Sean Payton knows quarterbacks, runs a West Coast offense, has a daughter who goes to school in California and, perhaps most important of all, shares a connection to Bill Parcells with 49ers general manager Trent Baalke.
Parcells, who was the Jets head coach when Baalke was a Jets scout, has consulted with Baalke on personnel matters over the past few years and has his fingerprints are all over the 49ers staff in recent years. Eric Mangini, the team's current defensive coordinator, served under Parcells with the Jets while tight ends coach Tony Sparano also is a former protege.
So is Payton, who joined Parcells' Cowboys staff in 2003 and whom Parcells promoted to assistant head coach/passing game coordinator in 2005.
In that way, it's easy to see an arrangement in which Baalke is the general manager, Payton is the head coach and Mangini is the defensive coordinator working in San Francisco. It would make Parcells so proud.
Of course, it's never that simple.
Payton is under contract with the Saints for two more years. Even if New Orleans is willing to part ways with him, they may want compensation that Baalke, who cherishes his draft picks, could be loathe to give up.
The NFL Network reported this morning that the “potential price” for prying Payton loose from New Orleans is a second-round pick. The 49ers are projected to have 12 picks in the upcoming draft -- including No. 7 overall -- and 10 picks next year. However, they have only one pick per round in Rounds 1-3 both seasons.
Payton also may want more personnel power and may be leery of Baalke's heavy influence with the 49ers.
Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, who is close to Payton, said on Sunday that the 49ers will try to reel in a "big fish" as their next coach but “many of them don’t want to come out with the general manager, Trent Baalke. It’s going to be interesting to see what (CEO) Jed York does in that situation.”
Glazer’s report seems to underscore a dynamic that was at play when Jim Tomsula was assembling his staff a year ago: Some would-be assistant coaches were leery of joining the 49ers because they felt Baalke had too much sway over the coaching staff. That perception wasn't helped by recent stories about 'Coach Trent' advising players during 49ers practices.
Multiple reports this morning said that former Eagles coach Chip Kelly has let the 49ers know he is interested in their opening. He and former NFL head coach -- and 49ers assistant -- Mike Holmgren have expressed their interest in the job so far.
Meanwhile, the 49ers interviewed nine candidates a year ago. Many of them -- Chicago offensive coordinator Adam Gase and ex-NFL head coach Mike Shanahan -- are hot names again this season.
Head coach candidates:
Sean Payton. The Saints coach won a Super Bowl in New Orleans, he knows how to develop quarterbacks, he has ties to general manager Trent Baalke -- through a common mentor, Bill Parcells -- and he's expressed interest in the job in the past. The problem is that Payton still has two years remaining on his Saints contract. That means it could take a draft pick or two to pry him loose.
Mike Shanahan. Like Payton, Shanahan is an offensive coach with a track record of developing quarterbacks. The 49ers are expected to add at least one passer this offseason perhaps in the first round of the draft. The 49ers interviewed Shanahan, a one-time 49ers assistant, last year and he reportedly remains interested in the job. The Dolphins seem eager to talk to him this year.
Hue Jackson. The former Raiders head coach currently is running Cincinnati's offense, which finished 15th in total yards this season. Like Payton and Shanahan, Jackson has spent much of his professional career working with quarterbacks. One potential issue: The Bengals are in the playoffs and an interview with Jackson may have to wait.
Eric Mangini. Never discount the internal candidate when it comes to the 49ers. After all, they hired insiders Mike Singletary and Jim Tomsula in recent years. Mangini, meanwhile, is a two-time NFL head coach, who at times in 2015 sounded like the only man inside the organization who was making any sense. He is smart and familiar with the 49ers personnel. The downside: He coaches defense on a team that likely prefers an offensive head coach.
Adam Gase. Late in the hiring process last year, Trent Baalke flew to Denver to meet with Gase and it seemed likely he would offer him the head-coaching job. That offer instead went to Jim Tomsula, which prompted Gase, then the Broncos offensive coordinator, to take a job in Chicago. He was successful there and is perhaps the hottest young candidate available. Gase, 37, already has interviews scheduled with the Eagles, Browns and Dolphins. Will the 49ers come calling again? They obviously have a thick dossier on Gase already. The bigger question is whether Gase will take their calls after being rejected last year.
Mike Holmgren. There is one job that will coax Holmgren back into coaching and that's the 49ers head-coaching position. More than any other candidate, Holmgren has ties not just to the team's glory days -- he was an assistant under Bill Walsh-- but to the Bay Area. He was born in San Francisco and has a home in nearby Scotts Valley. However, the 49ers interviewed nine candidates for head coach last year and Holmgren was not one of them. Holmgren, 67, said he later was told the 49ers were looking for someone younger.
Chip Kelly. Kelly reportedly has expressed interest in the 49ers' opening. The former University of Oregon and Philadelphia Eagles coach would employ a creative, aggressive style that would mesh with the 49ers' high-tech business persona. And he might be able to resurrect Colin Kaepernick's career. But the bad blood he created among the players in Philadelphia sounded like some of the 49ers' players complaints after Jim Harbaugh left. Also, Kelly's offensive style can be tough on his own team's defense, and finding a defensive coordinator who will work with him might be tough.