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The 49ers’ search for a head coach to replace Jim Harbaugh includes visits with Mike Shanahan and Rex Ryan.
When CEO Jed York, general manager Trent Baalke and president Paraag Marathe interview candidates they are searching for opinions on how the 49ers can return to being Super Bowl contenders in the post-Jim Harbaugh era.
Unquestionably, one of the big items on the checklist is to devise a plan to develop quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a pocket passer and utilize his skill set to get the most out of the 49ers’ offense.
When the 49ers faced Washington in November 2013, Bay Area reporters asked Shanahan about Kaepernick. At the time, Shanahan was having problems getting a lot out of Robert Griffin, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft. A year earlier, the 49ers traded up to No. 36 to select Kaepernick.
“I think the quarterback position is growth,” Shanahan said on a conference call prior to the 49ers’ 27-6 victory. “And you can see what a great arm he (Kaepernick) has and what great speed he has. I don’t know him, but he seems like a great guy and a natural leader. It just takes a while. Every year is a learning experience.
“Defenses will always catch up to a guy. But that repetition is going to get him more comfortable with different situations, and you can see what a bright future he does have because his arm strength, his ability to make plays with his legs. I like what I see.”
Shanahan referred to the amount of time a quarterback must spend to get better at his craft. Shanahan was not speaking specifically about Kaepernick, but he said a quarterback can never feel as if he has arrived.
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Kaepernick compiled a 98.3 passer rating in seven starts in 2012 after taking over for Alex Smith. In 2013 and this season, his passer ratings dropped to 91.6 and 86.4.
“I think that’s part of the process of being an NFL quarterback, that it’s hard,” Shanahan said in 2013. “The amount of hours that you have to spend studying film and going through progressions, looking at defenses, it’s 24 hours a day, not only during season but the offseason for you to take it to that elite level.
“Everybody is going to have a year or two that’s better than the other. For that consistency, you’re going to need a guy that loves football and loves studying because there are so many different parts. It’s one of the reasons why it’s the hardest position in sports to play.”
Before Shanahan won two Super Bowls as Denver Broncos head coach in 1997 and '98 with quarterback John Elway, he was the 49ers' offensive coordinator for three seasons with Steve Young. The 49ers featured an explosive offense en route to the Super Bowl title in 1994.
Ryan's expertise is on the defensive side. But he made it known more than a year earlier that he liked what he saw from Kaepernick prior to that year’s draft.
“Again, some people think the Wildcat has come and gone. No, it hasn’t. If anything, it’s just the opposite. I saw the kid from San Francisco, Kaepernick,” Ryan said, via Pro Football Talk from comments distributed by the Jets during training camp. “He runs a 4.4 or something. I was really intrigued by him when he came out because I thought we were going to lose Brad (Smith).
“(The 49ers) drafted him before we could, but I was interested in him. He went for a 70-yard touchdown run the other day (in an exhibition game against Minnesota). You’re seeing these guys and it’s hard to defend some of that stuff. When you have the ability to throw, as well as run, it makes it tough.”
The 49ers interviewed defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn on Tuesday. They held interviews with Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Shanahan on Friday. On Saturday, the 49ers were scheduled to meet with New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Ryan is slated to meet with the 49ers on Sunday.