Lynn brings established success to secondary

The 49ers are in obvious need of change in their secondary, so they made changes at the top Tuesday. NFL veteran Johnnie Lynn is in as the team's new secondary coach, while former secondary chief A.J. Christoff goes back to Stanford University after one season in San Francisco.

The move was not necessarily an indictment of Christoff's coaching performance in 2005, but it's obvious he was looking for another job after his only secondary in San Francisco allowed an NFL-worst 4,427 yards passing last season – the most yards surrendered through the air by a San Francisco defense in the team's 60-year history.

Christoff didn't have to go far to find new employment, landing in the safe haven of Stanford, where he will serve as head coach Walt Harris' defensive coordinator and secondary coach. It's the third tour of duty at Stanford for Christoff, who also was Stanford's defensive coordinator and secondary coach under Buddy Teevens before he joined the 49ers in 2005.

But the 2005 season was Christoff's first stab at the NFL after a long career in college coaching that included stops at 11 different universities around the nation. His only season with the 49ers did not go well. San Francisco's secondary battled injury problems and ineffectiveness all season, and ultimately allowed 28 touchdown passes and 724 yards more passing than any other team in the league.

Lynn comes to San Francisco with established NFL credentials, including the past two seasons as secondary coach in Baltimore, where he worked with 49ers head coach Mike Nolan in 2004 when Nolan was the Ravens' defensive coordinator. Before that, Lynn spent seven seasons with the New York Giants – five as secondary coach and two as defensive coordinator.

Lynn – now entering his 13th season as a NFL coach – has ties to the 49ers. He was San Francisco's secondary coach in 1996, when his unit ranked 11th in the NFL against the pass for a 49ers defense that ranked seventh overall in total defense.

The Ravens ranked eighth in the NFL in passing defense last season after finishing 10th in that department in 2004, leaving Nolan thrilled to bring such a consistently successful secondary coach into the fold as he continues his rebuilding project in San Francisco.

"Johnnie is a solid NFL coach with a high energy level," Nolan said. "He is extremely well respected around the league and I am excited to bring him on board. When you obtain the services of quality NFL football people to your coaching staff, it raises the performances of the people around you. I know he feels we are headed in the right direction and is excited to help us improve this season."

Lynn will share secondary duties with Vance Joseph, who did a fine job as the team's secondary assistant last year in his first season as a NFL coach. Joseph worked closely with the team's cornerbacks, and he appeared to get a lot out of some inexperienced replacement parts after starter Ahmed Plummer went down with a season-ending ankle injury in Week 3. Secondary starters Mike Rumph and Tony Parrish also were lost to season-ending injuries, and several other starting defensive backs lost games to injuries during the season.

The 49ers ultimately started nine different defensive backs in their secondary, and Lynn's job will be to sort things out and provide some stability within the unit in 2006.

He has done that before. Lynn's 2004 secondary in Baltimore was spectacular, producing two Pro Bowl starters and the NFL's defensive player of the year in safety Ed Reed. The Ravens ranked second in the NFL with an opposing quarterback season rating of 68.0 and was first in the league with 59 three-and-outs. The Ravens also led the NFL with 700 yards in interceptions returns and Lynn's defensive backs scored six defensive touchdowns.

Lynn also had sustained success in New York as both a defensive coordinator and secondary coach. The Giants led the NFL with 27 interceptions in his first season there, and strong secondary play continued throughout Lynn's tenure in New York.

The 49ers, most definitely, can use some of that as they attempt to climb from the bottom of the NFL's defensive rankings in 2006.


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