Oakland Raiders Hire Brad Seely as Special Teams Coordinator


July 24, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers special teams coordinator/assistant head coach Brad Seely during training camp at the SAP Performance Facility. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In another surprising coaching hire, the Raiders have hired Brad Seely, formerly of the 49ers, as their special teams coordinator, this coming only a day after reports had them linked to former Bears ST coach Joe DeCamillis, who was hired earlier in the day by Greg Kubiak to the Denver Broncos staff.

Seely is a veteran special teams coach, having spent 26 seasons coaching special teams in the NFL after a decade working with offensive lines in the college ranks. He began his college career at South Dakota State in 1978, and worked at six different college programs over the next decade, with his final stop coming at Oklahoma State University, where he spent five years in the 1980’s.

During his tenure at Oklahoma State, his offensive lines blocked for both Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders, and in his final year Barry Sanders amassed an astounding 2,628 yards and 37 TD’s. Seely’s next job would be in the pros.

In 1989, Seely was hired as the special teams coordinator and Tight Ends coach of the Indianapolis Colts under head coach Ron Meyer. Seely spent five years in Indianapolis, surviving the firing of Meyer, who was replaced by Ted Marchibroda. In his five years in Indy, Colts return specialist made the Pro Bowl twice, scored five return TD’s, and once led the league in punt return average.

After his run with the Colts, Seely spent a year on Pete Carroll’s staff with the Jets before joining Dom Capers’ staff on the expansion Carolina Panthers (along with Vic Fanigio and Greg Roman). In 1996, Michael Bates joined the team, and began a run as one of the greatest kickoff return specialists of the 1990’s under Seely, making three consecutive Pro Bowls and being named All-Pro twice. Kicker John Kasay was also a Pro Bowl selection and an All-Pro in 1996, making 37 of 45 field goal attempts on the year.

The Panthers allowed a league-low 5.6 yards per punt return in 1996 as well, and for his efforts, Seely was named Special Teams Coach of the Year. Punt returner Winslow Oliver also had a nice run with Seely in Carolina, averaging 10.7 yards per return and amassing 1,750 all purpose yards over three years despite missing 10 games in 1997.

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  • In 1999, Seely re-joined Pete Carroll, this time in New England, where Seely would start the longest run of his career with a single team. He survived the change from Carroll to Belichick in 2000, and remained on Belichick’s staff until after the 2008 season. Kevin Faulk had 4,855 total return yards with Seely as his coach, and Troy Brown had 2,273, and the two combined for five return TD’s in the time they both worked with him. Bethel Johnson amassed over 2,500 yards and two return TD’s in three years with Seely. Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Laurence Mulroney and Ellis Hobbs also turned in effective performances as returners on Seely’s kick and punt return units – especially on the kickoff return team. But Seely’s most impressive accomplishment is his work with a young kicker named Adam Vinatieri.

    Vinatieri was in his fourth NFL season when Seely joined the Patriots’ staff, and was already a pretty capable young kicker, hitting 80% of his field goals. In seven years with Seely, Vinatieri would become one of the most recognizable and storied kickers in NFL history. Vinatieri was clutch in the 2001 playoffs, hitting the game-winner in the snow in the Tuck Rule game, then hitting the game-winner in the Super Bowl a few weeks later. In 2002, Vinatieri had his first of two Golden Toe, All-Pro and Pro Bowl seasons under Seely, hitting 90% of his field goals on the year.

    In 2003, Vinatieri kicked the game winning field goal in the Super Bowl again, then followed it up with another Golden Toe/All-Pro/Pro Bowl campaign, making nearly 94% of his field goals in 2004 as the Patriots went to and won their third Super Bowl in four years. During the 2004 campaign, Vinatieri also threw a TD pass on a fake field goal.

    Vinatieri left the Pats after the 2005 season as the all-time leading scorer in franchise history, and has gone on to several successful seasons with the Colts. Vinatieri’s successor, Stephen Gostkowski, was also an All-Pro under Seely’s watch, and made the first of his three Pro Bowl appearances. Special teams ace Larry Izzo also spent the bulk of his career with Seely, and was named All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl in 2002 and in 2004 as a designated special teamer.

    The Patriots, during Seely’s tenure, were year in and year out one of the best in the league at kickoff returns, punt returns and in ten years his units returned eleven touchdowns, including eight kickoff return TD’s. After this long and highly successful tenure, he left New England to join fellow former New England assistant Eric Mangini as Assistant Head Coach and Special Teams Coordinator of the Cleveland Browns.

    In Cleveland in 2009, Seely had the opportunity to work with Josh Cribbs, already an established return specialist. Cribbs, who had been an All-Pro and a Pro Bowl selection in 2007, returned to form in his first year with Seely, recording 1,992 return yards and a career-high four return TD’s, three of which came on kickoff returns. The Browns used two different punters and two different kickers in 2009, and got solid results from each, especially in the kicking game, where Phil Dawson and Billy Cundiff combined to make 23 of 25 field goal attempts on the year.

    The Browns punt and kick coverage units were solid as well, holding opponents to 6.6 yard per punt return and 18.9 yards per kick return. In 2010, Josh Cribbs took a big step back, partially due to a serious concussion suffered on a hit from the Steelers’ James Harrison, and partially due to opposing teams simply kicking away from him. But the Browns also held opposing punt returners to a mere 7.1 yards per return and Phil Dawson hit 82.1% of his field goals. After the year, Mangini was out as head coach, and his staff with him, and Seely was on to San Francisco.

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    Seely has spent the last four seasons in San Francisco working on Jim Harbaugh’s staff, and on his watch the 49ers special teams were one of the best units in the league, if not the flat out best. In 2011, his first year there, both kicker David Akers and punter Andy Lee made the Pro Bowl and were named All-Pro. Akers set the single-season record for field goals with 44 that season, Ted Ginn had 1,266 return yards and two TD’s, and opponents averaged just 8.1 yards per punt return against the 49ers.

    For his efforts in 2011, Seely was voted Special Teams Coach of the Year for the second time. In 2012, the 49ers again boasted strong special teams, as Andy  Lee led the league in net punting average (42.1) and was named All-Pro for the second consecutive year. Opponents averaged a mere 6.9 yards per punt return.

    In 2013, Seely was re-united with Phil Dawson, his former Browns kicker, who made 88.9% of his field goals that year, while Andy Lee turned in another solid season and LaMichael James averaged 10.9 yards per punt return. This past season was a bit of a down year for Seely’s units, part of a general malaise that affected the 49ers this year as the team went 8-8. Seely decided today to not remain in San Francisco on Jim Tomsula’s staff, and has crossed the bridge to Oakland to work for Jack Del Rio.

    In Seely, the Raiders have landed the most decorated and accomplished Special Teams Coordinator in the league. Seely is an instant improvement over Bobby April and is definitely a better hire than Joe DeCamillis.

    While Special Teams Coordinators may not be very visible to fans and the media, they are hugely important to teams, especially teams that have philosophies involving controlling the ball and playing great defense. Special Teams dictate field position and generate good field position for the offense, and they create scoring opportunities where offense can not.

    In Seely, the Raiders will get a coach who’s teams have always protected the ball, always covered well, always kicked accurately, and always been a threat to run back punts and kickoffs. Seely will undoubtedly shape the game of the young Marquette King, and may also be a shot in the [leg] for the veteran Janikowski, who still has plenty of power in his left leg but has struggled with his accuracy in the past few years. Seely inherets a quality long snapper in Jon Condo, and will develop coverage specialists in the way he did with Larry Izzo in New England. Look for the Raiders’ special teams to improve dramatically in 2015.