San Francisco 49ers

Matchmakers: 49ers looking for chemistry in wide-ranging search

Eliot Wolf, the Packers’ director of football operations, is the youngest candidate the 49ers are speaking with in regard to their vacant general-manager job. Wolf is 34.
Eliot Wolf, the Packers’ director of football operations, is the youngest candidate the 49ers are speaking with in regard to their vacant general-manager job. Wolf is 34. The Associated Press

The 49ers on Thursday interviewed two general manager candidates in the Packers organization one day after speaking to the Bills’ Anthony Lynn about their head-coach opening.

They’ll spend Friday morning interviewing Vikings assistant general manager George Paton before flying to Atlanta to talk to Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan about being head coach.

Why aren’t the sessions being done in a more rigid, traditional order in which the general manager is hired first and then picks the head coach? Because the 49ers say they are more interested in chemistry than who hires whom.

“I think we need to be open and flexible as to structure,” CEO Jed York said one day after firing Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly. “We need to make sure that the head coach and the general manager know each other, have a good understanding for each other. (That) doesn’t mean that they had to have worked together in the past, but they have to have a good respect for each other and a good understanding and know that they have similar visions and philosophies on building a football team.”

That’s what team officials want to ascertain during their initial round of interviews, which include a whopping 16 known candidates.

Their search for general manager began Thursday with Eliot Wolf, Green Bay’s director of football operations and the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame executive Ron Wolf. At age 34, Eliot Wolf is the youngest candidate the 49ers are known to be eying for the position.

Still, he has been scouting for more than half his life beginning at age 14, when he landed a scouting internship with the Atlanta Falcons.

“He’s been in (scouting) since he was born, basically,” said former NFL general manager Charley Casserly.

The NFL’s Career Development Advisory Panel makes recommendations each year on who teams should consider hiring for head coach and general manager. Casserly, who is on the panel, interviewed Wolf and came away impressed.

“The name has nothing to do with it,” he said. “He’s outstanding. He’s ready.”

The 49ers also interviewed Brian Gutekunst, who has spent 18 years in the Packers organization and is currently their director of player personnel.

Some of the coach-general manager connections are easy to make. Fox Sports reported Thursday that the 49ers next week would talk with Panthers assistant general manager Brandon Beane. The team also will interview Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott for their head-coach vacancy.

On Saturday, York and his top lieutenant, Paraag Marathe, will fly to Boston to interview Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. They’d also like to speak with Nick Caserio, New England’s director of player personnel, although it’s unclear whether Caserio or the Patriots will assent to a meeting.

McDaniels has an admirer in general manager candidate Louis Riddick, an NFL analyst for ESPN. Riddick and McDermott also have worked together for the Philadelphia Eagles.

The 49ers also are considering Vance Joseph, Doug Marrone and Sean McVay as head coach.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at

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