Since Jim Harbaugh became head coach, the 49ers can count their blessings for a number of reasons.
First Alex Smith and then Colin Kaepernick developed into strong quarterbacks. Oldsters such as Frank Gore and Justin Smith have continued to play at the top of their games. The offensive line has melded into one of the NFL’s best. And GM Trent Baalke has consistently brought in a new crop of top-line talent each year.
But also near the top of the list is Harbaugh’s coaching staff, which has had remarkable continuity. Usually, a winning franchise gets plucked of its top assistants year after year during good times. But offensive coordinator Greg Roman, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, special teams/assistant head coach Brad Seely, quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst, defensive line coach Jim Tomsula and secondary coach Ed Donatell, among others, have remained in place ever since Harbaugh came aboard from Stanford for the 2011 season.
Now the 49ers have taken steps to keep Fangio in San Francisco through 2015.
Fangio’s contract was set to expire after this coming season, but the 49ers have extended his deal through 2015 to coincide with the final year of Harbaugh’s deal. As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee noted in reporting the extension, the 49ers also kept Donatell aboard with a two-year extension agreed to a few weeks ago, which keeps him on the staff as heir apparent if Fangio should be lured away after 2014.
Roman, Fangio, Donatell and Tomsula all have interviewed for other jobs since coming to the 49ers, but all have stayed put – an amazing continuity in a league where coaching staffs constantly are changing.
As Barrows noted in his story about Fangio’s extension deal, the 49ers defense has ranked in the top five of NFL defenses in all three years since taking over the unit, after it ranked between 13th and 15th in the three years before.
An extension and raise for Fangio is something Harbaugh has been lobbying for. Back in early March, Harbaugh told Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated: “He (Fangio) has not had a raise since he’s been here. Focus on that.”
In that story, Harbaugh said he was satisfied with his own salary and not looking to move elsewhere before his deal expires.
In fact, it sounds as if Harbaugh is content to stay in San Francisco with the coaching staff he has to fulfill his five-year deal.
“What I do know is this: I make plenty of money,” he told Rosenberg. “And I don’t do five times as much work as any other coach on the staff. I get paid extremely well. Jed York has always been square with me. I don’t think about that as an issue. … I’ve seen it written like fact: ‘Harbaugh wants to be the highest-paid coach in football,’ or ‘desperately covets a new contract.’ For the record: I make plenty of money. I mean, plenty of money.”
And, for now, Fangio will make more as well, keeping him on the staff with Roman – who signed an extension in 2013 to take him through 2015 as well.
One of the ironies for Fangio and Roman is that the more the 49ers win, the less opportunity they have to interview for jobs during the postseason while their team remains alive. And the 49ers have gone to a Super Bowl and three straight NFC title games during their tenure.
Roman reportedly was liked for several head coaching jobs after the 2012 season, but couldn’t interview for them.
“It’s a little bit of irony – the more you win, the less chance you have of getting those jobs,” Roman said in 2013. “I was talking on the phone with my agent, David Dunn, and he told me that, and I said, ‘So wait a second. You’re telling me that if we win, I lose?' ”
Yet his and Fangio’s loss of opportunity has been a big win for the 49ers and their coaching continuity.