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Former Browns special teams coach Brad Seely: I left for a better opportunity in San Francisco

Jan 30, 2013 -- 2:54pm


By Tony Grossi


Extra Points …

On to better things: Where does the time go?

Seems like yesterday when Brad Seely was coaching the Browns’ special teams to the top of the league rankings. Now Seely is in the Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers and the Browns are on their second coaching regime since he left in 2010.

Yes, the Eric Mangini regime begat the Pat Shurmur regime, which begat the Rob Chudzinski regime, along with a new front office composed of CEO Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi, vice president of player personnel.

Seely sat at an interview table in the 49ers’ team hotel Wednesday morning and shook his head.

“I don’t know. That’ll be interesting,” Seely said. “It’s always fun to watch as an outsider to see how they do because you’ve been there. I feel for the people in the building. I hope they do well because there’s a lot of good people in that building. So it’ll be fun to watch.

“There’s just got to be some stability. You can’t keep changing. Change isn’t always the best.”

Seely said he had a chance to stay in Cleveland after Mangini was fired and replaced by Shurmur. But when Jim Harbaugh of San Francisco called, it was not a difficult decision for him to leave.

“He was a friend of mine and I didn’t think they treated him right. It’s always hard to stay when a friend is released,” Seely said.

The Browns were ranked No. 1 and No. 3 overall in the respected Rick Gosselin Special Teams rankings in 2009 and 2010. Seely took his magic to San Francisco and improved the 49ers to No. 1 in 2011. The Browns tumbled to 26th in 2011, the first year that Chris Tabor replaced Seely. In 2012, Tabor’s ‘teams improved to 14th – a notch ahead of Seely’s.

Tabor was given a contract extension to stay after Shurmur was replaced by Chudzinski.

And Seely is here for his fifth Super Bowl. Four came with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.

Waiting his turn: Seely also coached the No. 1 special teams unit with Carolina in 1996. So that means he has taken three different teams – under three head coaches – to the top. Seely frequently has been mentioned as a qualified head coach candidate, but he has received only one interview for the job – last season with the Indianapolis Colts.

Like all the assistant coaches whose teams advanced deep into this season’s playoffs, Seely watched all the head coach vacancies get filled while he was still tied up with the pursuit of the Super Bowl.

“Sometimes it is (a negative) because you’re busy,” Seely said of the NFL hiring process.

Out of eight head coach vacancies, seven went to offensive-minded candidates. Other times, the trend is toward defensive coordinators.

“It’s all about the quarterbacks,” Seely said. “Somebody’s got to figure out what we do (as special teams coaches) is we manage time and people. That’s what head coaches do – manage time and people. So we should be good at that compared to offensive and defensive coordinators because I manage everybody. I think a head coach is a little bit like a CEO.”

The irony of Sunday’s matchup between the 49ers and Ravens is that Seely sees the Baltimore coaching Harbaugh – not the San Francisco one for whom he works --  as sort of a champion for special teams coaches everywhere because that’s where John's speciality was for the bulk of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Speaking for the fraternity of NFL special teams coaches, Seely said, “(John Harbaugh) has been able to make that move and he’s been successful so we all look to him. We all appreciate him.”

Add, Cleveland: This is Seely’s 24th consecutive year as an NFL assistant coach. He’s been with six teams. I asked him how he reflected on his two seasons in Cleveland.

“They were very enjoyable except we didn’t win enough games and that’s why we’re not there anymore,” he said. “I enjoyed the staff there. I enjoyed our players. We had a lot of way to come from where we started. I thought we were on the right track. Obviously the guys in charge did not.”

Will they ever get it right in Cleveland, I asked him.

“Until you get a quarterback, you’ve got no chance,” Seely responded. “Maybe they have it. I don’t know.”

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi


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