It wasn’t long ago when the San Francisco 49ers were viewed as Super Bowl contenders with a head coach in Jim Harbaugh leading the way. Suddenly, things look bleak after the team “mutually parted ways” with Harbaugh only minutes after the final game ended in the 2014 season.
Jed York and the front office knew they wanted to rid themselves of Harbaugh from as early as last March. The whole downward spiral began with the near-trade of sending Harbaugh to the Cleveland Browns in a report by Pro Football Talk.
Once the season began, reports were saying that Harbaugh lost the locker room and that things were looking dysfunctional from within. Jay Glazer even said a Super Bowl would not save Harbaugh’s job for the 2014 season.
The plan was simple for York and the front office: To separate themselves from Harbaugh as soon as possible. Sure, he led the team to three consecutive NFC Championship games and their first Super Bowl appearance since 1994, but it won’t matter knowing the disagreements between Harbaugh himself and the front office.
After nearly 17 days of searching, the 49ers promoted Jim Tomsula to become the 19th head coach in team history. It was simple, the 49ers were looking for a candidate who they thought could be better than Tomsula.
In the end, he was the guy they were looking for the entire time. They wanted someone who they can control and have power over. General Manager Trent Baalke has previously said that he will have control over what happens with the 53-man roster with the head coach having some say in the decisions.
It trickled down as a domino effect when looking for staff members and coordinators. They struck out on trying to find a defensive coordinator and ended up promoting Eric Mangini from within. This is the same Mangini who was previously a senior offensive assistant in 2013 and TE coach in 2014.
However, he has credibility as a defensive mind as he served behind Bill Belichick as defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator. Mangini did not succeed well as a head coach in brief stints with the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns, but he has plenty of talent to work with on defense.
The offensive coordinator position is the real head scratcher, as they just promoted QB coach Geep Chryst from within. They needed to have fresh blood, or a clean slate for Colin Kaepernick and the development of the offense. In the end, they get a coach who has already worked with their quarterback,
San Francisco struck out on the names they targeted from Adam Gase (now with Chicago), Kyle Shanahan (now in Atlanta), Rob Chudzinski (staying in Indianapolis) and Bob Bicknell (declined to leave Philadelphia). They had to settle for Chryst, whom they already retained from Jim Harbaugh’s staff, one of only a few who stayed within the organization. Other offensive minds they kept includes Ronald Curry, while Chris Foerster returns to the team for the first time since 2009.
The 49ers ended up flipping Jim Harbaugh, Greg Roman and Vic Fangio for what is now Jim Tomsula at head coach, Geep Chryst as offensive coordinator and Eric Mangini as defensive coordinator. On paper, that would be viewed as a downgrade knowing what the 49ers are coming off of.
Their plan was to rid themselves of Harbaugh and work after that. Now, they will have an uphill battle knowing the rise of all three NFC West rivals in the St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.
Sure, there is talent on defense to keep things afloat, but the dream of having a new offensive mind to work with Kaepernick is gone. Chryst has been spending the last four years with Kaepernick and it’s possible the organization would move on to a new QB if he has a down season in 2015.
Management wanted to find teachers to be the coaches, but in the eyes of spectators, they all look like puppets. Now the personnel moves of free agency and later the draft will determine how the direction of this 49ers team could be heading.