Maybe the 49ers were humbled over the last month. It’s not the safest bet, but take a look at the evidence. Apparently Chris Ballard was their “first, second and third choice” for their open general manager position, but the “Chiefs” blocked the move.
It would appear that, in reality, Ballard wasn’t interested.
After the Chiefs were knocked out of the playoffs and the Colts decided to fire their G.M., suddenly Ballard was interested in interviewing! Fancy that. Throw in (one) franchise quarterback and subtract (one) Paraag Marathe and PRESTO, the top candidates in their field are flocking to Indy. That also includes Eliot Wolf, who took himself out of the 49ers G.M. race a week ago, as well as two others who interviewed with the 49ers — Scott Fitterer and Trent Kirchner of Seattle.
So far, five G.M. candidates have either declined an interview or removed their name from consideration: Ballard, Nick Caserio, Trent Kirchner, Wolf and Brian Gutenkunst. Two coaches removed themselves from consideration after being interviewed: Josh McDaniels and Tom Cable.
The latter coaching candidate might have been used as leverage against the man who’s driving this entire operation, Kyle Shanahan. And the 49ers’ failure to land McDaniels, and their realization that Shanahan was the best possible choice who was actually open to taking the job, has given Shanahan the kind of leverage you rarely see for a coach who hasn’t already won a Super Bowl.
I’ll couch this by noting that the following story doesn’t seem all that likely to come to fruition, but it’s still a symbol of how desperate the 49ers appear to people around the NFL.
Last month, the 49ers had no intention to ever hire Mike Shanahan, at any time and in any capacity. Now that Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has parlayed his stand-alone cheese status into the kind of leverage that can allow him to ask for anything and everything before signing the contract that will make him the head coach of the 49ers, the 49ers may have to revisit their position.
There’s increasing chatter in league circles that Kyle Shanahan will try to get his father a job in San Francisco, forcing the team to bite its tongue and do what it doesn’t want to do in order to avoid having to go back to the drawing board to hire a coach at a time when the team has been settled on Kyle Shanahan.
That’s right … THE FULL SHANAHAN. Here’s what I suggested two months ago:
As you can probably surmise, my crazy idea that’ll never happen is to hire Kyle Shanahan as the head coach. As for his father, Mike, we’re going to make him the President of Football Operations. His job will be to create a team in his vision, hire a GM, and fight the Yorks to get his son whatever he needs to propel the 49ers to a level where they can start winning division titles and contending for Super Bowls again.
The elder Shanahan isn’t so old that he couldn’t possibly serve as GM, but at 64 his experience (he was V.P. of football operations in Washington) and knowledge is better suited for a role that doesn’t necessarily entail flying across the country multiple times each month. Bringing Mike Shanahan aboard would also create a connection with the times that made the franchise and everyone who roots for it so proud, without forcing Jed to look like he’s blatantly copying his uncle (Shanahan was only with the 49ers as their offensive coordinator from 1992-94).
Mike Florio concedes that it’s “unclear what Mike Shanahan’s role would be,” and it seems like my “crazy idea that’ll never happen” probably wouldn’t, because my plan was for Kyle to coach — not have control over the 53-man or share control with his father. (Also, the 49ers are going to interview George Paton and Terry McDonough tomorrow.)
But whether they go with Paton, McDonough, or neither, it’s obvious that Kyle Shanahan will at least have some control over personnel. Otherwise, G.M. candidates wouldn’t be turning down a job that offers a blank canvas and so much cap space. (Unless Paraag Marathe really is that toxic.)
I recognize how silly my original idea was, in hindsight. With two Shanahans in the same building, any other guy — even one with the G.M. title — would be nothing more than a glorified scout. But it was pretty surprising to see Florio’s report today, given Shanahan the Elder’s ties to the Eddie DeBartolo regime and the likelihood that Mike would pay much attention to Marathe’s charts (very, very low).
This surely isn’t what the 49ers envisioned when they set out to remake their franchise. They really liked Ballard, and they probably would’ve been thrilled with a Caserio/McDaniels pairing. (Who knows if they really liked Louis Riddick, who is linked to McDaniels but may not have gotten along with Jedraag, considering how that whole thing shook out and Riddick’s comments afterward.)
It’s amazing that we’ve gone over three weeks since Jed York’s press conference and there hasn’t been a subsequent press conference announcing a hire of any kind, but maybe that’s for the best. Shanahan is a brighter offensive mind than anyone the 49ers have had in years … hell, maybe even two decades (and that includes Jim Harbaugh, whose strengths lie in the areas of motivation and the ability to blend all three phases of the game in the most logical way).
If Jedraag has been humbled throughout this process, all the better. The fact that they froze season ticket prices for two years says they’re probably on board with a rebuilding project without shortcuts, which is great news. The reloading era is mercifully over (even though, technically, it never took place).
Maybe Jedraag finally realized that they need to give power to someone other than Paraag Marathe and/or Trent Baalke. Are the Shanahans perfect? No. But the prospect of a brighter future — and a head coach who won’t get fired after one year — is far likelier with those two at the helm (or just one of them) than if they went with someone with less gravitas … like just about every head coach who’s been hired since the season ended. It’s been a strange process, and getting rejected this many times had to hurt, but perhaps the latter isn’t such a bad thing considering how arrogant Jedraag has appeared since Harbaugh dragged the 49ers out of the cellar.