If one were to take a look at most of the successful franchises in the NFL, there is one word that you could use in describing them: continuity.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have only had three coaches since 1969. The Baltimore Ravens, only three since their inception in 1996. Bill Belichick has been at the helm in New England for 15 years, and Tom Coughlin in New York for 11…you get the picture.
It’s important that when you develop a recipe for success, you stick with as many of the ingredients as you can for as long as you can. For San Francisco 49ers’ CEO Jed York, he’d have to look no further than the example his uncle Eddie DeBartalo set, when he promoted from within when Bill Walsh left following the 1988 season. DeBartolo went with in-house defensive coordinator George Seifert, and the franchise was rewarded with two more titles.
Unfortunately, both York and general manager Trent Baalke seem to have missed this lesson along the way, and their decision to pursue former Denver Broncos’ offensive coordinator Adam Gase exemplifies that.
While 2014 was in every way a disaster in San Francisco, it had a lot to do with injuries and the outside distractions that led to Jim Harbaugh‘s departure, and should in no way detract from what the coaching staff had accomplished since 2011.
Did the offense need new life? Absolutely, and it was time for Greg Roman (and possibly quarterbacks coach Geep Cryst) to go. Beyond that, the 49ers don’t need much tinkering. It’s like when you have a car that needs a few new parts, and you decide to rip the entire engine out. What’s the point in that?
The 49ers had (and probably still do) two scenarios they could have explored that would have maintained continuity, and perhaps most importantly, kept ultra-successful defensive coordinator Vic Fangio with the team.
The first was to promote Fangio himself to head coach. This move was said to have been popular amongst the players, and Fangio’s reported intention to move secondary coach Ed Donatell to defensive coordinator and hire Kyle Shanahan to run the offense is a sound plan.
Under this scenario, the 49ers keep continuity across the board sans the offense, however that unit would now be in capable hands with Shanahan, who has seven years experience as an offensive coordinator in the NFL.
The second scenario was to hire veteran head coach Mike Shanahan. Fangio was reported as saying he would stay on board with that move, and Shanahan is more than able to make the necessary hire and changes to help revive the offense (possibly even his son, the before mentioned, Kyle).
Under either framework, much of the core of the team’s staff remains in tact, and the offense gets new life. Mission accomplished.
However, if Gase is hired, all of the talk about continuity could be out the window, especially if the reports of Fangio wanting out are true.
I’m told word in coaching circles is 49ers DC Vic Fangio now wants out of SF unless he gets HC job… or Mike Shanahan does.
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) January 13, 2015
Fangio believes that the 49ers need an experienced coach to continue to move it’s veteran roster forward. Gase is not that.
At 36, Gase simply does not have the overall coaching experience, let alone as a head coach (something he’s never been). He’s spent only two seasons as an offensive coordinator, which were 2013-14 in Denver. While his offenses were successful and finished in the top two in the league in points the last two years (setting a record in ’13), it’s hard to get a reading on exactly how much credit to give Gase considering he had the great Peyton Manning at the helm.
Apparently the 49ers aren’t worried about that, and believe they have to get this young, rising offensive star before someone else does. After all, they will need to start being more explosive if they are to ever have a shot against the Seatte Seahawks and their ferocious defense.
So how has Gase done against the Niner’s chief rival?
In two games with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, Gase’s offense was embarrassed in last year’s Super Bowl, only managing one score in a 43-8 thrashing. In Denver’s “revenge” game in 2104, the Broncos high powered attack was held to three points through three quarters, before a late surge helped them tie it at 20. Seattle did prevail in overtime however.
So if Gase can only get 28 points in two games against the Seahawks with Manning at the helm, can he even get 20 with Colin Kaepernick?
That may be an unfair question, but it magnifies the point that Gase hasn’t exactly given a consistent impression that he’s the type of coach worth blowing up your franchise for.
In the end, the final verdict won’t be made on Gase until we see what the product looks like on the field. Maybe he’s the missing piece and the 49ers have enough talent on defense to make up for the possible loss of Fangio. What is for sure though, is that Gase will have big shoes to fill, and needs to have success out of the gate. If not, the fan base could turn on him quickly, all though probably not as swiftly as they will on York and Baalke.
Photo: Getty Images
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