The 49ers on Monday requested permission to speak with Colts assistant Rob Chudzinski for their vacant offensive coordinator position, the NFL Network reported. The Rams and Bears also are reportedly interested in the former Browns head coach.
Chudzinski, 46, spent the past season as a special assistant to Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. That followed a one-year stint as Cleveland’s head coach, during which the Browns went 4-12.
Chudzinski ran the Panthers offense for two years before that, including in 2011 when quarterback Cam Newton was named offensive rookie of the year. The Panthers finished seventh in total offense and – important to 49ers general manager Trent Baalke and new head coach Jim Tomsula – they finished third in rushing offense.
Chudzinski also was the Browns’ offensive coordinator in 2007-08. Cleveland finished eighth in offense in 2007 but dropped to 31st the following season when the team was forced to use four starting quarterbacks, including Ken Dorsey, who once played for the 49ers.
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Chudzinski’s work with Newton, a dual-threat quarterback, likely will interest the 49ers. The Panthers quarterback improved his passer rating from 82.1 as a rookie in 2011 to 88.8 the following season. That has been the high point in Newton’s career.
The 49ers are looking for someone who can help their quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, make progress as a passer, something he didn’t do last season.
“We’re confident that we can go out and hire a very competent staff on the offensive side,” Baalke said last week. “(Kaepernick) is still a young player. There’s still a lot of development, a lot of growth that he’s going to endure over his career.”
The 49ers also reportedly are interested in former Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin for the position that was held by Greg Roman the previous four years.
Bethea to Pro Bowl – Mike Iupati will not take part in Sunday’s Pro Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., but teammate Antoine Bethea has been added to the lineup.
Bethea, a nine-year veteran safety, replaced Seattle’s Kam Chancellor for the annual all-star game. Bethea and left tackle Joe Staley are the only 49ers who will take part.
Iupati, the team’s left guard, dealt with a hyper-extended elbow late in the season. The injury often left him lying on the field in pain, and he briefly left at least two games. However, he missed just one start in 2014 – a concussion kept him out of the Oct. 19 game against Denver – and Pro Football Focus ranked him as the league’s 14th best guard and its second-best run blocker behind Baltimore’s Marshal Yanda.
Iupati is scheduled to be a free agent in March, and he likely will be the best player available at his position. The 49ers may not be able to retain Iupati, a first-round pick in 2010, and are eying Brandon Thomas, a third-round pick in May who is coming off an ACL tear, as a possible replacement.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.