San Francisco 49ers

49ers coaching candidates: Pros and cons

Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula served as interim head coach for the 49ers for one game -- a win -- at the end of the 2010 season.
Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula served as interim head coach for the 49ers for one game -- a win -- at the end of the 2010 season. The Bee

The 49ers will visit with New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels today, the NFL Network reported Friday. That brings the list of known candidates to nine. Here’s a handicapped overview of the group:

Mike Shanahan

Most recent job: Head coach, Washington

Age: 62

Pros: He has the most experience of any of the known 49ers candidates and has coached two of the game’s best quarterbacks – Steve Young and John Elway. That’s a big selling point for a franchise trying to turn Colin Kaepernick into an elite quarterback. He also has ties to the 49ers’ glory years and their original West Coast offense, which would be trumpeted in an introductory press conference.

Cons: Shanahan’s last quarterback project ended with then-rookie Robert Griffin III taking a beating from which he has yet to recover. Shanahan went 24-41 in four seasons in Washington and lost his only playoff appearance.

Vic Fangio

Most recent job: Defensive coordinator, 49ers

Age: 56

Pros: He showed a keen eye for placing players in the right spots when he began assembling the 49ers after the 2011 lockout. His units have finished in the top five ever since and his blunt and honest style has won the respect of his players. Fangio would add an element of calm to the franchise after such a dizzying 2014 campaign.

Cons: That blunt style may not play well with a front office that felt undermined at times by Jim Harbaugh. Meanwhile, the 49ers’ most important component is Kaepernick, and they may be prefer an offensive coach.

Jim Tomsula

Most recent job: Defensive-line coach, 49ers

Age: 46

Pros: He’s charming, charismatic, humble – everything Harbaugh was not. He’s also a very good, caring coach and has the respect of the defensive linemen he’s been in charge of for the past eight seasons. His interim head-coaching gig in 2010 lasted one week but was a success.

Cons: The key players on defense were plugging Fangio, not Tomsula. If Tomsula gets the job, Fangio almost certainly would leave. Furthermore, promoting a defensive-line coach to head coach is unprecedented and would attract even more attention after Harbaugh’s controversial exit.

Rex Ryan

Most recent job: Former head coach, Jets

Age: 52

Pros: He has a commanding personality and presence that could galvanize even a veteran team, which the 49ers are at this point. His Jets defenses typically have been stout in recent years.

Cons: While the Jets’ defenses have been top 10 in caliber, Fangio’s have been top five. Hiring Ryan over Fangio could be a tough sell to the players. Furthermore, the 49ers need the most help on offense and with their quarterback, both of which were Ryan’s downfalls in New York.

Adam Gase

Most recent job: Offensive coordinator, Broncos

Age: 36

Pros: He’s been part of one of the league’s top offenses in recent seasons and has worked closely with perhaps the best quarterback in the game. Gase is said to have a strong personality and he’s been an excellent match with Peyton Manning, something that must entice the 49ers as they look for someone to work with Kaepernick.

Cons: Gase is a year older than Justin Smith and might have trouble with a veteran roster that was given the run of the place under Harbaugh. Furthermore, it’s hard to distinguish who was most responsible for Denver’s offensive success – Gase or Manning.

Josh McDaniels

Most recent job: Offensive coordinator, Patriots

Age: 38

Pros: He’s also young, but the Patriots’ offensive coordinator is more experienced than Gase, having been the Broncos’ head coach in 2009 and 2010. Like Gase, McDaniels is known for offense and for working with quarterbacks.

Cons: McDaniels’ stint in Denver ended just 12 games into his second season and it was clear he did not have the respect of the locker room. His record with quarterbacks also was not good in Denver – Jay Cutler didn’t trust him and he was traded to Chicago. The Broncos selected Tim Tebow – now out of the league – in the first round of the 2010 draft.

Dan Quinn

Most recent job: Defensive coordinator, Seahawks

Age: 44

Pros: He was in charge of the best defense in the league the past two years and his unit demolished the Broncos – and Gase’s offense – in the Super Bowl. Quinn has ties to the 49ers, having coached in San Francisco from 2001 to 2004.

Cons: Again, it would be hard for the 49ers to bring in a defensive-minded coach when their biggest needs are on offense and when there’s a great defensive mind already on staff. The 49ers’ interest in Quinn may have been more information gathering – keep your friends close and your enemies closer – than anything else.

Todd Bowles

Most recent job: Defensive coordinator, Cardinals

Age: 51

Pros: He’s a former NFL defensive back who relates well to his players and whose defenses have been among the best in recent years. He was a young assistant with the Jets in 2000 when general manager Trent Baalke was a scout there.

Cons: Despite his reputation, Bowles’ unit finished 24th in yards allowed this year (although it finished fifth in points allowed. The 49ers already have several esteemed defensive minds on their coaching staff.

Teryl Austin

Most recent job: Defensive coordinator, Lions

Age: 49

Pros: Detroit’s defense, which finished 16th in yards allowed and 15th in points allowed in 2013, finished second in both categories after Austin took over this season. He also coached the Ravens’ defensive backs in Baltimore’s Super Bowl win over the 49ers.

Cons: He’s only been a defensive coordinator for one season. The 49ers’ interest – as cynical as it sounds – may largely be based on the fact that an interview with him or Bowles satisfies their Rooney Rule commitment for interviewing a minority candidate.

Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at

Related stories from Sacramento Bee