The San Francisco 49ers are in the search for a new head coach. An organization which has reached the NFC Championship game three times in the past four years is going in a different direction, moving on from Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh is unquestionably one of the best coaches at any level of football, but was fired after going 8-8 in 2014.
The split is anything but surprising, with constant reports of friction surfacing between Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke. The vacancy in San Francisco will easily be the most attractive of the five current openings with so much talent on the roster, headlined by Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Anquan Boldin and Colin Kaepernick.
So, who are the 49ers going to target? One name to keep in mind is offensive coordinator Adam Gase of the Denver Broncos. Gase has been in Denver for the past six seasons but before that, was a San Francisco offensive assistant in 2008. San Francisco is clearly in need of better offensive output in 2015, and Gase is seen as one of the top offensive minds in football.
In that same vein, Josh McDaniels and Mike Shanahan come to mind. McDaniels is currently the New England Patriots offensive coordinator and is getting a lot of play as a hot head coaching candidate. McDaniels screwed up his first chance horribly with the Broncos in 2009 and 2010, getting fired midway through his second season. McDaniels frustrated many players, including Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler, leading to their departures.
However, McDaniels is considered a top candidate because of his offensive background and age. Despite being in the league for 14 years, McDaniels is only 38 years old. If he has learned from previous missteps, he could be a nice long-term fit in the Bay Area.
Shanahan is another name which has come up in connection with the 49ers job. A two-time Super Bowl champion, Shanahan brings plenty of experience and credibility to a team that seems ready to make another championship chase. From 1992-94, Shanahan worked as San Francisco’s offensive coordinator before taking the head coaching job with Denver.
Shanahan has worked with mobile quarterbacks before as well, riding Robert Griffin III to an NFC East title in 2012 with the Washington Redskins. At 62 years old, does Shanahan want to make another four of five-year run at a third Super Bowl? Perhaps San Francisco’s roster will coax him out of retirement.
Other names to keep in mind are Dan Quinn and Todd Bowles, defensive coordinators with the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals, respectively. Bowles played for the 49ers in 1991 in between stints with Washington. Bowles would be the favorite between the two since he runs a 3-4 defense, something already in place in San Francisco. Quinn is a 4-3 man, requiring change in the front seven.