McMackin in football heaven

Greg McMackin knows defense. Here, in an interview with SFI, the 49ers new associate head coach/linebackers coach discusses fitting in with the 49ers, his impressions of the team and organization, and the experience and goals he brings with him to his new team.

SFI: For a person that has made such a reputation for himself in this business as a defensive coach, how would you describe the opportunity to coach a defense like this at this level?

McMackin: It's a great opportunity, and it's been a lot of fun. You know, just being part of the 49ers operation - I feel this is definitely the top of the profession. In my mind, this is one of the top two or three organizations in not only football, but all of sports. It's football heaven for me.

SFI: After spending the last four seasons coaching at the college level, how anxious were you to get back into the pro game?

McMackin: You know, it wasn't really a big deal to me. I had a couple of opportunities, and it wasn't a big deal unless I got with the right guy. And in my mind, there's only one or two right guys. I had a good situation where I was, financially and everything, but I would work with Dennis anywhere. He's just a great coach in my mind, and an even greater person. So it was really good to get back with him. That was the determining factor - the person. I wanted to get with the right person.

SFI: How much did the organization you were getting with also factor into your decision?

McMackin: That was even better. That was an additional plus. It shows how the administrative people do things around here. I've always felt Dennis was one of the best in the game. And obviously, (owner) Dr. York and coach Walsh and (general manager) Terry Donahue and the administration feels the same way. So, to me, that just shows the front office's intelligence, to hire Dennis. And then to see the players that we have. They're all non-ego, great guys. Terry Donahue has done a great job of bringing in class guys. There are no prima donnas on this football team.

SFI: How would you describe the defensive philosophy here?

McMackin: I think that, defensively, we're an attacking, smart defense. The focus is on creating turnovers and making big plays. I think the thing I like about Jim's package is he an answer. If we get in a bind and things aren't working, he's got an answer to get us out of the bind. I think he does a good job of that. And the other thing is, if somebody - a phase of our defense - is having a tough time, we've got a way of helping him out. I think Jim's got really an excellent package, it's well thought and it really helps different people in the package.

SFI: What has your relationship been like with defensive coordinator Jim Mora, since your job title also includes associate head coach?

McMackin: It's been great. I really think he's one of the best defensive guys in the country. I've always had a lot of respect for him, and I've really enjoyed working with him. It's Jim's defense, and he's carried this over and made a lot of improvements on it and simplified things. He's a great guy to work with, because basically we're learning what he's put in here in the system, and he lets you do your work and he's got an open mind for suggestions. I just think he's an outstanding coordinator, because he's not only smart and has a great work ethic, but he's got an open mind also. A lot of guys at this level have closed their minds. He definitely hasn't. He's put together a great bunch of guys on defense and he just does a great job of coaching them. I think he's a great, great leader. I'm really impressed with him and how he operates and the whole thing. He's first-class and has just been great to work with.

SFI: You have a background as a defensive coordinator. What will it be like for you now coaching a specific unit?

McMackin: I haven't coached a position for a long time, so this is fun getting back and working with a position and having your own guys, and meeting with them, and getting close with them and that kind of thing. And I just really like working with these guys, too. This is just a fun deal for me.

SFI: Is this perhaps the most dynamic group of linebackers that you've ever seen or worked with at any level?

McMackin: What a great bunch of guys. It is just a dynamic group of guys from top to bottom. Their work ethic, their attitude, their intelligence, they just want to continue to get better. There's about five guys that are just really talented. And they're a bunch of guys who really care about one another, and help each other, and there's no selfishness in them at all.

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