Niners lose one coach, keep another (for now)

One constant the 49ers enjoyed during a period of poor overall performance that coincided with the tumultuous transition from the Dennis Erickson/Terry Donahue era to the Mike Nolan regime was the consistently solid play of Larry Mac Duff's special teams. But the Niners won't be able to count on that again in 2007 after Mac Duff left the team Sunday to join the staff at the University of Texas.

On the plus side, the 49ers - who already are without a defensive coordinator and defensive line coach after Nolan relieved Billy Davis and Gary Emanuel of those roles last week - won't be losing Mike Singletary for the time being.

Singletary, who interviewed with the Atlanta Falcons last week for their vacant head coaching position, was passed over for that job when the Falcons signed Bobby Petrino away from the University of Louisville instead.

But now Nolan is looking to fill two of his three coordinators positions. Mac Duff left San Francisco after serving four seasons as the team's special teams coordinator in favor of a new opportunity with Texas, where he has been named assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator and also will coach linebackers.

"This is a really unique opportunity for me that I couldn't pass up," Mac Duff said. "I enjoyed working with the 49ers, but with the chance to work at Texas with coach (Mack) Brown, the staff and players, it was really exciting and something I'm thrilled to be a part of."

Mac Duff has decades of success at the college level at Stanford, Hawaii and Arizona. He was Arizona's defensive coordinator for 12 seasons, including a 10-year stint from 1987-1996 when his "Desert Swarm" defense was considered one of the nation's best and finished among the NCAA's top 10 defenses four consecutive seasons spanning from 1992-95. He joined Erickson's staff with the 49ers after returning to Arizona as defensive coordinator for the 2001-2002 seasons.

Mac Duff's units immediately became the most consistent on the team and were a steady force on a 49ers squad that had little stability during the organization-wide transition of the past four years. Mac Duff is one of only three coaches on the San Francisco staff who remained from Erickson's final staff of 2004.

Mac Duff has been responsible for developing several of the top young performers on San Francisco's special teams today, a list that includes Keith Lewis, Maurice Hicks, Michael Robinson, Marcus Hudson and Andy Lee.

"Larry has done an outstanding job in San Francisco," Nolan said Sunday evening. "Special teams have been a consistent area of strength for us over the last two years. Larry has laid a solid foundation and blueprint for the next special teams coach to follow."

That next coach could be Jeff Rodgers, who served as a special teams quality control coach under Erickson from 2003-2004 before being retained by Nolan as assistant special teams coach to Mac Duff the past two seasons.

In any event, it's another important job that Nolan needs to fill as soon as possible, and he was sorry to see his coaching comrade leave the team.

"Larry and I have had a long history together starting back when we were at Stanford in the early 1980s," Nolan said. "He is one of the coaches I kept from the previous staff when I first got hired with the 49ers. I know it was a difficult decision for Larry, but this was a great opportunity for him. I wish him the best in his new endeavor."

Mac Duff leaves wishing the best to his former team, and also believing that's what will happen for the 49ers after he's gone.

"I want to thank Mike Nolan and (owner) John York for the opportunity to work for the San Francisco 49ers," Mac Duff said. "The future is bright because of Nolan's leadership and the commitment from ownership, players and coaches. I absolutely enjoyed my time with the 49ers and wish them success. I know they will expect to win in 2007."

Even though Singletary didn't make it past Atlanta's short list, the 49ers still aren't sure if they can expect to have him back for a third season with the team this year. Singletary is considered a hot commodity who is destined to become a head coach in the near future, and it could happen this year.

Singletary, who interviewed with the Detroit Lions for their vacant head-coaching position last year, is rumored to be a candidate for other coaching openings around the league. Singletary, who just finished his second season as San Francisco's assistant head coach/defense who also works with the team's linebackers, is not expected to become the 49ers' next defensive coordinator because of his lack of experience in that role.

As a new week begins, the 49ers do not currently have any interviews set up to fill either of their three coaching vacancies.

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