I had a conversation with the late Bill Walsh one day about what had become of the offense he created in San Francisco. It got better. Mike Shanahan, who had lost his head coaching job with Oakland and later moved on to become the 49ers’ offensive coordinator, was now working such wonders with the offense that even Walsh was amazed.
“Mike’s doing things with the offense that I could have never imagined,” Walsh said that day.
With Shanahan directing traffic, the 49ers scored an NFL-leading 505 points in 1994. They won the Super Bowl, burying the San Diego Chargers 49-26. Steve Young threw six touchdown passes.
It’s clear San Francisco wants to bring that kind of attack back to the Bay Area. Kyle Shanahan, the Falcons’ offensive coordinator and Mike’s son, has emerged as the top candidate to become the Niners’ next head coach, according to the San Jose Mercury News. That became apparent when New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels confirmed Monday morning that he withdrew his candidacy for the position, although it’s not clear whether he didn’t want the job or learned he was the second choice to Shanahan.
UPDATE: The San Francisco Chronicle reported that McDaniels could’ve had the 49ers job but had a change of heart. Here’s excerpt: “… McDaniels’ reluctance to move his family across the country was also influenced by the 49ers’ recent instability. The 49ers have fired their head coach after each of the past three seasons, and have dismissed their head coach in each of their past four non-winning seasons…”
Shanahan, whose scheme and work with quarterback Matt Ryan enabled the Falcons to score a a franchise record 540 points this season, has already interviewed with San Francisco once. NFL rules prohibit the team from speaking to him again until following next week’s NFC championship game against Green Bay. He said in a recent interview that he loves his current situation and living in Atlanta and would not take just any head coaching offer.
So the question: Would he take the San Francisco job? The franchise has a tremendous history, with five Super Bowl titles and a string of Hall of Famers, including quarterbacks Joe Montana and Young. But the current 49ers are a mess.
There is a meddling and bumbling owner in Jed York, the nephew of former owner Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. The roster has lost most of the talent that enabled it to go to three straight NFC title games and a Super Bowl under former coach Jim Harbaugh. It has no obvious quarterback to build around (Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder).
The 49ers recently fired coach Chip Kelly, who held the position for only one season, like predecessor Jim Tomsula. They also fired general manager Trent Balke and are going through interviews to replace him.
Would Shanahan want to step into that situation? Or would he prefer to come back for another season with the Falcons’ offense in the belief that a better coaching job might come open next season?
Should he get offered the position, it won’t be an easy decision. At the least, he would have to be convinced by the 49ers that he would be given some time to turn things around and that he has a true partnership with the incoming general manager, similar to the Dan Quinn-Thomas Dimitroff partnership with the Falcons.
This much is certain: Shanahan has leverage. It’s not a job he should feel the need to jump at.
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Some previous reading on Shanahan:
- Suddenly, nobody wants Kyle Shanahan to leave
- Watching film with Matt Ryan in offseason: What went wrong?
- Matt Ryan says he remains confident in Shanahan, offense
- Kyle Shanahan, the coach’s son, has endured jabs
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