Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower Press Conference

Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower

Press Conference – December 1, 2021

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“I just want to start off by telling you guys what [former 49ers special teams assistant] Stan Kwan meant to me. Obviously, you guys got the news. He was a great man, a great sense of humor and a loving spirit. We spent, coach [former special teams assistant and current Philadelphia Eagles special teams coordinator Michael] Clay and I spent more time with Kwan than anybody in this building. And Kwan was a legend. He is a legend and all the players love him. And I got numerous amounts of text messages on him, his family as well. I know he’s in a better place and like his family said to me, I know he’s looking down smiling on all his colleagues and all his players and we definitely appreciate him and he was definitely a joy to be around.”

How did he maybe influence you either as a coach or a man or both?

“I don’t have enough time to answer how much he influenced me because he was there from the start and I’ve been knowing Kwan a long time even through special teams world. Always kind, always a gentlemen and we were just blessed to be around him, but he influenced me in so many ways with so many different ideas. And ‘Hey, you might want to think about this’ and having a guy that was a former coordinator when I first started, I can’t put a value on it.”

Coming off of this last game, I’m sure you have a lot of coaching points to share with your guys. Where do you start?

“Yeah. You just start like where, nothing really, you don’t make a huge deal out of something. Obviously we had a terrible play in the ball game and we can’t have that happen, but we just go back to technique and fundamentals and basic. We have to make a tackle at all costs. We knew that kid was a really good player going in and they made a better play than we made. The sky’s not falling down. We’re not going to push the panic button. We’re going to go right back to work like we always have and we’re going to try to make sure that that doesn’t happen again. Just like I say every week, we’re going to try to set the defense up and put them in good field position and try to set the offense up. And obviously we didn’t do that on that play and they made a better play than us on that play.”

The TV cameras caught you getting emotional during the course of that. What’s going through your mind as you’re seeing that unfold?

“The main thing that goes through my mind when anything bad happens in a game is how it affected the team. That’s what I care about the most. I’m an emotional dude by nature, but I’m also a passionate guy by nature. I believe in my players, I believe in the coaches, I believe in everybody that’s out on the field. And I believe that when we get back out there again we’ll prove that that was one play and it is not going to define us. That’s our goal. So that’s what’s going through my head is letting the team down at that moment when they’re depending on us to do something. That’s what goes through my head.”

Did you intend to kick to him on that second one? Because he had popped the one before halftime there too. Did you want to give him another opportunity or was that supposed to be a touchback?

“We try to move the ball around in different situations, in different plays that are usually different. The one that was popped to him, obviously we don’t want that ball in that guy’s hands at all. But we do believe in our coverage guys. So it’s not on one person on that. And I guess if you, if you’re asking should it be a touchback? I mean, we’ve got to cover and we didn’t cover on that play and it’s our job to cover and it’s my job to get them to cover.”

Did guys get out of their gaps or did guys just not get off blocks? What happened?

“So on that play, if you go back, and you guys can go back and look at it, but we just didn’t get to the football. That’s the bottom line. We didn’t get to the football. And we’ve got to do a better job of getting to the football and I’ve got to do a better job helping them get to the football. It’s no one person. They blocked us and they did a good job of blocking us.”

One of your core players, LB Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, could have a bigger role on defense this week. When that happens, do you expect that the special teams role lessons, and if that is the case, who would kind of step into his special teams role against Seattle?

“That’s a constant battle that special teams coaches always deal with. And it’s something that when they play more or some of those core guys, if they play more and when they play more, we’ve got to try to make sure we do what’s best for the team. Keep them fresh for defense or offense, keep them fresh for special teams. And that’s something that we dealt with last year when a lot of guys went down, and we kind of dealt with it last game too, but it’s not an excuse. When guys go down, we believe in the guys that go in there to go in there and they have to have the confidence and we have the confidence in them and they have to go make plays. The bottom line is making plays and I’m never going to steer away from that. I’m never going to make excuses. Whoever’s on the field, we have to make plays.”

K Robbie Gould, can you talk at all about just the game went for him and his health, how he’s coming along?

“Yeah. Robbie Gould is doing good. His health is good. He’s fine. He did a good job in the ball game with the pop kick. He popped that one kick after the penalty where you see [TE] Charlie [Woerner] make the tackle there inside the 20-yard line at the 17. So he executed that situation perfectly. He had another kickoff in the game that was a touchback. So that was outstanding. And then he had his field goals and extra points. He was really good on those up until the last one and he hit the ball with good contact. It’s just football. He just missed it. And I know he’d love to have it back and we would all love to have it back, but we’ve got a ton of confidence in Robbie Gould. He’s made a number of game-winning kicks for us and we expect him to do it if it comes down to the wire in Seattle, and I know he’s ready to do it. That’s one thing I know about him is he can’t wait to go back and kick another one.”