New Niner offense already taking shape

Dennis Erickson moved swiftly Friday to fill voids in his coaching staff, elevating Ted Tollner to offensive coordinator and Gregg Smith to offensive line coach, then hiring coaching veterans Rich Olson and Dan Cozetto to fill their previous positions. The quick reaction to the loss of previous offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and offensive line coach Pat Morris is a further sign Erickson will take more control over the 49ers offense in 2004. "My hands are going to be in it," Erickson said.

Knapp followed Jim Mora to Atlanta, and Morris on Friday decided to join Steve Mariucci in Detroit rather than sign a new deal with the 49ers. Erickson was prepared for both moves, and already had their successors in mind.

Of Tollner, the Niners' quarterbacks coach the past two seasons, Erickson said, "I've always liked what he did offensively. Having spent the season with him here, our offensive philosophies are very similar and he's been here and knows our players and he's a good fit. We're going to take the combination of Ted's and mine thoughts and go from there."

Erickson also promised to be more involved in the offense, both in planning and execution on game day.

"There were going to be some changes made, whoever the (offensive coordinator) was going to be," Erickson said. "We're just going to do some different things. More than anything, I want to be involved in this thing. Everything we do is going to be geared to me making play selections. My input on Sundays will be much more than it has been."

Said Smith, who handled the 49ers' tight ends last year while doubling as Erickson's assistant head coach, "I think that's extremely important. The thing that he's always been is an extremely good offensive coach and an extremely good game-day coach as far as calling plays and attacking defenses. This is going to be really good for Dennis, because he's such a great game-day coach. I look forward to him taking a real active role next year."

Because he was new to the 49ers' offensive system, Erickson allowed Knapp to call the plays last year before he became more involved as the season progressed. Subsequently, the Niners had the NFL's most productive offense over the final quarter of the season.

Smith said the transition that will take place with him replacing the popular and well-respected Morris should be seamless. Smith has spent much of his long coaching career as an offensive line coach and has many of the same philosophies as Morris, whom Smith was sharing ideas with well before either joined the 49ers.

Olson - the 49ers' new quarterbacks coach - and Cozetto - who will coach tight ends - both have a long association with Erickson. Olson, an Erickson offensive protégé, was the offensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals in 2001-2002. Cozetto, an assistant for Erickson at Oregon State, was the offensive line coach at the University of Washington last season.

"They're familiar faces for me," Erickson said. "These are guys I know and I've been around. I've got great confidence in them."

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