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For almost a year now, the general consensus has been that the San Francisco 49ers are a dysfunctional organization that seems to be imploding before our very eyes. After all, the front office pushed out a coach that went 44-19-1 and won five playoff games in favor of a defensive line coach who sweats a lot. Then, they suffered through an unprecedented offseason that saw established veterans depart one after another, leaving significant holes on the roster. Not surprisingly, the 2015 season was an epic disaster.
To his credit, Jed York seems to have recognized at least part of his mistake and made the right call to fire Jim Tomsula after just one season. While he was a very good position coach and appears to be a good guy, Tomsula was clearly overmatched as a head coach. Unfortunately, York will be keeping general manager Trent Baalke around, albeit on what appears to be a short leash. I guess you could argue that Baalke deserves another chance, seeing as he wanted to hire Adam Gase instead of Tomsula before York allegedly demanded Tomsula be Gase's defensive coordinator. Obviously, Gase balked, and here we are.
Rumors are swirling that the 49ers want to bring in a big name coach, and that's a good thing because the fan base is ready to revolt. Actually, I think the fans are the ones who really pushed York's hand here, as things were starting to get really ugly.
Now it's one thing to want a star coach, it's another to be able to actually get one. The York family is a living, breathing dumpster fire, and at first glance it's tough for one to imagine the Niners on the top of anyone's list. Here's the thing though, if early reports are to be believed, it looks as if the 49ers have a shot at a high profile hire, with some major candidates having already expressed interest in the job.
Now why would anyone with options want to work for York and Baalke given their track record? Well, for starters, the 49ers are still one of the glory franchises in the NFL. Even the Yorks can't take that away. Think about the national recognition Jim Harbaugh got when he spearheaded the team's revival from 2011 through 2013. He was and is a star, and being the coach of a successful 49ers' team played a big part in that.
Secondly, there are still emotional ties to the dynasty years from men like Mike Holmgren and Mike Shanahan. Both Super Bowl winning head coaches cut their teeth as coordinators for San Francisco, and seem to want a hand in returning the franchise to the top.
Finally, anyone coming in will have an ample amount of cap space and draft picks to help reload the roster, assuming they can make it work with Baalke. But considering Baalke is on his last legs, I think it's a safe bet any new head man coming in will have some power in terms of personnel decisions.
Here's a look at some of the names being linked to the job, and some others that they could consider.
Record: 87-57, one Super Bowl win
In a lot of ways, Payton could cure what ails the 49ers, and is exactly what the franchise is looking for. He's a Super Bowl winner who has overseen one of the most prolific offenses in the league for nine seasons. There seems to be mutual interest here, and it makes sense considering both Payton and Baalke are disciples of Bill Parcells. There are just a couple of issues though. The first is that Payton is currently still under contract with the New Orleans Saints and would require some sort of compensation package (currently rumored to be a second round pick). In addition to that, the Yorks will have to pony up big bucks to get him. Payton currently makes $8.5 million per season. Would the notoriously cheap Yorks be willing to commit to that on top of paying off the $10.5 million still owed to Jimmy T?
The former Philadelphia Eagles head coach reached out the the 49ers to express his interest in the job, and could be someone the team is strongly considering. To appreciate Kelly, you have to separate the coach from the personnel man. After all, Kelly led the Eagles to a 20-12 record over his first two seasons before mismanaging the roster after being given full control over it prior to 2015. He's another offensive minded option who could revive the struggling attack. Kelly seems to have a pretty big ego though, and I find it hard to believe he could coexist with Baalke and York.
Record: 161-111, one Super Bowl win
170-138, two Super Bowl wins
I'm grouping Holmgren and Shanahan together because I think the situations are similar. Both men are former 49ers' staff members who have gone on to have success as head coaches with other teams. Each of them have continually said they would be open to coaching in San Francisco for years now. The issue is, I don't see it happening. Holmgren has been out of coaching since 2008 and is 67 years old, while Shanahan has been absent from the game for two years and is 63. While I believe Shanahan could be more likely than Holmgren (he did interview for the job last season), the Niners are probably looking for more of a long term solution here and won't seriously consider either candidate.
No NFL head coaching experience
If they are willing to wait for Jackson and Shula to be able to interview, both would be intriguing options. Jackson has done an excellent job as offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, helping Andy Dalton put together the best season of his career. He likes to run the ball, which is something Baalke is in favor of. He also has prior head coaching experience, going 8-8 in 2011 with the Oakland Raiders before being inexplicably let go after just one year. Jackson may be the top coordinator candidate at the moment though, and will have other options.
Shula is in a similar situation in that he helped his quarterback, Cam Newton, have an MVP caliber season. In turn his Carolina Panthers were the number one scoring offense in the NFL, despite having a bunch of number three type wide outs. Shula has said he wants to concentrate on the playoffs right now, so any interview would be down the line.
No NFL head coaching experience
I'm kidding. Could you imagine? Maybe they'll reach out to him again and demand he does Al Guido's laundry this time.
Many people think that McDaniels has learned from his experience with the Denver Broncos and will be much better prepared the second time around. McDaniels is in a good position with the New England Patriots however, and many believe he could be next in line after Bill Belichick retires. If he does decide to leave, he'll be picky about his next job, and it's unknown if San Francisco would be at all appealing to him.
I'll put Mangini on here because I've read some speculation about him. Sure, he may get some consideration, but I don't think York would seriously consider promoting him from defensive coordinator to head coach. I truly believe that public perception and the disenchantment from the fans had a lot to do with York dumping Tomsula, and promoting someone from his staff would send the wrong message. York will be crucified if he hires Mangini. I think he understands that.
Jim Mora Jr.
Currently the head football coach at UCLA, Mora has ties to the 49ers as he was the defensive coordinator under Steve Mariucci and Dennis Erickson from 1999-2003. Being a known commodity could make him an attractive option to the Yorks, who don't always feel comfortable with outsiders. Whispers about Mora could get louder if the Payton's, Kelly's and Jackson's of the world go elsewhere or are too expensive.
No NFL head coaching experience
There's always the possibility that things can go south in a big way, and the 49ers are left looking for scraps. In that scenario, they could scour the college ranks and throw money at someone like David Shaw of Stanford or Brian Kelly of Notre Dame, but a coordinator like Shanahan would be more likely. While things didn't go so well this past season with the Atlanta Falcons, Shanahan has done well for the most part as an offensive coordinator over the years at multiple stops, and could be a likely fall back.
Al Sacco has covered the 49ers for various sites over the years. He's been a guest on multiple podcasts and had his work used by ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY. Follow Al on Twitter @AlSacco49