Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Match Game: A Look at GM/HC Candidates as Package Deals

Jan 5, 2017 at 3:46 PM5

Videos are auto-populated by an affiliate. This site has no control over the videos that appear above.
When Jed York held his year-end press conference to announce and explain the firings of both General Manager Trent Baalke and Head Coach Chip Kelly, he repeatedly alluded to the breakdown in the working relationship between the two men as the cause for dismissing them. It's clear that the search for replacements will focus deliberately on maintaining a better relationship, either by hiring two candidates who have already worked together productively or by hiring candidates who agree on major football-related philosophies and respect one another's ideas and qualifications enough to build an enduring and productive relationship. While many assumed from York's comments, as well as the 49ers' efforts to schedule several interviews with HC and GM candidates from the same teams, that the candidates must have a current working relationship, that should be offset by the scheduled interviews of GM candidates from Green Bay Eliot Wolf and Brian Gutekunst, who have no coinciding HC candidate, and the scheduled interviews of Washington's Sean McVay and Atlanta's Kyle Shanahan for HC, without a corresponding GM candidate. Interestingly enough, Shanahan could be logically paired with the Falcon's Assistant GM (Scott Pioli), a strong GM candidate who the 49ers are not currently linked to in this process.

While we cannot be certain of the 49ers' intended pairings of the currently contacted/scheduled candidates, we can assume that the candidates that come from the same team are being considered together, and we can infer a couple of other connections, based on similarities or affinities.


New England's Josh McDaniels and Nick Caserio have to be the poster kids for an established working relationship. They've worked together productively for years with the Patriots, and their relationship extends back to college when they played football together at John Carroll University. Caserio does an inspired job of finding affordable players throughout the league and the draft who fit McDaniels' system, and McDaniels gets the most out of them. Both work extremely hard. As the closest thing the Patriots have to an actual GM, Caserio attends practices and watches film of New England practices while staying current on the roster situations affecting any NFL players who the Patriots found value in while scouting. Bill Belichick went as far as stating that he couldn't imagine another personnel man in the NFL being better at keeping current on NFL talent than Caserio. Caserio is also an adept negotiator and salary cap manager, which could help him work with Parage Marathe, but could also cause friction between the two. Conflicting reports have stated both that no interview is scheduled yet with Caserio and that Caserio is scheduled to meet with the 49ers on Saturday after they conclude their interview with McDaniels.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

McDaniels has grown significantly since his failed tenure as the HC of the Broncos, allowing him to add humility, experience, and perspective to the brilliance, organization, and ingenuity that had originally made him a rising star in the NFL a decade ago. With Tom Brady's suspension coinciding with Ron Gronkowski missing games due to injury, McDaniels demonstrated his ability to adapt his scheme to fit the players he had, and the offense continued to roll behind two different backup quarterbacks. The stigma of his failure in Denver is still fresh in the minds of many who follow the NFL, so he must convince the 49ers of the extent to which he has grown in the interim.


Hiring Ted Kirchner and Tom Cable away from the Seattle Seahawks would provide the 49ers with new leadership while taking valuable assets away from a bitter division rival. Ted Kirchner focuses primarily on scouting professional players on other teams to prioritize free agent targets and players worth trading for. He has been involved with several low-cost, high-value signings, such as Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, as well as the trades to acquire Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Cable is an old-school, hard-nosed offensive line coach who would stamp out the air of resignation that reportedly has permeated the 49ers' locker room. The Yorks cannot expect to hire him without intense backlash from media, fans, and players. Cable is saddled with allegations of violence against three different women, as well as one assistant coach, whose jaw Cable reportedly broke while he was the HC in Oakland. If that wasn't enough (it should be), his questionable cut-and-roll tactics for sealing the backside of zone runs has resulted in injuries to numerous 49ers defenders, including Ian Williams, whose injury required multiple surgeries and could ultimately cost him his career. Cable might not be popular on that end of the locker room, and he would certainly be unpopular with much of the fan base.


Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott of the Carolina Panthers may have experienced a down year, but they have worked together to develop a defense that has been fast, physical, and intimidating, pushing the Panthers to the Super Bowl after the 2015 season. 49ers fans might be skeptical of a GM whose defense looks deeper and much more talented than the offense. While there can be no doubt that the roster Beane helped put together has several big names and numerous valuable contributors, that front office also failed to adequately assess the difficulty they would have replacing production from Josh Norman and Steve Smith, both of whom were allowed to leave in free agency.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

While starting his NFL coaching career in Philadelphia, McDermott learned at the feet of a revered defensive coordinator, Jim Johnson. Like Johnson, he can dial up a variety of exotic blitzes to harass and confuse quarterbacks, but his willingness to allow his four defensive linemen to handle most of the pass rushing duties in Carolina speaks well of his willingness to change strategy to fit his personnel. McDermott has always coached a 4-3 defense, which would be a poor fit for the 49ers' personnel. If the 49ers determine that he is the right fit, expect a lot of roster turnover on defense, as well as some growing pains on the field.


Green Bay's Eliot Wolfe and Washington's Sean McVay have never worked together, to my knowledge. They are both young, intelligent, respected, and highly sought-after. Wolf's father, Ron Wolf, may have the largest and most impressive GM and scouting tree in the NFL, and Eliot turned in his first scouting report to Ron as a 5th grader. Wolf graduated one semester early from college so he wouldn't miss his first draft cycle with the Packers. Wolf has been so highly coveted by Ted Thompson, the GM in Green Bay, that he has been promoted within the Packers organization to every position other teams have asked him to interview for. Once he reached Director of Operations-Football, he was blocked from a GM interview request in last year. If the request wasn't blocked, many believe he was the far-and-away favorite to become the new GM in Detroit. Wolf interviewed with the 49ers today. Fans in Green Bay hope he remains as the eventual successor to Thompson.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Sean McVay also comes from NFL royalty. His grandfather, John McVay, earned five Super Bowl rings with the 49ers while helping Bill Walsh (and later George Seifert) construct and maintain a dynasty. Sean McVay started coaching immediately after college, even skipping graduation ceremonies so he could start working for John Gruden a little earlier. He was a voracious student and active participant in John Gruden's Fired Football Coaches Academy, which grew into a collection of some of the best minds and conversations in football. McVay is an innovator who encourages creativity from his coaches. His intensity and mannerisms are often compared with those of John Gruden. He gets precision from his players, and he instantly earns the confidence of his players with intricate, productive coaching points. Jay Gruden turned play-calling responsibilities over to McVay in 2015, and the offense took off, without the benefit of an elite quarterback.

While there is not an obvious relationship connecting these two candidates, their youth, energy, and intelligence casts them both in a similar light. They both have the NFL deeply ingrained in them, they both outwork their peers, and they both quickly command the respect of more experienced contemporaries. While it's possible that they could find difficulty in forging a close working relationship, it is also easy to imagine an environment of innovation and excitement, cultivated by two of the brightest, most desired minds in football.



Louis Riddick and Josh McDaniels have also never worked together, but Riddick has made no secret of his appreciation for McDaniels as a coach. Riddick could be a poor fit for the 49ers in numerous ways, but his visibility as an analyst on ESPN grants him far more visibility than most front office personnel enjoy, making him a popular candidate with many fans. Riddick certainly is qualified to interview for a GM position. He is intelligent, articulate, and confident. He has worked his way up the ladder on the personnel side of two NFL teams, in both Philadelphia and Washington, DC. While Riddick is able to express himself less abrasively than most, he has shown a tendency on air to be every bit as opinionated and stubborn as Jim Harbaugh, an obvious winner whose personality ran him out of Santa Clara. Aside from Riddick's large personality, his experience working with Trent Baalke while both were in Washington might hit a little close to home for the Yorks. It's unclear if Riddick would work well with McDaniels, who had a very strong opinion of how his team should be run the last time he was a HC. Riddick's clear appreciation and admiration of McDaniels could make him more willing to compromise with McDaniels than he might be with any other candidate.

Which of these pairings would you like to see the most for the 49ers? Vote in the poll below. If you don't see the option you'd prefer, please hit the comments below and explain why you think it would work.


  • What pairing of GM/HC do you want most for the 49ers?
  • Wolfe/McVay
  • Caserio/McDaniels
  • Riddick/McDaniels
  • Kirchner/Cable
  • Beane/McDermott
  • 1,930 votes
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • mbniner
    My choices would be Wolf/Mcvay or Wolf/Shanahan in that order. If we can get Wolf, we should make our move NOW or as soon as league rules allow. McVay is already recognized as a great offensive mind who is adept at scheming and putting his players in position to optimize their skill-set. He has a great future. Shanahan is also very good and would be a big improvement over what we've had for several years. My fears about Shanahan, and especially McDaniels, is they have succeeded with great QBs and WRs which may have exaggerated the impact that they have had on their teams success. McVay has done great things with a lesser QB or surrounding cast.
    Jan 11, 2017 at 2:40 PM
  • Eric Quitugua
    Gutekunst/Shanahan Gutekunst/McDaniels Wolf/Shanahan Wolf/McDaniels
    Jan 10, 2017 at 11:13 PM
  • Huy
    Jan 10, 2017 at 11:06 PM
  • Eric Quitugua
    I would love to see fresh faces in our organization, especially when you have 2 young and upcoming GM and HC, that's why I would love for Jed to give both Eliot Wolfe and Sean McVay a chance at growth alongside our upcoming and bright buildup...
    Jan 8, 2017 at 2:46 PM
    Response: That's a young, talented, high risk, high reward pairing that I could see getting a lot of mixed reactions from 49er fans. I can't see many complaining about Wolf, but McVay's age might make him seem like a pushover or bargain option. I don't know what he'd be paid, but he's no one's pushover.
  • Rus
    No mention of Kyle Shanahan?
    Jan 5, 2017 at 11:54 PM
    Response: Several candidates the 49ers have contacted were not listed here, because I did not see a clear pairing. Shanahan is a very good coach, and an exciting candidate. He works with Scott Pioli in Atlanta. Pioli was fired as GM in KC, but he was very successful as Belichick's top personnel guy in NE, and he's doing an impressive job in Atlanta. To my knowledge, the 49ers haven't requested an interview with Pioli, so I left that pair of this list.

More San Francisco 49ers News

49ers' Brock Purdy, Nick Bosa weigh in on potential 18-game season

By David Bonilla
May 22

The NFL increased each team's regular-season schedule from 16 games to 17 games in 2020. The league is always looking to maximize revenue. An 18th game is expected in the near future, and there's no indication the NFL will halt expansion at that point. However, there are complications with lengthening the season by another week. The NFL prefers to conclude its season before Presidents Day. Adding a week to the beginning of the season could encroach on Labor Day Weekend, something the commissioner, Roger Goodell, likely wants to avoid. The NFL, a Goliath in sports, can likely do whatever it wants. This is evident in its decision to schedule games on Christmas Day—a Wednesday this year. It's a move that has rightfully

49ers Football is a Game of Inches and What-ifs

By Jon Opelt
May 23

Football is a game of inches and what-ifs. The 49ers Faithful know that all too well. First downs are sometimes made or missed by the nose of a football or a few links in the yard marker chain. Likewise, games are often decided by a tipped pass, the bounce of a ball, or a missed blocking assignment. This truth was on full display in the most recent NFC Championship and the Super Bowl. In the NFC title game, good fortune favored the 49ers, but in the Super Bowl, the breaks went the Chiefs' way, leading to Kansas City's victory. The Lions ran away with a 17-point halftime lead in the NFC Championship. But then, in the most improbable fashion, momentum swung. An overthrown ball ricocheted off the facemask of Lions defender Kindle Vildor and into the


More by Aaron Erickson

More Articles

Share 49ersWebzone