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Peter King on the 49ers coaching search

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The senior sportswriter had a curious note in his column this week

Super Bowl XLVI Broadcasters Press Conference Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Peter King is one of the most accomplished sportswriters in the US. The guy joined Sports Illustrated in 1989, author of five books, an NFL Hall of Fame selector, etc. etc. He has an extensive amount of contacts in the industry, so his words carry more than the usual amount of weight.

In his Monday Morning Quarterback column this week, he dropped a little note about the Niners’ search for a head coach, as Fooch discussed earlier:

I’ve heard good things about the 49ers in their interviews. Why? Because they’re willing to import a coach who would be in charge of reinventing the culture in San Francisco.

And they’re willing to be patient. By patient, I mean willing to give a long-term contract to a coach, listen to his recommendation for GM, and steel the locals that this is going to be a significant rebuild. Smart. There’s no other way to do it and to have a chance.

Sounds good, but let’s think about that a bit. Who would he have heard that from? The only people who would know are the coaching candidates themselves, their agents, or the Niners’ front office.

We know that Peter King has a long-standing reputation for being close with Jed York (some say, too close). While the Niners didn’t schedule a press conference to explain Chip Kelly’s firing until the next day (Black Monday), King let his readers know that he was discussing the move with Jed 30 minutes after it was announced.

In fact, what King reported about that conversation sounds a lot like the “good things” he later said he was hearing. Compare the quote above:

I just think it’s time for us to re-establish a championship culture,” the 49ers CEO told me Sunday night, a half-hour after the team announced the firing ... a coaching candidate pointed out to me late Sunday night: York will have to give the new team at least three years, presumably, to get a stunted franchise growing right.

But King couldn’t simply be taking Jed’s word for it, could he? In that original column, he was appropriately skeptical, adding that:

The Niners look terrible right now... When they hire a new head coach, it’ll be their fourth in the span of 26 months. ... The 49ers are the first NFL team in the past 30 years to fire coaches after one season in consecutive years.

It’s possible that one or more agents may be blowing smoke. Maybe Josh McDaniels’ agent got worried that he appeared too eager to join a bad franchise, and some of the stink would get on him. This could be an attempt at preventing that.

Or perhaps one of the candidates told King something to the effect of “Holy crap! I think Jed York might really mean it this time!”

That’s hard to believe though. Because everything he is said to have promised was true last year, when York hired Chip Kelly.

Chip was obsessed with building culture, pushing for the release of DeSean Jackson (after he yelled at his position coach on national TV, among other transgressions) and famously saying while mic’ed up by NBC that

Culture wins football. Culture will beat scheme every day.

Jed gave Kelly the long term commitment, in the form of a four-year contract, and input on GM, implying that Chip’s buddy Tom Gamble might take over as GM after a year if Baalke couldn’t right the ship. None of that meant a thing.

York has paid three fired coaches millions of dollars a year to be gone, so it’s hard to imagine that a new candidate will take a multiyear contract as a trustworthy promise. You might think “Heck, I’d love to make millions to be fired,” and I get it, but look at it from Josh McDaniel’s point of view.

He makes a reported $1.5 million a year right now calling plays for Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, learns coaching at the feet of Bill Belichick, and has four Super Bowl rings (and counting).

Meanwhile, he has already failed once as a head coach, and if he gets canned after a year in San Francisco, he’s not getting back in to New England before Brady retires — if at all. As for head coaching jobs, it’s a lot harder to get a third try.

My point is, the guy has a lot of good reasons to stay where he is.

So the mystery is, who’s talking to Peter King, and what could they be telling him that makes Jed York’s promises believable?