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The San Francisco 49ers general manager and head coaching searches are off and running. It might be a while before we figure out the identity of the new head coach. The most intriguing candidates are Josh McDaniels and Kyle Shanahan, offensive coordinators who are coaching in the playoffs next weekend and require immediate interviews. If the 49ers were to land one of them, the hiring might not be officially announced for several more weeks, depending on how deep New England and Atlanta play in the post season. Meanwhile, the pursuit of a general manager is also taking place and there's a chance a GM could be in place somewhat sooner.

Last year there were three new GM's hired in the NFL. Miami gave head coaching and personnel duties to Adam Gase on January 9th, Detroit hired Bob Quinn as GM on January 8th and Tennessee hired Jon Robinson on January 14th. Theoretically, the 49ers could follow a similar time frame and hire a new GM shortly. The initial round of interviews taking place this weekend consists of the most highly regarded candidates available. If the 49ers feel as strongly as the rest of the league does about one of the interviewees and a candidate is, in fact, interested in the position, the franchise could possibly name their man sometime next week.

Candidates so good they aren't likely to leave their current situation


Nick Caserio: There isn't even concrete evidence out there that an interview has been confirmed. Most people are connecting the dots when it comes to Jed York interviewing Caserio while he is in Foxboro interviewing McDaniels for the head coach position. Articles such as this and this illustrate just how much influence Caserio has over the Patriots without actually being the official GM, from pointing out individual players he's acquired to the fact that he "takes the lead on negotiations with contracts and trades". He would be an absolute home run of a hire, especially paired with McDaniels. However, having a voice in personnel decisions alongside the best coach in the NFL, while working for the NFL's most successful organization, would be hard to walk away from. Also, Caserio has been offered and turned down GM jobs before.

Eliot Wolf: Wolf is so highly regarded that the current Packers GM Ted Thompson might be politely asked to step aside so Wolf can take over. Wolf has spent most of his life in Green Bay, including his entire 13-year professional career. The son of legendary former Packers GM Ron Wolf, Eliot could follow in his father's footsteps as the man calling the shots in Green Bay, which from the outside, sounds like a dream job. Another candidate who would be an amazing hire, but would have to be pried away from a very advantageous situation.

The Best and Most Realistic Candidates


Brian Gutekunst: The other candidate from Green Bay. While Wolf is getting all the attention from the national and local media, Gutekunst was interviewed directly after Wolf on Thursday. While he might not be as flashy of a hire, Gutekunst has been with the Packers for 18 years and is also part of the ultra successful Ron Wolf tree, though obviously not as much a part of the tree as Eliot Wolf. If the rumor mill is correct and Wolf steps in to take over as Green Bay's GM, then Gutekunst would effectively be blocked from advancing any higher in the Packers organization. This could make the job in San Francisco very appealing.

George Paton: Paton has turned down at least six interviews in the last four years. So the fact that he even met with the 49ers on Friday is an accomplishment in itself. Paton's currently the assistant general manager in Minnesota and has been part of an outstanding Vikings front office for a decade. He would be a very well-regarded choice for the 49ers GM position.

Louis Riddick: Riddick will meet with the 49ers next week. Another candidate who draws nothing but praise from NFL people, 49ers fans have a unique perspective on Riddick due to his three years on ESPN. Riddick has been able to articulate his philosophies on team building and his opinion on individual players, giving the public a good idea of what they'd be getting if he was hired, as opposed to the rest of the candidates who are very much behind the scenes.

The 49ers seemingly picked out the best and the brightest prospects to begin their GM search. While it's fairly impossible to tell from the outside of an organization what exact role a GM candidate had in building the roster of the franchise he currently works for, it's easy to know who the hottest and most sought after candidates are. Candidate lists start coming out in mid-December, so 49ers fans were well versed by the time Trent Baalke was officially let go. The names that topped most every list were Kansas City's Chris Ballard (who will remain in KC) along with Wolf, Gutekunst, Paton, and Caserio. The 49ers reached out to these five candidates first for a reason. While landing Wolf or Caserio would be a major coup for the organization, Gutekunst, Paton and Riddick are in more of a position to leave their current employers and would be excellent choices to be the next general manager.