49ers aim for continuity with new coordinator hires

By Chris Biderman
The Sacramento Bee/TNS

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The 49ers are aiming for continuity as they reshape their coaching staff this offseason now that some staffers are moving elsewhere.

San Francisco on Monday announced the expected promotions of linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans to defensive coordinator and run-game specialist Mike McDaniel to offensive coordinator.

The moves came in light of former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh taking the head coaching job with the New York Jets last week and bringing with him pass-game coordinator Mike LaFleur as his offensive coordinator.

According to an NFL Media report, the Jets are also tapping 49ers offensive line coach John Benton to join Saleh’s staff as an O-line coach and run-game coordinator. That would leave Chris Foerster to oversee San Francisco’s offensive line after working as an assistant last season and a consultant the previous two seasons. Foerster has a close relationship with left tackle Trent Williams, who is the team’s most important and high-profile free agent this spring.

The 49ers are also bringing back Rich Scangarello to the offensive staff, per the report. Scangarello served as the quarterbacks coach in 2017, helping integrate Jimmy Garoppolo into the system following the midseason trade from the Patriots and going 5-0 as the starter.

Scangarello took an offensive coordinator job in Denver in 2018 and worked as a senior offensive assistant with the Eagles the next season. The team is still hashing out the structure of the offensive staff, which could include current quarterbacks coach Shane Day in an expanded role filling the void left by LaFleur.

McDaniel, 37, joined the 49ers in 2017 under head coach Kyle Shanahan after working with him previously with Houston, Washington, Cleveland and Atlanta. He’s regarded as one of the best offensive assistants in the NFL and was linked to other offensive coordinator openings this winter. But he elected to stick with Shanahan, one of his closest confidants and supporters.

McDaniel dealt with alcohol-related issues in the past, which led to spending roughly three weeks at an in-patient treatment facility during his stint with the Falcons.

“Everyone’s always said the same thing about me: how talented I am, how smart I am - ‘but’,” McDaniel told The USA TODAY leading up to Super Bowl LI after the 2016 season. “And I wanted to figure out why I kept sabotaging myself and what I was missing.”

McDaniel credited support from coaches and the front office in Atlanta for getting him on the right track.

“I didn’t learn until I stopped drinking that people actually like me better when I don’t drink,” said McDaniel, who hadn’t had a drink since a year before the story was written.

McDaniel and LaFleur served as Shanahan’s right-hand men during his game-plan meetings early in the week with San Francisco. McDaniel focused on the running game while LaFleur’s title was passing game coordinator. McDaniel, known for his creativity with X’s and O’s, has worked previously as a receivers coach. He’s spent games with San Francisco in the upstairs coaching booth offering Shanahan an extra set of eyes from above the action.

The Shanahan-McDaniel-LaFleur trio would often give players 80 new plays to learn for installation each week before games. Some would be the same plays out of new formations while others would be entirely new concepts.

Shanahan acknowledged back in November the reality that he would lose assistants to promotions elsewhere. He’s employed current head coaches Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur (Mike’s brother) on his staffs previously.

“You think about it all the time,” Shanahan said. “That’s why you’re always trying to train people. You can’t speak enough about, one, having talented people, but just the time and the experience of working with people. You can’t make that up in one year. So, you’re always trying to get guys with you and train in the best way, and you want to hold onto them as long as possible, but we’ve got a number of really good coaches and I understand you can’t do that forever.”

McDaniel on Monday received a strong endorsement from fullback Kyle Juszczyk, another one of San Francisco’s high-profile free agents this offseason.

However, McDaniel is not expected to assume play-calling duties. That will likely remain Shanahan’s responsibility. McDaniel may have been given those obligations with another team had he taken a coordinator position elsewhere.

Ryans, meanwhile, will take on calling plays on defense for the first time in his coaching career. The 36-year-old had a 10-year playing career as a linebacker with the Houston Texans and Philadelphia following a successful stint at the University of Alabama. He was the first pick of the second round in the 2006 draft by Houston and received defensive rookie of the year honors. He joined San Francisco’s staff working for Saleh as a quality control coach in 2017 before getting promoted to coach linebackers in 2018.

“It’s only as a matter of time before DeMeco is a coordinator in this league. It’s a matter of time before DeMeco will be a head coach,” Shanahan said earlier this month in his season-ending press conference.

If Ryans and McDaniel continue their trajectories, the 49ers might have to find their replacements in the coming seasons as they have this winter for Saleh and LaFleur.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the first quarter of the game against the Washington Football Team at State Farm Stadium on Dec. 13, 2020 in Glendale, Ariz.