Coach and GM hirings could take a while
Two years ago, the 49ers were without a head coach for 16 days before they hired Jim Tomsula.
Last year, it took 10 days before their search ended with Chip Kelly.
This year? It appears the third time will be the longest.
Saturday marks 13 days since the 49ers fired Kelly, and his replacement’s introductory news conference probably isn’t imminent. The 49ers, the NFL’s only team with a head-coach vacancy, have three known remaining candidates and each is employed by a team in the playoffs. That means they can’t hire Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan or Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable, who will interview Sunday, until the candidate’s team is eliminated.
McDaniels and Shanahan are the most likely to land with the 49ers and they are also the most likely to have deep postseason runs. Both the Patriots (14-2) and Falcons (11-5) earned first-round byes and will host a divisional playoff game Saturday: New England will meet Houston, and Atlanta will play Seattle.
Despite the wait, the 49ers could be in a prime position to make a solid hire. McDaniels and Shanahan are well-respected offensive coaches, and the 49ers are now their only option if they want to be a head coach in 2017.
The potentially prolonged wait, however, does raise a concern: Would the new head coach be able to put together a decent staff given the number of assistant positions that have already been filled around the league? After all, five other teams have hired head coaches this week.
Former 49ers offensive coordinator Ted Tollner, 76, who spent seven combined seasons with the 49ers and Raiders during his 15-year NFL career, downplayed that as a major issue. Tollner said candidates typically have verbal agreements in place with other coaches, with the understanding they’ll be on staff if the candidate lands a head-coaching job.
“My guess is that each of those candidates that are left has at least a partial staff put together,” said Tollner, the former head coach at USC and San Diego State. “And then there will be some spots where they’ll still be looking. I’d be surprised if they don’t already have four or five guys in mind. Because it’s a big discussion in the interview process: ‘Who is going to coming with you? Who can you get?’ ”
The 49ers, of course, are also interviewing candidates for their general manager opening and that continued Friday as they spoke with Cardinals vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough. On Monday, they are scheduled to interview Seahawks co-directors of player personnel Scott Fitterer and Trent Kirchner, which will mark the last of their known interviews. Fitterer or Kirchner would presumably pair with Cable, who has been with Seattle since 2011.
The more likely scenario is the 49ers hire McDaniels or Shanahan, whose teams could conceivably meet in Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5.
That would mean the 49ers will have spent more than a month without a head coach, but Tollner said the wait will be worth it.
“If the pool of assistants that are available are less than what it would have been, that’s better than hiring someone that you didn’t really want,” Tollner said. “... If you’ve got a guy that you’re really excited about and he’s in the playoffs, that’s the most important thing. You’ve got to get the right person in place.”