Jed York may have just shrewdly bluffed the Los Angeles Rams into giving him the coach he wanted. It feels odd even typing that sentence given the, um, erratic (?) leadership that the San Francisco 49ers have displayed the last few years. But look at the facts.
The Niners by all accounts are hoping to hire a head coach who is still working on the staff of a playoff team: Josh McDaniels, Kyle Shanahan, or (God forbid) Tom Cable. They can’t sign any of those guys until their teams are out of the playoffs, which could be as late as February 5th.
Meanwhile every other team had wrapped up their new coaching hire as of Thursday morning except the Rams and the Chargers, the latter of whom who had settled on Anthony Lynn.
The Rams liked McVay but seemed in no hurry to sign him, given that the Niners had to wait anyway. That left open the possibility that they could change their mind, or McVay could say something stupid and blow the deal, or who knows what — and the Rams could steal away the guy San Francisco wants. The senior Los Angeles team extended Jeff Fisher less than two weeks before firing him, so you can’t count on them acting in any rational manner.
Then yesterday, as Fooch reported, Mike Silver said this on the NFL Network:
“Sean McVay was so impressive in that [49ers] interview that he was told, ‘We’ve got a couple of GM candidates in Green Bay that we interviewed in Eliot Wolf and Brian Gutekunst. We are serious about them. You don’t know them, here are their phone numbers, go ahead and reach out and see what connection you can form with them because we’re considering you that seriously.’ So obviously this is someone who was being considered at a high level by both of those California teams.”
That seems a little odd — “call these guys and see if you have any chemistry” — but it sent an obvious signal that the Niners might snatch away McVay. They gave him private phone numbers! Fooch even noted that the Niners draft room is named after John McVay, Sean’s grandpa and a key team personnel executive in creating the dynasty.
Hours later, Adam Schefter had a scoop:
Rams are now making former Washington OC Sean McVay the youngest HC in NFL history, per source. McVay turns 31 years old on Jan. 24.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 12, 2017
Did the Niners bluff LA into pulling the trigger and leaving San Francisco’s top candidates available?
Earlier, Silver had reported that McVay “crushed it” in his 49ers interview and added “my sources on this are not Sean McVay or his agent...” One of his sources had to be from the Niners, York or Paraag or maybe a team media executive.
It’s even possible that this may have been a tricky double bluff. Several reports have indicated that the team favors Louis Riddick as GM. The leak pointed in a different direction, to the Packers’ executives, which may increase the team’s bargaining power with Riddick or Cardinals VP Terry McDonough.
Of course, this is all speculation until the team hires someone. And even if it’s true, the move may have backfired in one way — McVay quickly signed up Wade Phillip’s as LA1’s defensive coordinator, a move that could haunt the Niners for years.
It will definitely have backfired if the team uses the opportunity to sign Tom Cable away from the Seahawks. But for now, let’s enjoy a rare moment of enjoying Jed York and Paraag Marathe’s possible cleverness.
It’s pretty common for the 49ers executives to confuse and mystify everyone with their moves. But maybe, this time, they were trying to. It is possible they still are blind squirrels searching for a nut. But maybe they might be crafty blind squirrels stashing away the tastiest nut for themselves.
Fooch’s note: Mark Saltveit is appearing as part of Comedy Night at Al's Den in Portland, Friday and Saturday night at 10:30. The show is free.