S.F. desperately needs to hire leader who can revive moribund attack
The 49ers received two pieces of great news Wednesday when the Broncos hired Miami defensive coordinator Vance Joseph as their head coach and the Bills did the same with Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.
The transactions mean the 49ers, who had some level of interest in both coaches, will be forced to go offensive as they begin a rebuild that will hinge on their ability to identify and groom a young quarterback.
Barring an unforeseen development, the 49ers’ next head coach will have an offensive background.
With Joseph and McDermott off the board — and Washington offensive coordinator Sean McVay (to the Rams) and Buffalo offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn (to the Chargers) getting new jobs Thursday — the 49ers’ three known
remaining candidates are Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable and offensive coordinators Josh McDaniels (New England) and Kyle Shanahan (Atlanta).
Cable is scheduled to interview Sunday, but none of the three can be hired until his respective team is eliminated from the playoffs. .
The 49ers, of course, hired offensive-minded Chip Kelly last year and fired him after a 2-14 season.
So what will be different with the next offensive hire? The new head coach won’t work with general manager Trent Baalke, whose prolonged inattention to the 49ers’ skill positions helps explain why they’ve ranked 31st in total offense the past two seasons and don’t have a young, in-development quarterback on the roster.
In other words, the next head coach, unlike Kelly, won’t be doomed to fail — at least in theory.
Consider the 49ers scored the fewest points (238) in the NFL in 2015 and Baalke did little to bolster the lifeless attack for Kelly. In free agency, Baalke signed one offensive starter, guard Zane Beadles, a replacement for Alex Boone, and then came last year’s headscratching draft. The 49ers didn’t select a quarterback, running back or wide receiver until the sixth round.
It was, in many ways, a typical draft for Baalke. After assuming generalmanager duties in 2010, he drafted six defensive backs in the first three rounds and five players from these positions: quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end.
Niners CEO Jed York referenced the odd marriage the day after firing Kelly and Baalke.
“In my vision of Chip and Trent working together, I think it’s clear that Trent probably has more of a defensive mind,” York said. “You know, pairing him with an offensiveminded guy, having those guys be partners and working together and being able to scout players that fit Chip’s system and being able to do things that build a defense …”
The new regime presumably will place an emphasis on upgrading an offense that hasn’t wowed the NFL in more than a decade. The 49ers, Titans and Dolphins are the only teams that haven’t ranked among the league top 10 in either points or yardage in the past 13 seasons.
It’s a galling statistic for a franchise whose fiveSuper Bowl dynasty was built on offensive innovation. And it’s why Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young has called for the team to hire a head coach who can reignite what fueled the glory days.
“Please don’t bring in a defensive guy into San Francisco,” Young said on KNBR last week. “Don’t bring in an offensive guy to Pittsburgh. Don’t bring in an offensive guy to Chicago. It’s just, there are places that have a heritage and it just doesn’t resonate.”
It appears Young will get his wish given the 49ers’ remaining candidates.
The 49ers are the only team still seeking a head coach after the Rams made McVay, 30, the youngest head coach in modern NFL history and the Chargers hired Lynn.
It could be setting up as an ideal situation for the 49ers in the opinion of former NFL quarterback Chris Simms, who has ties to McDaniels and Shanahan.
Simms played for Denver in 2009 when McDaniels was the Broncos’ head coach. He then worked under McDaniels as a low-level New England offensive assistant during an 18-month stint that began in 2012. Simms spent 2004-05 in Tampa Bay with Shanahan, who was an offensive assistant.
“To me, when you talk about offensive minds in football, it’s (New Orleans head coach) Sean Payton, Josh McDaniels and Kyle Shanahan,” said Simms, an analyst for CBS and Bleacher Report. “I would say those are the three guys at the top of the list for my money right now.”