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. Next up is offensive line coach John Benton.
Can John Benton improve the 49ers offensive line? We have an aging left tackle, a left guard that has regressed over that last few years of his career, a huge right tackle that seems very talented but does not seem to fit in a more athletic zone blocking scheme, a right guard that is in his second season after a very lackluster rookie year, and an aging center that is probably going to beat out our younger incumbent. I don’t envy John Benton at all. The idea of having to make a cohesive group out of this offensive line is mind boggling. This is not his first dumpster dive however. We will get to this later in the article.
John Benton was a four year starter on the offensive line for Colorado and was all conference honorable mention both his junior and senior years. I think it is also important to mention that he was named to the Western Athletic Conference’s All-Academic team as a senior in 1986.
He was not ready to give up football after graduating in 1987 and worked as a graduate assistant at CSU from 1987 to 1989 under head coach and Bear Bryant disciple Leon Fuller. In 1990, he moved on to California University in Pennsylvania where he worked as the recruiting director and offensive line coach from 1990 to 1994. He later admitted to never even having heard of the College at the time. When he was asked what made him decide to become a coach during a phone interview with John Livingston from his home town newspaper The Durango Herald in 2014 he answered:
“I fell in love with coaching while playing; I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” Benton said. “I worked with great people and learned some great things that certainly helped me out in my career.”
Colorado State was pretty much a dumpster fire during Benton’s playing days and his time as a graduate assistant. In fact they were so much of a dumpster fire that they only had seven winning seasons in over 100 years and they had only won one bowl game ever while only playing in three. In 1994, new head coach Sonny Lubbick’s decided to bring in a winning culture. Doesn’t that sound familiar?
Benton returned to CSU one year later in 1995 as their offensive line coach. Lubbick also brought in Urban Meyers as their wide receivers coach and Steve Fairchild as the quarterback coach. Steve Fairchild was promoted to offensive coordinator in 1997. John Benton and Dan Hammerschmidt eventually took over for him as co offensive coordinators when he left for the NFL in 2001.
CSU had winning seasons all eight years Benton coached with them while compiling a 79-31 record over that period of time with seven bowl game appearances. A lot can be attributed to Sonny Lubbick but Benton was certainly a part of establishing and maintaining that winning culture. His relationship and the impact Lubbick had on him as a coach and mentor can be summed up in another quote from his telephone interview with John Livingston:
“I think the world of Sonny Lubick. He’s a tremendous person, a great coach, boss and friend,” Benton said of the longtime CSU coach. “He really did a lot to shape me as a coach, and I learned to do it the right way.”
Jon Benton began his NFL career at the conclusion of the 2003 season when he was hired by the St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz as the team’s assistant offensive line coach. It may have helped that Steve Fairchild whom he had previously coached with at CSU was their offensive coordinator. He was promoted to offensive line coach In 2005.
In 2006 John Benton became the offensive line coach of the Houston Texans under head coach Gary Kubiak where Kyle Shanahan was the wide receivers coach at the time. They worked together there for four years while Kyle climbed the ladder first to quarterbacks coach in 2007 and offensive coordinator in 2008 and 2009. Kyle left in 2010 to coach with his father in Washington while John stayed as their offensive line coach through 2013.
In spite of using eight different starting lineups his first year in Houston, Benton’s offensive line gave up 25 fewer sacks than the year before and only 22 sacks total in 2007 while the team attempted a record 529 passes. The Texans offensive line continued to play at this level both in pass blocking and helping their running backs set franchise records in rushing throughout the time Benton was there. I could go on and on about the great things Benton did while in Houston. You have to give a lot of credit to the great players that played on that line but Benton deserves more than a little credit for bringing the best out in them.
In 2014, Benton once again dumpster dove from the riches of the Houston line to the smelly depths of a Miami Dolphins line that was mired in controversy. He was originally hired as an assistant offensive line coach but quickly promoted to offensive line coach when former offensive line coach Jim Turner was fired after the release of the Ted Wells report on the investigation of the misconduct in the Dolphin’s locker room. Benton is credited with doing a very solid job of turning around that offensive line which produced both a 1000 yard rusher and a 4000 yard passer that season.
After being let go with the rest of the coaching staff in Miami after the 2015 season, Benton managed to find a job as an assistant offensive line coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars where he worked for one year. He was temporarily hired as an assistant offensive line coach in Denver earlier this year before being summoned by the Shanahan and Lynch Show.
With over 30 years of coaching experience, John Benton has done a remarkable job as an offensive line coach and this is by no means his first dumpster fire. I am not sure how much you can do to improve your players but I am pretty sure John Benton is more than qualified to give it a try. You add to that his previous experience with Kyle and I think he has a very good chance.