A week ago, Sporting News NFL columnist reported that the San Francisco 49ers were going to hire New York Giants assistant defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina. On Tuesday, Matt Maiocco confirmed that report. Zgonina is expected to coach the 49ers defensive line.
Zgonina would join fellow reported candidates Robert Saleh (DC), Jason Tarver (LBs), and Jeff Hafley (DBs). The latter two have not been further confirmed, while we have heard multiple reports now that Saleh will be taking over as defensive coordinator.
Zgonina played on the defensive line for 17 years, drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and winning a Super Bowl ring with the then St. Louis Rams in 1999. He played for the Houston Texans from 2007 to 2009, when Kyle Shanahan was quarterbacks coach, then offensive coordinator. Zgonina retired in 2009, and joined the Houston Texans coaching staff in 2013. He spent three seasons as their assistant DL coach, and then one season as the New York Giants assistant DL coach.
The entire defensive coaching staff faces a huge challenge, and it will start up front with the defensive line. The 49ers are switching from their base 3-4 to a 4-3 under front. They spend more time in their sub-packages, but it is still a notable change. Saleh learned defense from coaches like Gus Bradley, Dan Quinn, and Pete Carroll. They mixed and matched fronts in their base looks, and it will be something the 49ers defensive line will be expected to become adept at. Zgonina will be an important coach to watch in that regard.
The most important thing to remember though with regard to Zgonina? He has been a dog show competitor. I don’t say this to mock him. Rather, I just think it’s the most randomly interesting thing we will probably learn about the new 49ers coaching staff.