cain, Ashley Lelie) and lost very few (Anthony Adams, Eric Johnson). Next year's draft, however, should net several compensatories for San Francisco, which has lost Justin Smiley, Kwame Harris, Maurice Hicks and Marques Douglas to free agency.
It's interesting to note that both Atlanta and Baltimore gained an extra third-round pick and that Baltimore has four compensatories total. Both of those teams are looking for a quarterback and might be interested in leap-frogging the Miami Dolphins at pick 32. The extra picks give those two teams more ability to wheel and deal with teams picking at the end of the first round such as the 49ers. (And, yes, I know teams can't trade their compensatory picks).
-- Matt Barrows