I wanted to take some time during the slow season to introduce the San Francisco 49ers newest position coaches. I will be going through them one at a time. Hopefully it helps those that do not know much about them. My first in the series is tight ends coach Jon Embree.
Embree has been around the game for a long time. He has had his share of successes and failures both at the college and professional level and certainly has worked with a lot of well known head coaches and offensive coordinators. Hopefully his vast experience will blend well with Kyle Shanahan’s visions for our tight ends group and he will be able to take Vance McDonald to levels most people did not think possible and be instrumental in George Kittle’s development as an NFL tight end.
Embree was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams out of the University of Colorado in 1987, and played with them for two seasons before injuries ended his playing career. He then worked for a short time as a television broadcaster, volunteer coach at Colorado, and a high school coach, before becoming a full time positional coach for the University of Colorado Buffaloes from 1993 to 2002. Over the next ten years he spent four years as their tight ends coach, four years as their defensive ends coach, and two years as their wide receivers and kicking coach.
He was the Buffalo’s tight ends coach in 1993 and 1994 under head coach Bill McCartney, and Rich Neuheisel kept Embree on his staff after he took over the Buffalo’s head coaching job in 1995. However, for some strange reason, he moved him to defensive ends coach where he coached from 1995 through 1998. Following Neuheisel’s departure in 1999, new head coach Gary Barnett returned Embree to coaching tight ends, and added wide receivers coach and kicking coach to his duties in 2001.
Embree’s next stop was UCLA where he was listed as assistant head coach and wide receivers coach in 2003, and assistant head coach and tight ends coach in 2004 and 2005.
In 2006, Embree hit the big time. Herm Edwards hired him to be the Kansas City Chiefs tight ends coach. Embree worked under offensive coordinator Mike Solari in 2006 and 2007 and Chan Gailey in 2008. During those three years Embree was lucky enough to be able to coach Tony Gonzalez, one of the greatest tight ends in the history of the NFL. Gonzalez had 73 catches for 900 yards and five touchdowns in 2006, 99 catches for 1172 yards and five touchdowns in 2007, and 96 catches for 1058 yards and ten touchdowns in 2008. I don’t know how much credit if any that Embree can take for Gonzalez’s success but it certainly did not hurt that he got to be part of it.
The Chiefs fired Edwards at the end of 2008, and Embree joined the Washington coaching staff. He was Washington’s tight end coach in 2010 under head coach Joe Gibbs and offensive coordinators Don Breaux and Al Saunders. The latter also happened to coach with Embree in Kansas City. Tight end Chris Cooley had 57 catches for 734 yards and six touchdowns that season.
Embree returned to the University of Colorado in 2011, becoming his alma mater’s head coach. I am afraid it did not work out too well with Colorado. He compiled a 4-21 record over two seasons including a 1-11 season in 2012. In all fairness to Embree, a lot of things added to this picture, by far the biggest being that the Buffaloes were not even close to being ready to join a power conference like the Pac 10.
Here are a couple videos from his time at Colorado.
What do you do when you crash and burn as a head coach in the NCAA? You go to the NFL’s version of Siberia of course. Back to the NFL he went in 2013, joining the Cleveland Browns as tight ends coach. Isn’t it nice to know that if you fail as a head coach on the college level, you can always take a position coach job in the NFL? I guess that would put him in the Rob Chudzinski era (error) which completely explains why he only lasted one year. He worked under offensive coordinator Norv Turner and his number one tight end, Jordan Cameron, had 80 catches for 917 yards and seven touchdowns that year. Jordan Cameron credits Jon Embree for getting him to work with Tony Gonzalez who helped him take his game to a whole new level.
After his brief Chudzinski period in Cleveland, Embree moved to Tampa Bay in 2014, joining head coach Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Norv Turner. He served as tight ends coach for three years before being summoned to San Francisco to become our assistant head coach/tight ends coach. Cameron Brate steadily improved under Jon Embree’s tutelage over the last three years, and had 57 catches for 660 yards and eight touchdowns last season.