Staff shakeup follows disappointing season
They lost their throne as NFC champions, lost their new aura of a young powerhouse on the rise and lost a dizzying avalanche of players to injury or the Reserve/COVID-19 list during a jinxed season that saw San Francisco have a franchise-record and NFL-high 85 players play snaps for the team during the year.
And then the 49ers lost much more, with defensive coordinator Robert Saleh leaving the team in mid-January, setting off a domino series of events that reworked San Francisco’s coaching staff and saw other key assistants leave the team.
Typically, staff shakeups in the NFL happen after 6-10 seasons because changes are deemed necessary after a poor year and the firing of individual assistants are the result. But the most dramatic changes in coach Kyle Shanahan’s staff came as a result of the team’s success, both recent and in seasons past, as Saleh and former passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur both were hired for high-profile positions that took them to the New York Jets.
Four other former San Francisco assistants also followed Saleh to New York. Former offensive line coach John Benton, former defensive backs/cornerbacks coach Tony Oden, former assistant defensive line coach Aaron Whitecotton and former defensive passing game specialist Mike Rutenberg also hopped on the Saleh train to New York with enhanced coaching titles.
In addition, Martin Mayhew — a key frontoffice figure during the Shanahan/John Lynch regime — also left the 49ers for a higher-profile position with the Washington Redskins, setting off a ripple of change in San Francisco’s personnel department.
Here, The Niner Report provides a breakdown of the changes among San Francisco’s staff and personnel department through February.
Robert Saleh: The 49ers gave Saleh his first shot at a high-profile NFL coordinator position in 2017 and, boy, did he ever not let them down.
Taking over a unit that ranked 32nd in the NFL in total defense in 2016, Saleh upgraded the personnel to fit his scheme during the rebuilding seasons of 2017-2018, then directed arguably the NFL’s premier defensive unit in 2019. That defense, one of the best in franchise history, ranked second in the NFL in total defense and led the league in passing defense while carrying the 49ers to the Super Bowl one year after a four-win season. But if Saleh was terrific at his job in 2019, then he was phenomenal last season in getting the most out of San Francisco’s defense. Losing impact players such as Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and Richard Sherman for most of the season, and playing without 12 defensive regulars at various times during the year, Saleh still managed to hold it all together and produce one of the NFL’s best defenses for the second consecutive year. Despite the personnel shortfall, the 49ers finished fifth in the NFL in total defense and fourth in pass defense with 26 different defenders starting at least one game. That impressive performance made Saleh one of the hottest items on the head coaching circuit in January, and he interviewed for that position with the Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles before New York signed Saleh to a five-year contract on Jan. 14 to become the 20th head coach in Jets history — and the first Muslim head coach in NFL history. “Robert is a great coach and an even better person,” Lynch said. “He’s a gifted leader who has earned the opportunity to direct a team in this league. We wish Robert and (his) family the best and look forward to watching his future accomplishments.”
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
SHOULD THEY STAY OR GO?
49ers have long list of decisions to make with their own FAs
TOP 10 Most illustrious assistants
When Robert Saleh signed a five-year contract with the New York Jets, Jan. 14, he became the 35th former San Francisco assistant to use his time on the 49ers’ staff as a springboard to a future position as an NFL head coach. Several of those men made a big enough impact during their time with the team — and then later leading other teams, with 10 taking their new teams to the Super Bowl — to be included on this list of the Most Illustrious Assistant Coaches in 49ers history.
As if the 49ers didn’t already lose enough during their tortured 2020 season.
It was a season to remember. It was a season to forget. Either way, you look at it, it was the strangest of seasons for San Francisco that you will ever see. Looking back at the year that was to illustrate that point, The Niner Report has assembled the best, worst and most unconventional of the 49ers’ 2020 season.
TO BE DETERMINED…
49ers enter offseason with options at QB
FOR TELEVISION, NFL DEAL IS LIKELY A MATTER OF SURVIVAL
The $113 billion deal to telecast NFL games through 2033 is head-swimmingly large — until you consider that the very survival of broadcast networks as we know them may depend upon it.
JC Deep Dive: The new coaching staff
Bringing Shanahan magic to Florham Park
The Long Game: Covid Changed The Way We Play, Watch, Cheer
It’s the predictable rhythm of sports that draws us in.
Aaron & Shailene: WEDDING & A BABY!
The couple are on the fast track when it comes to their future.
THE RIGHT STUFF?
Keeping two important starters is a priority as the right side of the O-line hits free agency
GUARDS/CENTERS: TOP AVAILABLE FREE AGENTS
Brandon Scherff, Washington 6-5 • 315 pounds • 29 years old The fifth pick of the 2015 draft, Scherff certainly lived up to the hype. He’s got everything teams want in a guard — size, grit, great technique, power and the mobility to get to the second level. His massive hands (11 inches) are a huge asset for a guard to grab and clutch. He made the Pro Bowl four of his first five NFL seasons. $$$$$
GUARDS/CENTERS TOP AVAILABLE FREE AGENTS
GUARDS/CENTERS TOP AVAILABLE FREE AGENTS
2021 NFL draft sneak preview
The Dolphins again will be prominent players in the 2021 NFL draft, thanks to the final returns from the major Laremy Tunsil trade with the Houston Texans.
NFL Honors, D-line coach, 2020 draft story
It was a disappointing, albeit not entirely surprising, night for the Dolphins when the NFL Honors awards presentation took place.
Analyzing the Sanders extension
Jason Sanders had the best season ever for a Miami Dolphins kicker in 2020, and he was rewarded for it when he was named a first-team All-Pro.