Rathman returns to 49ers as RBs coach

Tom Rathman is back for a second stint as 49ers running backs coach, and his hard-driving style should mesh perfectly with new head coach Mike Singletary's offensive philosophy. Rathman interviewed with Singletary and GM Scot McCloughan Wednesday morning, then agreed to terms on a contract to return to the team late in the afternoon.

The 49ers are giddy to have Rathman back in the 49ers fold. Rathman - who played for the 49ers from 1986-1993 - served as 49ers running backs coach from 1997-2002, when the 49ers featured some of the NFL's top rushing attacks.

The 49ers twice led the NFL in rushing during Rathman's tenure (1998, 1999), finished second in 2001 and had two other top-8 finishes. Rathman produced a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his first five seasons coaching with the 49ers before falling just short in 2002, when Garrison Hearst led the team with 972 yards rushing and backup Kevan Barlow produced 675 yards on the ground.

Rathman followed deposed 49ers coach Steve Mariucci to Detroit in 2003, where he coached the Lions' running backs until 2005. He then moved on to Oakland, where he coached running backs the past two seasons.

Rathman has been viewed around the NFL as a possible coordinator candidate for several years, but the Niners were interested just in having him replace Tony Nathan, who was fired by Singletary last week after one season as 49ers running backs coach. Rathman's contract with the Oakland Raiders - where he coached the past two seasons - expired Tuesday.

Rathman has a solid reputation from his first coaching stint with the 49ers, when he was viewed as an up-and-comer who played a significant role in the team's offensive success during that period.

Rathman's reputation as a player with the 49ers is even more impeccable. The first of the team's three third-round selections in San Francisco's legendary 1986 draft, Rathman played for the 49ers from 1986-1993 and started at fullback on San Francisco's Super Bowl championship teams of 1988 and 1989.

His primary role was as a blocker for backfield mate Roger Craig, but Rathman also was a multi-threat who rushed for 1,902 yards and 26 touchdowns and caught 294 passes for 2,490 yards and eight more TDs during his eight seasons playing for the 49ers. He rushed for a career-high 427 yards for the Super Bowl championship team of 1988 and had a career-high 73 receptions for 616 yards the next year for the Super Bowl championship team of 1989.

In other 49ers news, the team still has yet to officially interview any candidates for its vacant offensive coordinator position, and none are currently scheduled.

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