Erickson maintaining coaching continuity

Dennis Erickson is off to a great start with the 49ers. He has convinced defensive coordinator Jim Mora to remain with the team, even though Mora appeared to be a goner after he was passed over by team management to be head coach in favor of Erickson. The Niners' new coach also has maintained continuity on offense by retaining three key offensive assistants. And on Saturday, Erickson announced he is keeping around four other assistants that were with the team in 2002.

So this is the tally: Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner and offensive line coach Pat Morris all will be working for the Niners again next season. With Erickson now at the controls of the San Francisco offense, the other three will aid in the transition to a new approach and philosophy while also adding stability and their own talents that have contributed to San Francisco's offensive success in recent seasons.

The Niners also have retained Chris Beake as an offensive assistant, Brett Maxie as secondary coach, Dan Quinn as a defensive assistant and Jason Tarver as an offensive quality control coach.

It originally was believed Erickson might make sweeping changes on the Niners' staff, particularly on offense, by bringing in his own coaches, including several from the staff that was with him at Oregon State last season.

Some of those Oregon State coaches still are expected to join Erickson, but it won't be the clean sweep that some observers anticipated when he was hired. Erickson will be making a change at running backs coach, where Tom Rathman has left the team after six seasons to sign a three-year contract with the Detroit Lions.

In a meeting with Erickson late last week, Rathman was told he could remain in his current position with the Niners if Erickson's offensive coordinator at Oregon State, Tim Lappano, is named head coach in Corvallis. If that does not occur, Erickson indicated to Rathman that he would bring in Lappano as the Niners' next running backs coach. Rathman didn't stick around to see what would happen.

But the real coup here for Erickson is retaining Mora, who was expected to ask the team to let him out of the final year of his contract so he could sign elsewhere. At least three other NFL teams asked the Niners for permission to speak with Mora, and he interviewed with the Carolina Panthers for their defensive coordinator position last month.

Keeping Mora will give the Niners' staff the stability it needs on defense - the team already has lost line coach Dwaine Board and linebackers coach Richard Smith - and will help continue the progress the young and growing unit made despite a steady rash of injuries last year.


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