It’s doubtful Kyle Shanahan will be able to bring a lot of the Falcons’ assistant coaches with him to San Francisco if, as expected, the 49ers make the Atlanta offensive coordinator their head coach next week.
Most of those assistants are under contract with Atlanta or are loyal to Dan Quinn, who took over as head coach before the 2015 season.
One assistant the 49ers may be able to extricate is quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur, who has worked with Shanahan for eight seasons in Atlanta, Washington and Houston. Under LaFleur and Shanahan, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had the most prolific season of his nine-year career and stands a very good chance of being named the league’s MVP for 2016.
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LaFleur also spent four seasons in the same role in Washington working with Shanahan and Shanahan’s father, Mike. Their most famous pupil at the time was then-rookie Robert Griffin III, who set a Washington rookie record in 2012 in passing yards (3,200). More significant now, LaFleur was on hand when Washington drafted and developed quarterback Kirk Cousins, someone the 49ers could pursue if he becomes an unrestricted free agent in March. Team officials in Washington, however, uniformly said this week that they want Cousins back for the 2017 season and could give him the franchise tag for the second straight year.
LaFleur also worked under Kyle Shanahan in Houston in 2008 and 2009, when Shanahan was the Texans’ offensive coordinator and LaFleur worked with the quarterbacks and receivers.
Before last week’s NFC championship game, Fox News reported that the Falcons already had a list of possible replacements for Shanahan at offensive coordinator, including former 49ers head coach Chip Kelly. LaFleur also might be among candidates. If not, he could wind up as the 49ers’ offensive coordinator. His brother, Mike, also is an offensive assistant in Atlanta and presumably would join Matt if he came to San Francisco.
It’s unknown at this point whom the 49ers would hire as their defensive coordinator. The team pursued former Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, who joined the Chargers instead, and was told that former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio would not be allowed out of his contract in Chicago. Panthers defensive-line coach Eric Washington also has been discussed as a possibility.
As far as special teams, multiple sources have said Richard Hightower is could become the coordinator. Hightower, currently the Bears’ assistant special-teams coach, in 2014 was an offensive quality control coach in Cleveland, where he worked under Shanahan, the Browns’ offensive coordinator at the time. Hightower also was in Washington for four seasons under the Shanahans.
Hightower also served as an assistant to 49ers special-teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey in 2015.