Alex Smith

Jim Harbaugh’s assistants are going to get expensive

Anyone who writes about the 49ers is in a different predicament than usual. Before, it was a race to assign blame. Now, it’s a praise-giving competition.

“Anyone can write about the middle linebackers. Check out my story about Justin Smith, what a motor!”

“Yeah, yeah, the Niners’ defense is good … blah, blah blah. I got my eye on the special teams.”

“Old news. I just wrote about how Alex Smith is resurrecting his career!”

“Alex Smith wouldn’t be anything without Jim Harbaugh.”

“You’re forgetting Harbaugh’s coaching staff! Without those guys there’s no way Harbaugh would have this team at 9-1.”

There are 13 teams in the NFL with six or more losses, three of those teams residing in the Niners’ division. It’s a virtual guarantee that several of those teams are glancing over at the 49ers and wondering how they can make the same kind of turnaround San Francisco has after finishing 6-10 last season. While some of those teams might try searching for any unused Harbaughs, it’s likelier that they’ll pinpoint Harbaugh’s assistants — specifically Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio, Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman and Special Teams Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach Brad Seely.

Heck, even Defensive Line Coach/Chest Hair Specialist Jim Tomsula could get snatched away.

Yesterday the Fox cameras showed Fangio in the booth cursing after one of the Cardinals’ few successful offensive plays, a 45-yard catch and run down the right sideline by Andre Roberts. That was probably many fans’ first introduction to Fangio (what he looks like when he’s angry, anyway). However, there’s no doubt the NFL knows exactly who he is and how valuable he’s been as the team transitioned from Mike Singletary and Greg Manusky to the dominant defense seen under Harbaugh and Fangio.

Other teams will go after Harbaugh’s staff, offering more money and jobs with more responsibility. And Harbaugh knows it.

“I almost got the feeling that we got coach Seely now and at some point some smart organization is going to hire him away from us. We’ll be playing against him. And the same can be said with Greg Roman and Vic Fangio.”

While it’s probably impossible to stop any of these top assistants from leaving if an NFL head coaching job’s on the table (especially since Harbaugh isn’t going anywhere anytime soon), there’s a way the 49ers can slow down this threat of a mass coaching exodus.

Give these guys raises. Hefty, generous, “maybe the Bay Area isn’t that expensive after all” raises.

The 49ers know that continuity starts at the top, but it goes further. One can’t get more than 20 words into their starting quarterback’s biography without mentioning how many offensive coordinators he’s had to deal with. The last thing the Niners need is to undo all that’s happened so far by getting stingy with the assistants who’ve helped build a very good (possibly great) team in less than six months’ time.

Jed York surprised many with the 5-year, $25MM offer that landed Harbaugh, and Harbaugh has surprised even more with the way the 49ers have played since he took over. The Niners are over $15MM under the cap, so they have money to spare (yes, even though they’re trying to get the Santa Clara stadium project going). If they want to continue riding the kind of momentum that’ll get that stadium built, they’d better do all they can to keep Harbaugh’s staff around as long as possible.

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