The San Francisco 49ers have been busy traveling across the country interviewing several head coach and general manager candidates and they have been announcing every interview as it starts which caught many of us by surprise. Recently removed GM Trent Baalke took pride in the team’s lack of transparency, at one time even saying with a chuckle to reporters (including myself) “Are we ever transparent in what we do?”
Is this a new era of transparency with the 49ers front office and ownership? Are they trying to start off this new era without leaks? I couldn’t remember another time when official team announcements ruled the offseason so I spoke to fellow colleagues Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area who has been covering the 49ers for 22 years and Kevin Lynch who has been covering the team for 28 years.
Maiocco shared a few notable occurrences in various hirings throughout his coverage confirming that this is the first time the 49ers have made official announcements during the Twitter age. In 2003 The 49ers had three final head coach candidates after firing Steve Mariucci and allowed the media to interview all three candidates at the team facility. The 49ers ended up hiring a fourth candidate, Dennis Erickson, who at the time was the head coach at Oregon State. This wasn’t the 49ers trying to be deceptive, as Maiocco explained teams rarely disclose when they are talking to college coaches because of the repercussions it can have on the program’s recruiting if they are not hired. Erickson was the last head coach to have a 2-14 record with the 49ers prior to Chip Kelly.
After Erickson’s disastrous season, the 49ers chose to clean house just like they did after their most recent 2-14 record. Both GM Terry Donahue and Erickson were fired and Mike Nolan was hired without a general manager. Lynch confirmed that the 49ers interviewed Nolan, Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger and Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis. All were announced and Lynch even had a timeline in his article announcing Nolan as the new head coach.
There were, of course, no announcements when Mike Singletary was named head coach in 2009 because his tenure started after being interim coach the season prior and the team did not conduct a head coach search. He took over after Nolan was removed from the position in October 2008.
If you want a taste of what the head coach search was like in 2011, (in case you had forgotten) when Jim Harbaugh was hired, here’s a Niners Nation article (there are several) that offers a glimpse into the chaos, local media guessing and leaks from national reporters. The search occurred just after Baalke was officially named GM and the speculation as well as the mating dance with Harbaugh was epic.
We will never really know if this new “transparent,” or should I say translucent, era is to clean up the organization’s leak riddled image, a result of Baalke’s absence or another unknown reason. We also have no idea how long it will last. One thing is certain: gone are the days of unfettered access when the media could watch the entire practice and players were available on any day of the week. (Steve Young was beloved by the media not only for his on field success but for being available to talk throughout the week, not just on his assigned day and time.) But hey, we will take what we can get, right?