SANTA CLARA -- A year ago, 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula had trouble attracting an offensive coordinator. This year, his replacement, Chip Kelly, could be in a similar situation with defensive coordinators.
Per multiple reports, including one from 95.7 radio’s John Middlekauff, Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel was offered but turned down the job of running Kelly's defense.
Other candidates for the post include incumbent Eric Mangini, linebackers coach Jason Tarver and Ravens linebackers coach Don Martindale, according to NFL.com. Tarver, 41, ran the Raiders defense from 2012-14 while Martindale, 52, ran the Broncos defense in 2010.
Kelly decided to retain Tarver on his staff but has not yet determined his position. Tarver spent 11 seasons in San Francisco before leaving to run Stanford’s defense in 2011 and then working for the Raiders. He was hired by Tomsula last year. He’s likely to end up either as the coordinator or outside linebackers coach. The 49ers have looked at Buccaneers assistant Hardy Nickerson as a possible inside linebackers coach
The Texans’ defense finished third overall last season; the 49ers finished 29th in yards allowed, 31st in takeaways and 29th in sacks.
Kelly's defenses in Philadelphia, meanwhile, never finished better the No. 28 in the league in yards allowed. And the Eagles' quick-paced offenses -- Philadelphia had the league's worst time of possession all three years Kelly was there -- often were cited as a culprit. His defensive coordinator with the Eagles, Bill Davis, has not signed on anywhere else.
Kelly was asked Wednesday whether there was any merit to the critique that his style of offense is too taxing on his defensive players.
“No," he said. "I think it’s a byproduct of a lot of things, but one of the things is we have to be better in situational defense. We have to be able to, on third down, to get them off the field. Sometimes there’s not a correlation between you give up a third-and-17, it’s because the offense ran plays too fast. It’s third-and-17, we’ve got to get them off the field. So part of it is taking some ownership in all three phases of the game and you have to be good in all three phases of the game to be successful in this league.”
Vrabel, 40, played outside linebacker in the NFL from 1997-2010, including for Kelly’s acquaintance, Patriots coach Bill Belichick. He began coaching at his alma mater, Ohio State, in 2011 and has spent the last two seasons coaching the linebackers for the Houston Texans. The Houston Chronicle reported that Vrabel has been given a new contract and suggested that he could replace Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, 68, when he retires.
After striking out on potential offensive coordinators last year, Tomsula ended up promoting someone from within, former quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst, who was fired on Monday.
Kelly may have to stick with someone in house as well.