Coach Walsh, bless his soul, was a stickler for all phases of the game...from QB to OL to DBs to DLs, etc....but NOT for STs. He never drafted, to my knowledge , a person explicitly used on STs. I don't recall where we got our punters, but place kickers he added as an afterthot. Think back and how many more SBs would Coach Walsh have won if he had been as insistent on great ST play as Coach Harbaugh has. Coach H believes in 3 phases of the game. O, D, AND ST. It is no secret that our STs this yr were all pro, from Akers to Ginn to Lee. Coach Walsh acquired ST players as an afterthot. Coach H has STs right there with O and D as equally important.. The Walsh 9ers had John Taylor returning punts, along with other WRs . Coach H had a designated PR in Ginn, and all would agree he was terrific.
So here comes a thot. Why not have Kyle Williams do as many practice punt returns as Ginn, so if Ginn is injured, we have a guy of equal ability. I don't blame Kyle for his errors. Why should he, in the heat of battle, know instinctively to get the hell out of the way of the football once it is on the ground? Answer: because he never really practiced it. So I am suggesting we carry a pair of WRs, both of whom get equal # of practice punts, and both of whom can play PR well. Kyle , if he was given instruction at all, probably didn't get much. Ginn got the huge majority of punts to field in practice. So don't blame Kyle Williams for the loss. It was flukey , as well as bad luck to lose Ginn, so late in the season. Kyle got little if no time practicing all phases of fielding punts. It was great that Coach H demanded quality STs. It was a fluke that was our weakest link going into the NFC championship. So this yr, let's see if Coach has a second WR he uses to practice fielding punts, and who learns the ins and outs of the trade...plus being a WR.
Just being a WR and fielding a punt doesn't cut it. Lots and lots of instruction and practice have to go into punt fielding. Kyle Williams isn't to blame here. The kid never got schooled nor did extensive practice at PR. It was bad luck. Coach had made provisions for strong STs. But this yr I bet he has a second PR who also gets instructed in the art of PR, and also catches lots of punts...as a backup if the same situation occurs this yr. Face it. STs got us a number of wins this yr. It was exciting to watch as no other SF coach had ever stressed STs. Harbaugh did and this is what he got for thanks. I bet he doubles down on PR this coming season,.