After the 49ers and head coach Jim Harbaugh parted ways following the 2014 season, the Niners went on a nationwide search, interviewing a slew of candidates. Young coordinators such as Adam Gase and Josh McDaniels were in the mix, along with veterans like Mike Holmgren and Mike Shanahan.
In the end, San Francisco went in a completely different direction and promoted defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.
Now, as the team searches for a replacement for Tomsula, the process seems to be taking a similar turn.
After interviews with Hue Jackson – deemed the early front-runner – and Chip Kelly, Dirk Koetter, John DeFilippo, Anthony Lynn and Tom Coughlin, it appears the Niners may be going to a Plan B again. Jackson has been signed by the Browns, Koetter may get the Bucs job, Coughlin is being heavily courted by the Eagles and Kelly may not have been a good fit. Now it’s being reported that the team is circling back to show heavy interest in one of its candidates from its last search, Shanahan.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported Thursday morning that the 49ers interviewed Shanahan on Tuesday. “Since then, interest has ramped up considerably,” Rapoport tweeted. ESPN also reported that Shanahan is “strongly in the mix.”
Shanahan, a former head coach in Oakland, Denver and Washington, is 63. He’s been away from coaching for two seasons.
If the 49ers are looking for experience, Shanahan fits that mold, having been a head coach for 20 NFL seasons. He has a 170-138 regular-season record, a 14-8 postseason mark and has won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos following the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
He also has a strong link to the 49ers, having been the team’s offensive coordinator under George Seifert from 1992-94.
However, his last job in Washington didn’t work out. In four seasons he had just one winning year and was fired after going 3-13 in 2013.
One plus for Shanahan, according to several analysts, might be Shanahan’s experience developing quarterbacks. He helped Steve Young in San Francisco, John Elway in Denver and Robert Griffin III in Washington until Griffin was injured. The Niners, of course, still have Colin Kaepernick on the roster. If they want to keep him, they’ll want a coach who can help turn him around or to aid in the continued development of Blaine Gabbert.
The question is, if Shanahan is hired, how will he work with CEO Jed York and GM Trent Baalke? Shanahan in the past has had far more power than most head coaches. Would he work well under York and Baalke?
ESPN’s Dianna Marie Russini indicated a pairing with Shanahan is looking more likely. Tweeted Russini late Wednesday night: “Looks like they (49ers) are close to making a decision per sources.”