Staff shakeup gives SF unique coaching blend

It takes players to win in the NFL, but you never can get enough coaching. It looks as though the 2003 49ers will get plenty of that, now that new head coach Dennis Erickson has all the major pieces in place for his first staff of assistants. Erickson and the Niners have assembled a staff that has a unique blend of experience, holdovers and new blood that could give the team quite a new look this season, particularly in areas where it can use a change.

It's interesting to note that Erickson, quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner, newly-hired assistant Dick Tomey - and general manager Terry Donahue, for that matter - all are former head coaches in the Pac-10. That's a lot of former top-level head coaches combining for input, and it could be compelling to see how that experience works together and translates to performance on the field.

Along with long-time Erickson assistant Gregg Smith and Greg McMackin - Erickson's defensive coordinator with the Seattle Seahawks from 1995-98 - it's an old, established guard that has moved into the front-line of San Francisco's coaching structure, complemented by a young group of coaches still eager to prove themselves in the NFL. That mix will no doubt stir it up and take new approaches to San Francisco's same old problems of recent seasons.

There are those who think that Greg Knapp and Jim Mora - retained, respectively, as the Niners' offensive and defensive coordinator - will have older coaches looking over their shoulders this season, but that's not an accurate portrayal of what's likely to take place. Rather, Erickson's hierarchy will allow those two young coordinators to continue to develop and progress while giving them a multi-layered plan and plenty of feedback which they can use to excel.

With quarterback coach Tollner, offensive line coach Pat Morris and physical development coordinator Jerry Attaway, the Niners have men in place who are some of the best at their jobs and have been part of the organization's foundation. They're supported by younger coaches such as secondary coach Brett Maxie, new defensive line coach Dan Quinn and others Erickson has brought in who'll bring fresh ideas to the coaching mix.

Despite retaining 10 assistants from last year's team, it's a staff shakeup, to be sure. But the Niners have to like the way things have fallen into place under their new head man.

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