Jim Tomsula

Predicting the 49ers’ next offensive coordinator

If we can take Lane Kiffin at his word that he’ll remain as the offensive coordinator for the Alabama Crimson Tide, we’re running out of (reported) options for the 49ers’ next OC. So let’s go through the three guys who’ve been linked to the 49ers, in order from least to most likely.

3. Mike Shanahan

All we have to go on is a report from Dianna Marie Russini (a sports anchor in Washington, D.C.) that said Kyle Shanahan turned down the 49ers (he took the Falcons OC job), but his father was “still in play.”

Shanahan the elder reportedly interviewed with both the 49ers and Raiders when both teams were searching for a head coach. Other than Russini’s report, there haven’t been many stories about him since — so one might think that if he was the 49ers’ first choice, it would’ve happened by now. Shanahan probably isn’t hurting for money, seeing as his last deal (with Washington) was for five years at approximately $7 million per season.

Lots of questions here:

  • What kind of paycut would Shanahan accept?
  • Would he take a job under Jim Tomsula?
  • If the 49ers really liked him, why didn’t they make him their head coach?

With all of those questions, I’m just not seeing it. Next!

2. Rob Chudzinski

This hire would make too much sense, at least compared to what’s happened in Santa Clara over the last month. The 49ers’ two most dynamic players on offense are arguably Colin Kaepernick and Vernon Davis (that was the going wisdom heading into the 2014 season, anyway), and “Chud” is known for boosting the numbers of two players: Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Browns tight end Jordan Cameron.

The 49ers were turned down by the Colts when they asked for permission to interview Chudzinski, as were the Rams. However, Chud is a free agent at some point this week (tomorrow?). All we have to go on as far as the Colts’ thoughts on his future employment comes from this quote from Colts GM Ryan Grigson:

“I’m not going to get into specifics, but it’s ultimately my job to make sure that good people stay in this building and don’t just walk right now. So we’ll address that, and do our best to keep good people here.”

Here’s what would be a tough pill: if the Colts let Chudzinski interview with the 49ers and Rams, and he chose to coach under Jeff Fisher instead of Tomsula. Of course, money might play a bigger role than the head coach in this case (or not, who knows). Also, an OC under Tomsula would have close to free reign (other than some friendly suggestions from Trent Baalke), and working with Kaepernick would probably be more enjoyable than trying to craft an offense with whoever the Rams choose as their 2015 starting quarterback.

Then again, the Colts could keep him around as insurance in case Pep Hamilton becomes a head coach in the pro or college ranks. It seems like there are a few obstacles between the 49ers and Chud, but I have him ahead of Shanahan because the 49ers seem to have a bit more interest in the former Browns head coach.

1. Cheap Geep Chryst

One of the few assistants who survived the 49ers’ post-Harbaugh purge, Chryst (who served as the team’s quarterbacks coach for four seasons) has two years experience as an offensive coordinator, drawing up the plays for the 1999 and 2000 Chargers. Jim Harbaugh was on both teams, starting 12 games on the 1999 team that went 8-8 and starting two games (but seeing action in seven) on the 1-15 team that tried to make things work with Ryan Leaf.

Neither offense performed all that well (26th in yards and 28th in points in 1999, 28th in yards and 26th in points in 2000), but it’s tough to lay all the blame on Chryst. San Diego’s top running back over that period was Jermaine Fazande, who rushed for 365 yards (4.0 ypc) in 1999 and 368 yards (3.1 ypc) in 2000. Their best receivers were Jeff Graham, tight end Freddie Jones and Curtis Conway. They got LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001, but by then Chryst had been replaced by Norv Turner.

Chryst is an in-house candidate who almost certainly would’ve taken the 49ers’ offensive coordinator job if the team had offered it by now, so he would appear to be the fallback option in case Chud is either unavailable or says “no” to the 49ers. The team clearly likes Chryst, otherwise he would’ve been fired, and it’s hard to imagine he’d turn down a promotion from QB to OC even if the subsequent raise didn’t make him one of the NFL’s highest-paid offensive coordinators (in other words: the kind of money Shanahan and Chudzinski are probably seeking).

Based on how respective searches for a head coach and defensive coordinator went — with the 49ers ultimately choosing guys they knew who weren’t getting similar offers from other teams, Chryst makes the most sense. So that’s my prediction, unless they’re waiting to poach a Seahawks or Patriots assistant, or they end up surprising us with a hire from the college ranks.

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