The 49ers appear to be aiming for an ex-Raiders reunion in Santa Clara.
According to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, a “front-runner” for the 49ers’ offensive coordinator position is one-time Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin, whose coaching career has been marked by turmoil and abrupt departures and who has spent the past year overseeing the University of Alabama’s offense. Schefter also mentions Indianapolis Colts assistant Rob Chudzinski as an option.
Kiffin and Chudzinski are represented by the same agent, Jimmy Sexton.
The 49ers also have interviewed former Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, presumably for the same spot on their team. Tarver, 40, spent 10 seasons with the 49ers – four of them with new 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula – before moving on to Stanford and then to the Raiders. Tom Rathman, who will stay on as the 49ers’ running backs coach, was on Kiffin’s staff with the Raiders.
Kiffin, 39, was only 31 when the Raiders hired him in 2007, and his team went 4-12 that season. A month into his second season, the Raiders fired him and replaced him with Tom Cable.
“I picked the wrong guy,” then-owner Al Davis said in a memorable news conference during which he routinely and derisively referred to Kiffin as “Lance.”
Kiffin then had a one-year stint as the head coach at the University of Tennessee before leaving that job and taking over at USC. He spent two full seasons there and was fired midway through his third year. He was then hired by Nick Saban at Alabama where he ran an offense that ranked 15th in the nation in yards per game.
“There’s a lot of good coaches out there. We have to identify those coaches,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said Thursday. “And it’s a synergy – it’s bringing those guys together. It’s no different than bringing the team together. We’ve got to find a coaching staff that we can bring together and get on the same page as quickly as we can.”
One pitfall still fresh in the minds of the 49ers and their fans is the revolving door of offensive coordinators that one-time starting quarterback Alex Smith dealt with. Smith had a different person calling the plays in each of his first seven years in the league.
Are the 49ers mindful of a similar scenario with Colin Kaepernick?
“As far as Colin’s development goes, it’s always important to keep as much stability as you can – with any player,” Baalke said. “... But this is part of it. This is part of football. And every player in their career goes through this type of transition.”
Kiffin, meanwhile, was asked late last month whether he plans to return to Alabama for another season.
“Yes. Definitely,” he said. “I think that we’ve still got a lot of stuff we can do better. We’ll obviously be working with a new quarterback, and that will be exciting. We’ve done that before. To me, that’s always exciting, the unknown. You’ve got a new quarterback to see if we can do this again, to see if we can perform really well.”
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.