Niners' Kelly Has Options for His Defensive Coordinator - NBC Bay Area


Coverage of the San Francisco 49ers

Niners' Kelly Has Options for His Defensive Coordinator

Reports indicate new head coach could keep Mangini or go outside the organization, with Texans' Mike Vrabel a candidate



    Better Sleep = Better Grades
    Getty Images
    Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel will interview with new 49ers head coach Chip Kelly, according to reports. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    New 49ers head coach Chip Kelly is expected to bring in multiple assistants over the next few weeks to fill out his staff, but one key member of former coach Jim Tomsula’s may stick around.

    Several reports Monday indicated that Kelly may retain defensive coordinator Eric Mangini.

    Alex Marvez of Fox Sports tweeted Monday that, "Source tells @NFLonFox there’s ‘strong possibility’ Eric Mangini returns as @49ers defensive coordinator. Makes sense w/his 3-4 background."

    Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles ran a 3-4 defense, as did his Oregon teams, and so did Mangini in 2015 with the 49ers.

    Plus, retaining Mangini would give the defense some continuity while the offense – Kelly’s main focus – gets a major overhaul.

    Although the 49ers defense wasn’t a great unit in 2015 – allowing the fourth-most yards in the NFL at 387.4 yards per game – it had been decimated by losses of such players as Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, Aldon Smith, Ray McDonald, Justin Smith and Chris Culliver before the season, and then starting safety Antoine Bethea during the year. With the draft and free agency to re-stock and more time to establish his system, Mangini’s unit has a chance to improve in 2016.

    Yet Kelly also is reported to be meeting with former Patriots standout linebacker Mike Vrabel for the defensive coordinator position. According to Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, Kelly is interviewing Tuesday with Vrabel, who has been the linebackers coach of the Houston Texans the past two seasons.

    Since his retirement from New England as a player, Vrabel has coached at Ohio State and under head coach Bill O’Brien at Houston. Vrabel never has been a defensive coordinator, but his many years with Bill Belichick in New England, Urban Meyer at Ohio State and O’Brien with the Texans give him plenty of experience under defensive-oriented head coaches and the 3-4 scheme.

    According to, Vrabel has done a good job with the Texans linebacking corps, helping Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney and John Simon improve

    Vrabel told a reporter in Houston during training camp before this past season that his linebackers were more likely to tune into what he had to say because he was a successful linebacker himself, having won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots. But, he said, they have to see results for him to keep his credibility.

    "I think anytime a coach can show players a way to make them better, I think they’re going to listen," Vrabel said. "They’re going to buy in. So when they see results, I think they tend to listen a little bit, and if they don’t see results, they’re going to start blocking you out."

    Get the latest from NBC Bay Area anywhere, anytime
    • Download the App

      Available for IOS and Android