49er’s Coach Selection Like a Game of Darts

Feb 1, 2003 at 12:00 AM

With Monte Kiffin, Brad Childress, and Jim Johnson all out of the running for the 49ers head coaching job, only two candidates remain. The third candidate, Jim Mora Jr., seems to be a long shot for the head coach position because he hasn't enjoyed the type of success that the other coordinators on the list have. Under Mora, the Niner's defense has finished no better than 13th in the league, due in large part to the strong rush defense-a defense that only allowed 103.3 rush yards per game. For Mora, the coaching change is all or nothing. A situation where the offensive and defensive staff is already in place would be a tough sell for any organization to any coach. When a new head coach is hired he is going to want his staff, and Mora doesn't seem to fit into that scheme. The question remains however, are the remaining candidates actually qualified for the job?

Other than the long-shot names being thrown out here, such as Bill Walsh and Dennis Green, the viable options seem to be Ted Cottrell of the New York Jets, and Romeo Crennel of the New England Patriots. There have been analysts that believe Bill Walsh should come back for one season in order to buy the team more time to acquire a big name coach. This seems far-fetched for two reasons. First, although Walsh is a consultant he doesn't have too much clout in the decision making process for a coach. Walsh is really pushing for Dennis Green and at last word; Green wasn't even contacted for an interview-even though Green has expressed interest in the job. Secondly, Walsh even said that his body wouldn't be able to endure the 8 month marathon that is an NFL season. Moreover, having an "Interim Coach" wouldn't be good for the organization. The transition period would be doubled, being as there would be, in effect, two head coaching changes. Having the players get adjusted to Walsh, and then having them get used to another coach would surely cause more harm then would normally be associated with a coaching transfer. And what if Walsh fails? What if he takes the team, and ends up 4-12 instead of 12-4? It would irreparably tarnish Bill Walsh's reputation as a coach and as a legend within the organization. It would place a shroud over the team of the 80's that would hurt the organization more than this aimless search for a replacement.

Romeo Crennel is an interesting choice for a head coach. We have to think how much of his candidacy comes from the Super Bowl XXXVI win over St. Louis. Although the Rams were not much of a factor this year, they are still the number one challengers to the Niners NFC West title. This year, however, the Patriots defense finished 21st in total defense, a big drop off from last year's Super Bowl run.  But the Patriots defense allowed only 198.7 passing yards per game; compared to the Niner's 219.1. Their biggest deficiency was the run stopping, a strength of the 49ers.  Crennel often used very exotic coverages and schemes. One only has to look at the November game against the Bills to see how bizarre his schemes are. In the game against the Bills Crennel often used 4 lineman and 7 defensive backs. Sometimes all of the front 7 were in two point stances and other times there was just one linemen.

His "Big nickel" scheme might also be a good fit for the 49ers. In this coverage he plays 3 safeties in the middle of the field and hides the cornerbacks in a zone. This may seem like a good scheme because the 49ers are deeper at safety than they are at the corner position. But throughout the season the 49ers' zone coverages were torn apart by teams like Seattle, San Diego, and Arizona. Mora tried to hide Mike Rumph in zone coverage, but we saw how effective that was when teams would come roaring back after they should have been put away. This analysis does have some merit though, as many have said that Rumph would be a better safety than he would corner. If that as the case we cold see Bronson, Parrish, and Rumph matching up with receivers in the middle of the field while Webster and Plummer cover the edges of the field. I can just hear the safeties punishing receivers over the middle just like the Patriots did in last year's Super Bowl.

The biggest concern is whether or not Crennel was the source of these schemes, or if the brain behind the operation was Bill Belichik. Belichik is always heralded as the defensive genius and received much of the credit for the Super Bowl victory. Nevertheless, Crennel implemented the various schemes and will take much of that knowledge with him wherever he goes.

Despite Crennel's resume, Ted Cottrell is believed to be the front-runner for the head coaching position. Cottrell Joined Herm Edward's squad in New York for the 2001 season and since then has reversed the fortunes of a defense that entered this season with 6 new starters. Although his defense started slow, over the last 10 games they were ranked 2nd in total points allowed and 3rd in rushing defense. The final defensive rankings are a bit misleading because of the slow start, but the progress of their defense was plainly seen in the 42-0 thumping of the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild-Card Playoff game.  Cottrell likes to run as aggressive cover-2 scheme, much like the Tampa Bay Bucs. The scheme involves big physical corners that can jam receivers at the line in order to disrupt timing. He is aggressive with the blitz and as a result often uses man-to-man coverages.

The 49ers obvious strength on defense was man-to-man coverage. The Niners used a comparable scheme against the Seahawks in their second meeting. Early in the game, Rumph was brought off the corner to get pressure on Hasselback. It worked for 3 quarters, then the team backed off and the 'Hawks almost pulled out a victory in the final minutes. The scheme could work well with the 49er personnel.

Neither Cottrell nor Crennel have head coaching experience, which is worrisome. But either one will do away with what hurt the Niners the most, a vanilla game plan that was kept simple because of inexperience. It seemed like all the 49er defense did this year was react to what teams did, rather than establish the tempo of the game and dominate teams. It is true that defenses win championships in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens and the Tampa Bay Bucs are the prime examples. Cottrell seems to be the candidate with the edge, but frankly, none of the prospective coaches jump out; each has his deficiencies. While Donahue keeps handing out interviews like candy to assistants such as Gary Blanche of the Bears, it seems like the "plan" to hire a new coach is nothing more than drawing names out of a hat. Even Jeff Garcia has criticized the way the organization is going about the search. Owner John York and GM Terry Donahue seem to have their own agendas directing the search for the new coach. It is becoming apparent that the new head coach of the 49ers will be either a career assistant with no head coaching experience, or a college coach plucked out of anonymity. Either way, the Niners seem hard pressed to find a guy right for the job. The dartboard in John York's office is quickly being filled with second-rate assistant coaches. Lets just hope that when he throws the dart it lands one of the few remaining first-rate coaches.
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.


  • No Comments

Facebook Comments

More San Francisco 49ers News

49ers' Kyle Shanahan responds to Jimmy Garoppolo's comments that it feels like 2017 again

By David Bonilla
Sep 23

On Thursday, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was asked about his comments that it felt like 2017 again when he took the field on Sunday, his first time doing so this season. Garoppolo appeared to be pushing the football down the field more than he has since his first season with the team. "I love doing that stuff," Garoppolo said. "In '17, there was a freedom where me, the receivers, tight ends, we had a good chemistry going. And when you get that with offensive skills and a quarterback, it makes for a tough offense." Will that continue for the remainder of the season as he fills in for an injured Trey Lance? "I think we'll see

It's Okay if Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan Don't Like Each Other

By Brian Renick
Sep 30

Prior to any scheduled press conference for head coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers' communications team hands him notes concerning any of the current viral moments within the 49ers Universe. Before Thursday's media availability, Shanahan was made aware of the Zapruder-film-style video causing a firestorm on 49ers Twitter and turning everybody into lipreading experts. "All of your plays suck man."- Jimmy G pic.twitter.com/7BAe0dUC3s— Brooks Anderson II (@BNAmusic88)

What Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said about Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers' defense and run game

By David Bonilla
Sep 21

Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett jumped on a conference call with reporters, sharing his perspective on the upcoming Week 3 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. Here are a few of the topics on which he touched. What do you see in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo? "Having so much experience going against him, so much respect for him and his game," Hackett said. "He has an amazing release. He has the ability to get the ball out quick. He makes quick, fast decisions. I mean, he's a very good football player who's had a lot of success. I think I was at Jacksonville in 2017 when he [went to the 49ers], and he actually beat us toward the end of the season there. We were, I think, 10-and-4 or something like that, and he came out,

Did 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan mismanage Trey Lance? Baldy weighs in

By David Bonilla
Sep 20

There has been much debate surrounding who is to blame for Trey Lance's season-ending ankle injury. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback rushed 16 times for 67 yards in his five quarters of play this season. Is that too much for an inexperienced quarterback who you are trying to develop into a better passer? The setback has postponed Lance's development for yet another season. Now, Jimmy Garoppolo is the starting quarterback moving forward. Many have placed the blame on head coach Kyle Shanahan's shoulders. After all, he is the play designer and play-caller. Lance's usage was totally up to him. What does respected NFL analyst Brian Baldinger think of how Shanahan utilized his 22-year-old quarterback during his abbreviated second NFL season? The


More by Oscar Aparicio

More Articles

Share 49ersWebzone