San Francisco 49ers

In 49ers’ search for coach, three names stand out early

Mike Shanahan is on the 49ers’ list of coaching candidates. He was the 49ers’ offensive coordinator from 1992-94.
Mike Shanahan is on the 49ers’ list of coaching candidates. He was the 49ers’ offensive coordinator from 1992-94. AP

The 49ers have cast a wide net in their effort to land Jim Harbaugh’s replacement, but three names stood out Thursday.

One is former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who reportedly will meet with the 49ers in Denver in the coming days. Shanahan won two Super Bowls in Denver in the late 1990s, but his most recent stint, in Washington, ended a year ago with a 24-41 record, including playoffs, and one postseason trip in four years.

The 49ers also will meet with former New York Jets coach Rex Ryan on Sunday, the NFL Network reported. The outspoken Ryan, a longtime defensive specialist, was 50-52, including playoffs, in six seasons with the Jets.

News also emerged that Washington would like to interview two 49ers assistants, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and secondary coach Ed Donatell, for its vacant defensive coordinator position.

The 49ers have granted Donatell permission but not Fangio. That was interpreted by at least one person close to the search that Fangio is a legitimate contender for the 49ers’ head-coaching job.

Fangio is believed to be the first candidate the search committee – CEO Jed York, general manager Trent Baalke and President Paraag Marathe – interviewed for the opening. Fangio also received a boost from several prominent players, including linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

“I would like to see Vic Fangio here,” Bowman said Monday. “Now whether that’s head coach or (defensive coordinator), I would like to see him here. … We’ve just built so much, there’s a lot of chemistry there with the guys that have been here for the four years with him. I don’t think we want to lose that.”

Fangio’s units have finished in the top five in the NFL each of the four seasons he’s been in San Francisco, including this season, when injuries and off-the-field issues ravaged the unit.

Should Fangio get the job, he would promote Donatell to defensive coordinator. Fangio likely also would leave the 49ers if he is bypassed for the position. In that case, the 49ers could promote Donatell to defensive coordinator. They also might consider promoting defensive-line coach Jim Tomsula, another candidate for head coach.

It’s unclear, however, whether Tomsula has interviewed for the head-coaching spot or whether he needs to interview. He served as the team’s interim head coach for one game at the end of the 2010 season.

Shanahan, 62, also coached the Raiders (1988-89), and he was the 49ers’ offensive coordinator under George Seifert (1992-94), a span that included a Super Bowl title. The Denver Post reported the 49ers and Shanahan would meet.

On Monday, a day after parting ways with Harbaugh, York and Baalke stressed they were looking for a “teacher” to coach the team and drew strong allusions to former 49ers coach Bill Walsh.

Shanahan technically falls under Walsh’s coaching tree because he worked for Walsh’s lieutenant, Seifert, and operated Walsh’s West Coast offense. Harbaugh also ran a version of the West Coast system, which would mean that, at least as far as lexicon, there would not be much of a learning curve with a Shanahan-run team.

Ryan, 52, worked for three years in Baltimore with Fangio under John Harbaugh. Ryan also will interview for the Atlanta Falcons’ head-coaching vacancy and is a favorite to win that job.

While they are in Denver, the 49ers also will interview Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, 36. They already have interviewed Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, 44, and they hope to sit down with defensive coordinators Todd Bowles, 51, of the Arizona Cardinals and Teryl Austin, 49, of the Detroit Lions next week. The Cardinals and Lions are in the opening round of the playoffs and their coaches cannot be interviewed until those games are over.

In accordance to the NFL’s so-called “Rooney Rule,” teams must interview a minority candidate before making a hire. Meeting with Bowles or Austin would satisfy that requirement.

The 49ers also have been linked to Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Mike’s son and a member of his father’s coaching staff in Washington, and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. It’s unknown whether interviews have been set up.

Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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