NFL

We have our answer on Paraag Marathe

When the 49ers embarked on their twisty-turny search for guys to pick the players and coach them, I wrote a story titled “49ers’ great unknown as they search for GM, coach: The power of Paraag.”

Well, well, well. Now we know.

Before we get into that … it’s been a little while since I’ve written about the 49ers, and a lot has happened.

This seems to be a very odd search, and not just because most teams would try to hire a general manager first. If the 49ers were trying to build leverage against Shanahan, aren’t there better choices than Cable? Maybe with every other open head coaching position getting filled, there weren’t many NFL employees who’d even appear to be viable candidates, and the 49ers weren’t going to stir up a huge dust storm by interviewing a college head coach when they had no intentions of going that route. Still, very strange. Cable? Really? Shanahan and his agent probably popped a bottle of expensive champagne on Sunday, and not just because Shanahan’s team just scored 36 on Cable’s.

The 49ers seem to be burning some bridges along the way, but they probably don’t mind annoying the Seattle guys. It’s payback for the Seahawks complete ownage of the 49ers since 2013, I guess.

***

OK, now it’s Marathe time. Ugh, that might be the least inspiring sentence I’ve ever written.

The answer to that last question might start with “Mike” and ends with “Nolan.” Seriously, who else would the 49ers hire if they screw up this Shanahan thing? Chuck Pagano (if he gets fired by Jim Irsay)? Trent Dilfer?

I like the idea of Shanahan coaching the team from an offensive perspective (we’ll see about his personality if they seal the deal), but the 49ers have backed themselves into quite a corner. I can’t remember a coaching search ever looking like this, where a team semi-publicly narrows it down to one candidate and has to wait several days to sign that person. I suck at poker, but I would feel pretty confident if I was going against the Yorks.

Oh, and we got this from Mike Florio (Pro Football Talk), who doesn’t seem to be quite as close with Jedraag as Silver and other national reporters:

So how did it get to this point? Despite the widespread popular belief that the 49ers are currently the most dysfunctional team in football, the thinking in league circles is that, with some tweaks, the G.M. and coaching jobs could be desirable. The impediment to attracting their preferred candidates isn’t owner Jed York; apparently, it’s Chief Strategy Officer and EVP of Football Operations Paraag Marathe.

Marathe is, as a practical matter, the Russ Brandon of the 49ers. The only difference is that the 49ers make no secret of Marathe’s influence over the football operations.

From his online bio: “On the team side, Marathe reports directly to 49ers CEO Jed York and has a significant role in major strategic decisions for the club as Chief Strategy Officer. He also continues in his long-respected role as the team’s chief contract negotiator and salary cap architect, while overseeing the team’s football analytics department.”

Put simply, Marathe has influence, along with the ear of ownership. He’s been there for 16 years, and he has transcended the bubble of accountability in which coaches and General Managers reside. And that’s precisely the kind of dynamic coaches and General Managers try to avoid.

Shanahan is embracing it because, as his final package will demonstrate, he leveraged the team’s desperation to his full advantage. Moving forward, however, it’s an elephant in the room that may be serving as an oversized anchor.

We don’t know if Shanahan would be a better head coach than McDaniels (they seem really similar in a lot of ways). If Shanahan indeed signs and makes the 49ers noticeably better, it’s an “all’s well that ends well” situation. It’s just interesting to note the dynamics of the 49ers front office. A former Senior Associate Consultant for Bain & Company has risen through the ranks, stayed with the 49ers for 16 years, and “transcended the bubble of accountability.”

I thought only owners could pull off that last trick.

Marathe seems to know quite a bit about the CBA and how to work the cap. But plenty of smart people would kill to be in a position like this, where your boss constantly hands you additional responsibilities in pro sports despite everything crumbling around you. It often isn’t what you know, but who you know.

Maybe the other guy was Brian Hampton. Hampton joined the 49ers as an intern in 2003, and he’s been a part of this process with Jedraag (and Jed’s mom, apparently). We don’t know who the 49ers will choose to be their GM or their next starting quarterback (it’s pretty clear that Kaepernick is gone), but we do know this: Making friends with the owner (or, in this case, the owner’s son) certainly has benefits.

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