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CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke were ready for the question when it was asked the day after the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh announced a mutual parting.
Both said they wanted the 49ers’ next coach to be a “teacher.” York described finding a coach who “understands how to get more out of less.”
Said Baalke, “We’re looking for teachers. People that can come in, teach the game at a very high level, and get our players to play as consistently as possible.”
When the 49ers settle on their 19th head coach, it is certain to be met with a high level of skepticism. The immediate response from some fans and columnists will be: “They replaced Jim Harbaugh with him?”
The 49ers have conducted known interviews with Vic Fangio, Dan Quinn, Mike Shanahan, Adam Gase, Josh McDaniels and Rex Ryan. They have at least two others scheduled for later in the week with Teryl Austin and Todd Bowles.
“We need to find the right person to come in,” York said on Dec. 29. “Again, it’s not about going out and saying, ‘OK, we found somebody and this is everybody that the media likes and we win the press conference.
“We’re not out to win the press conference. We’re out to find out who’s the right coach and go through everything that we possibly can and make sure that this is a person that’s going to be here for the next 10-plus years and hopefully have a successor.”
Things have not exactly gone smoothly for the 49ers in the past year – off the field or on the field. There appears to be no clear front-runner to replace Harbaugh. But there is one candidate who seems would be a lot more logical as the pick than the others.
If the 49ers are looking to keep many of the same positives in place that worked during Harbaugh’s four-year tenure, it is reasonable Fangio would get the promotion from the defensive coordinator position he held the past four seasons.
After all, the 49ers’ defense ranked in the top-five in total yards each season during Harbaugh’s tenure. Fangio was essentially the head coach of the defense, being granted complete autonomy over that side of the ball.
And nobody got more out of less than Fangio this season, as the 49ers’ depth chart on defense was ravaged.
NaVorro Bowman missed the entire season. Patrick Willis was available for just 5 ½ games. Aldon Smith was suspended for the first nine games. And the player considered to be the top cornerback, Tramaine Brock, was essentially lost for the season due to an injury from early in the opener.
Somehow, Fangio and his staff shuffled the pieces around and kept the defense strong.
Fangio is a no-nonsense coach who answers questions directly and honestly. He shows the ability to be decisive and strong. He twice benched starter Ahmad Brooks – the second time for a full game after he missed one meeting and showed up later for another.
If Fangio is named the coach, he would likely promote secondary coach Ed Donatell to defensive coordinator and most of the staff on that side of the ball would return. Donatell, by the way, was granted permission to interview with Washington for its vacant defensive coordinator position.
Fangio could also retain some of the assistant coaches on offense, perhaps, including running backs coach Tom Rathman and offensive line coach Mike Solari.
If the 49ers hire someone other than Fangio as head coach, the team could be looking at dramatic coaching shakeups on both sides of the ball.
What the 49ers need more than just about anything is an end to the drama.