SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The San Francisco 49ers' search for their replacement for Jim Harbaugh is in full swing, and the list of potential candidates is starting grow.
The names on that list are starting to get bigger.
The 49ers have already spoken to former offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan, according to a report Tuesday from CSN Bay Area. They also plan on interviewing recently fired Jets coach Rex Ryan, per the New York Daily News.
Ryan and Shanahan represent the two biggest names to surface during San Francisco's search that's gone on for less than a week. Both have led teams deep into the postseason, including two Super Bowl wins for Shanahan coaching the Denver Broncos with John Elway at quarterback in 1997 and 1998.
Ryan, 52, took the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship games in 2009 and 2010, on the back of a 3-4 defense that would be a natural fit for San Francisco's personnel. But Ryan hasn't finished above .500 with New York since, going 8-8 twice since those playoff runs before finishing this season 4-12. He will also reportedly be interviewed by the Atlanta Falcons in the coming days - while also weighing options to become a television analyst.
Shanahan's most recent gig in Washington ended contentiously. He started 11-21 in his first two seasons before drafting quarterback Robert Griffin III - who led the team to a 10-6 record and playoff berth in 2012. But Griffin battled a knee injury in 2013 sustained in those playoffs, and Washington finished 3-13 before parting ways with Shanahan and bringing in Jay Gruden for this season.
Shanahan, 62, was the 49ers' offensive coordinator from 1992 through 1994, culminating in Steve Young's MVP performance in Super Bowl 29 when he threw six touchdowns in a win over the San Diego Chargers.
Another candidate with head coaching experience to this point is Patriots' offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, 38, who didn't last through his second season with the Broncos in 2010 after reaching the postseason the year prior at 8-8 with Tim Tebow at quarterback.
Tuesday, the 49ers’ brass flew to Seattle to interview Seahawks’ defensive coordinator Dan Quinn after interviewing in-house candidate Vic Fangio, San Francisco’s defensive coordinator of the last four seasons. Fangio, 56, was recently endorsed by some of his defensive players, including NaVorro Bowman.
Quinn took over as coordinator after Gus Bradley was named the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach last season. Quinn was Florida’s defensive line coach the previous two seasons, after spending the previous decade in the same role bouncing from the 49ers, to the Dolphins, to the Jets and Seahawks in 2010.
The favorite to become the 49ers’ next coach in the team’s current defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, 46, who is commonly referred to as an excellent teacher, which is the description CEO Jed York used Monday when asked what he’s looking for in his next head coach.
”I think what made Bill Walsh so successful was that he was a great teacher, whether that was players or whether that was other coaches,” York said. “…What I want to make sure that we have is somebody that understands that level of teaching. Understands how to get more out of less and continue to build an organization that wins both on and off the field.”
San Francisco will also reportedly interview Broncos’ offensive coordinator Adam Gase, 36, who helped quarterback Peyton Manning run the NFL’s second-ranked scoring offense in 2014, after setting a league record with 55 touchdown passes last season. Gase was an offensive assistant for the 49ers in 2008 under coordinator Mike Martz.
The 49ers have also inquired about Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, 51, who helped his team reach the playoffs with the NFL's fifth-best scoring defense. It was Bowles' first season as a defensive coordinator. He was the Miami Dolphins' interim head coach in 2011 after the team fired Tony Sparano, finishing with a 2-1 record.