San Francisco 49ers: The Search for the Perfect Head Coach


The dust has settled somewhat, San Francisco 49ers fans. Ok, let’s breathe. That’s good. He’s in Michigan now. Breathe. He was 44-19-1. Breathe. Are you still alive? Good. Now we will move on.

The national media has portrayed this as an unbelievable turn of events. Most are shocked that the 49ers would allow Jim Harbaugh, with his recent results, to leave the organization. But therein lies the rub. If his win-loss record were flipped and he still had the same record, we may not be talking about a replacement head coach.

If Harbaugh started out 8-8, fans and the organization would have accepted that as growing pains. “Give him a little time,” most would say. But instead, he came out of the gate 13-3, and that set the bar. Expectations only grew from there, and with that pesky team up north as successful and brash as ever, one could see this move coming.

This isn’t the first time a successful 49ers coach exited while seemingly on top. George Seifert was replaced by Steve Mariucci after going 12-4 his final year with the team. When the 49ers organization does not see progress, they move on.

It’s a fine line to walk, and it sets your next coach up for failure. The comparisons will surely be pointed out if the team starts out poorly. There will be those that say “Harbaugh couldn’t get the play in on time, but he won.” What exactly did he win? The Super Bowl?

Players, coaches, or even fans of the 49ers have expectations higher than most teams. So without a Super Bowl victory, and with the team headed in the wrong direction, this is the outcome.

What it all means is it’s easier to part ways with a coach that just went 8-8. Ranking 20th in the league in offense this year, which should be Harbaugh’s strong side of the ball, should not go unnoticed. Whether the blame is on Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Greg Roman, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, or all three, the head coach has the most influence on success. So they also get most of the blame.

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The 49ers have developed a culture of success that mocks teams that are consistently drafting in the top 10. A 49er employee saying the word “rebuild” is like saying Voldemort’s name or Candyman three times. Forbidden.

Now on that note, who is going to lead this rebuild…I mean, reloading process? Some are calling for a promotion of either defensive coordinator Vic Fangio or defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. That would only make sense if the team also brings in a strong offensive coordinator to pair the offense with.

The case can be made for the possible father-son package of Mike and Kyle Shanahan. Mike Shanahan would bring the team a dimension that it has seemed to shy away from lately: focus on the running game. When Mike Shanahan was coach of the Denver Broncos, his successes were ridden on the coattails of a good runner, Terrell Davis, and a mobile quarterback, John Elway.

Kyle Shanahan would provide stability, as he would assume the head coaching duties once his dad was ready to leave the game. Then, there is no need for a new playbook or different schemes to learn. If all parties are willing to stay within their job titles, there could be a match with the Shanahans and the 49ers.

Next: San Francisco 49ers: Pick Your Staff