New Bears head coach Matt Eberflus continues to fill out his first staff. Chicago has hired Richard Hightower as its special teams coordinator, the team announced.
This move qualifies as something of a surprise. Hightower had served as the 49ers’ ST coordinator since 2017, joining the Niners when Kyle Shanahan accepted the team’s head coaching post. The two men were college teammates at the University of Texas, and they also worked together on coaching staffs in Houston, Washington, and Cleveland, so it may have been difficult for Eberflus to prise Hightower away from San Francisco.
On the other hand, the 49ers’ special teams units generally struggled over the past several years and ranked 26th in the league in terms of DVOA in 2021, so Shanahan may have been more willing to let his longtime colleague depart than he might have been in years past. Still, Hightower remains a respected coach, and from 2017-19, San Francisco’s kicking unit ranked first in the NFL in made field goals (102) and fourth in field goal percentage (89.5). The club’s punt coverage ranked second in the league over that three-year span (h/t 49ers.com). Of course, Hightower’s charges also played a pivotal role in the Niners’ upset of the Packers in this year’s divisional round matchup, blocking a field goal on the final play of the first half and returning a blocked punt for the team’s only touchdown.
Rich Bisaccia was recently considered the favorite for the Bears’ ST coordinator post, and as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets, Bisaccia was indeed the first choice. It sounds as if Eberflus would have been willing to let Chris Tabor, who worked as Chicago’s special teams coordinator from 2018-21, to continue in his role, but Tabor jumped ship to the Panthers.
Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, among others, believes this move means that Bisaccia will be heading to Green Bay (Twitter link). We heard just yesterday that the Packers are in talks with Bisaccia about their own ST coordinator vacancy.
Hightower, 41, worked as Chicago’s assistant special teams coordinator in 2016. He has 15 years of coaching experience in the NFL.
Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network first reported that the Bears were hiring Hightower (via Twitter).