The New York Giants decision to fire head coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese marks the start of a month-long NFL process that will culminate in Black Monday. Teams looking to fire their head coach usually do so immediately after their season finale, but we usually have at least one or two teams who get a jump on things before the season ends.
Virtually anything is possible, but it seems safe to say the San Francisco 49ers will not be actively participating in the Black Monday process this year. This will mark the first time since the end of the 2013 season when they have not fired their head coach.
While they will not be looking for a head coach, there is always the chance some of Kyle Shanahan’s assistant coaches might get an interview for a head coaching job. Looking through that list, there are not a lot of likely candidates for this year’s eventual head coach openings. Tight ends coach and assistant head coach Jon Embree could be a dark horse, having some college head coaching experience on his resume. However, with no coordinator experience, it seems like a long-shot that he would even get an interview.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh could eventually end up a candidate for head coaching jobs, but we don’t even know necessarily if he will be in his DC role next year. The defense has shown improvement this season, but if Vic Fangio comes available, would Shanahan consider a change? I highly doubt it, but the possibility is at least on the radar.
But, let’s take a look at someone further down the radar. Defensive quality control coach DeMeco Ryans will not get a head coach interview yet, but he should be firmly on the radar as a coach destined for big things. Ryans retired from the NFL after not getting signed for the 2016 season. After taking a year away from the league, the DQC job is his first as an assistant coach. The quality control coach role is viewed as an entry level job. Read this great feature about the job.
We don’t know anything yet about Ryans’ work as an assistant on Robert Saleh’s defensive coaching staff, but we know what people have said about him in the past. Chip Kelly has said Ryans is the current or former player he has coached who would make a great head coach. Robert Saleh has said Ryans will be a head coach one day, and Saleh would be going to him for a job.
None of this guarantees Ryans will end up as a head coach, but his path forward will be something to watch. Maybe he is promoted into linebackers coach at some point. Johnny Holland currently holds that job, and in fact coached Ryans in Houston. It is entirely possible Ryans ends up coaching at another position to build on his knowledge base. That will be something to track this offseason.
Assistant coaches getting interviews does not speak entirely to the quality of a coaching staff, but it does give us an idea of who is in demand. We thankfully will not have to deal with the 49ers going through the head coach search process, but it will still be an interesting process seeing if the 49ers coaching staff gets some nibbles. A team cannot deny an assistant a head coach interview, but they can deny a coordinator or other assistant an interview for a coordinator or position coach job. We’ll see if the 49ers get some of those requests in January.