Was 49ers coaching search really a charade?

Dennis Erickson's name was a late comer to the list of candidates to be the 49ers' next head coach, but his rise up that list was nothing short of mercurial. Just a day after speculation surfaced that Erickson was being considered, the Niners named him the 14th head coach in franchise history, essentially discarding the thought behind their search process of the previous four weeks. Which leads one to wonder: Is Erickson a good choice or one that smacks of desperation?

To be sure, the Niners picked a man who has experience as a head coach, something not possessed by the three "finalists" earlier identified by the team.

But blindly offering the job to Erickson after the two parties became interested in each other in what must have been a whirlwind courtship during this past weekend makes the Niners' deliberate process of interviewing - and then re-interviewing - three NFL defensive coordinators look like something of a charade.

The Niners spent the first two weeks of their "coaching search" identifying and then interviewing potential candidates from throughout the NFL. Then, in Week 3 of the process, they named Ted Cottrell, Jim Mora and Greg Blache as finalists and had each of them in for second interviews at 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara, trotting out each of them to answer questions from the media during the process.

Then, without a whiff of a mention about Erickson, they go and hire a man who hardly was successful during his first NFL trial with the Seattle Seahawks.

But Erickson undeniably was a success in the college game, turning several programs into winners and capturing two national championships at the University of Miami. He has proven offensive credentials, and maybe he can spice up the San Francisco offense enough to push the Niners over the edge and raise the team again onto the top shelf of NFL elite.

The thing is, what the Niners have been telling us for almost a month is that they were looking for a new head coach with a defensive slant. They already have re-hired their offensive coordinator and several offensive assistants from last year. The new coach was expected to be a defensive mind and an aggressive, take-charge leader who would give this bunch the discipline and accountability it needs to reach the next level.

The Niners opted for Erickson instead. He may be the answer. On the other hand, he may turn out to be just another coaching retread. While the Erickson era in San Francisco begins to unfold, we're left scratching our heads about the way the Niners came upon this man to lead the franchise forward.

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