Beginning of a mass exodus?

The exodus has begun now that Bruce DeHaven has left the 49ers to become special teams coach in Dallas. Will it be a mass exodus? DeHaven certainly won't be the only assistant from deposed head coach Steve Mariucci's staff to leave the team in the near future, and linebackers coach Richard Smith and secondary coach Brett Maxie already have asked - and received permission by the Niners - to speak with other teams.

Contrary to reports in the media, Maxie and Smith were not fired by the Niners, and the team went to great lengths late Friday to clarify that both still are technically under contract with San Francisco.

They won't be for long. Smith's contract expires at the end of this month and Maxie, though he has another year remaining on his deal, was released from his contract so he can explore other options. There still is a possibility that he'll return to the Niners, but that will remain uncertain until the team clarifies the coaching positions ahead of him on the organizational chart.

The same holds true for the six other 49ers assistants whose contracts are set to expire.

That list includes offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, receivers coach George Stewart, tight ends coach Tom Batta, running backs coach Tom Rathman, defensive line coach Dwaine Board and strength development coordinator Terrell Jones.

It is fair to say that not all of them will be back with the Niners next year. At this point, the question is: Will any of them be back?

The same holds true with the list of assistants that still remain under contract. If the Niners bring in a head coach from the outside - which appears likely - then that coach probably will be given plenty of freedom to bring in his own coaches and decide on his own coaching staff.

The Niners plan to begin the interview process to replace Mariucci early next week. There are no talks planned for this weekend, according to a team source.

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