We all know that the day would be coming, but Jim Harbaugh is now out as the head coach in San Francisco. The 49ers didn’t make the playoffs this season, but they were just a few plays from playoff contention. Out of all of the coaching vacancies the job in San Francisco may be the most attractive.
The past three coaches Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary, and Jim Harbaugh were brought in all focused on defense, running the football, and keeping it close to the vest. Harbaugh had the most success winning 49 games and taking the team to a Super Bowl two seasons ago, but I always felt the 49ers could go up another gear. In large part I felt as if the offensive coordinator Greg Roman held the offense back, but at times a team can have too many weapons. With an offense bolstering a hall-of-fame worthy type of running back to team up with four different wide receivers that all have had at least 1,000 yard season as well as an all-pro tight end it’s tough to keep everyone happy.
The next head coach will have to complete that task, and get the offense on par to compete with the three of the toughest defenses in the NFL all in the NFC West. When looking at the San Francisco 49ers defense an upgrade at the cornerback position is needed, but I feel that the concern on that side of the ball should be minimal. When looking at other NFC West talent on offense, no team can really match up with the San Francisco 49ers talent level on the offensive side of the ball.
For some reason it didn’t click this season, but with the new regime it should put a focus on that area. If a defensive coach is hired, I feel that it would be a must to hire an offensive guru to help develop Colin Kaepernick and the offense, but the talent is there. With a deep roster on both sides of the ball the right coach can lead the Niners back to NFL supremacy, but the question is what coach or what kind of coach makes the most sense?
Let’s take a look at a few options:
Rex Ryan– Rex Ryan started off on the right track by taking the NY Jets to the AFC Championship in his first two seasons, but after that he failed to make the playoffs for four consecutive seasons. I feel that Rex’s personality would bode well in San Francisco, but I feel like Rex Ryan the coach would be inept to lead the team. The focus on defense and running the football would be a positive, but I would be worried about the development of Colin Kaepernick, since QB’s seem to regress under Ryan.
Mike Shanahan– I would be the first to say that it’s not 1994 (OC San Francisco), 1998 (Denver), or 1999 (Denver) meaning that Shanahan’s Super Bowl years are way behind him. I feel that Shanahan is a great football mind, but he wouldn’t be worth the risk to only have around for a year or two. Shanahan would be a great addition for the running game with the zone blocking scheme, but the way that Shanahan used RGIII’s skill set would cause concern on how he would use Colin Kaepernick. Yes, RGIII won Rookie of the Year in his first season with Shanahan, but injuries from the end of that season has continued to haunt RGIII.
Todd Bowles– Todd Bowles would be just what the doctor ordered to fix the issues in the secondary. The 49ers have arguably the best safety combo in the NFL next to Seattle, but the cornerback play is….meh. I think that with Bowles familiarity with the NFC West makes him a legit candidate, but he will have to hire an offensive guru to help run the offense.
Adam Gase– Adam Gase is currently the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, and yet again he had one of the best offenses in the NFL. I believe that Gase will make a great head coach someday, but I am not sure for what team. Gase may have Peyton Manning in Denver, but he has shown the ability to adapt the playbook during Manning’s recent struggles. I think Gase’s variety of passing packages would benefit the WR/TE core, but the knock on Gase is the lack of experience.
Vic Fangio– Familiarity could be a good or bad thing, and in this case I think it could be a good thing. Vic Fangio knows the 49ers inside and out, and he has been arguably the best defensive coordinator in the NFL over the past four seasons. With Fangio already in San Francisco the strongest part of the team, which is the defense wouldn’t have to change anything scheme wise, and it would be just up for the GM Trent Baalke to add pieces in the secondary. I feel that without Fangio as the defensive coordinator, the 49ers would not have 49 wins (including the playoffs) over the past four seasons. If Fangio is hired, he would have to hire an offensive coordinator that could sort of coddle and develop Colin Kaepernick in the appropriate way.
Candidate X– In all head coaching searches there is always a wildcard on who could be hired. Organizations like to find up and coming coaches who fly under the radar. Many of the aforementioned names are dominating the headlines as far as the search for the head coach goes, but keep an eye on the coaches who could sneak in at the last-minute.
These are a few names that have been thrown into the hat to coach the San Francisco 49ers, what coach makes the most sense to fill Jim Harbaugh’s shoes?
My answer is Candidate X– I feel that the 49ers need to step outside of the box and hire someone innovative like a Chip Kelly type or someone that can bring an entirely new energy to the team and organization. The question is whose out there.