Assessing a coaching staff is never an easy task. The head coach and his coordinators are the most prominent people, but position coaches can be just as important in developing the roster. Look at Jim Tomsula. The 49ers former head coach and defensive line coach took some time off after getting fired and has become a key cog in Washington’s defensive line development.
The 49ers have overhauled their coaching staff, but it still remains a bit of an under the radar group. So much so that one coaching staff ranking effectively based the 49ers ranking entirely on head coach and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Bleacher Report ranked out all 32 coaching staffs and while they focused on Shanahan, it was still enough to show up No. 12.
Their summary for the 49ers made it pretty clear they did not see the ability to do much of a deep dive with Shanahan’s staff.
Sporting News named Shanahan the Coordinator of the Year in 2016, and the 49ers offense improved greatly during his first season as the team’s head coach in 2017. He’s a tremendous offensive mind, and he’s only 38 years old. Nitpicking a tad here, but he’s not supported by a lot of accomplished or experienced assistants. Saleh’s defense didn’t fare well in his first season in that role, and tight ends coach Jon Embree is the only other roundly recognizable name on staff. Still, Shanahan’s accomplishments and career trajectory make this staff better than average.
The 49ers coaching staff has some veteran experience, but it’s still fairly young. Robert Saleh is in his first stint as a defensive coordinator. Inside linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans was promoted into his first position coach role. Of course, you also have guys like running backs coach Bobby Turner, and offensive line coach John Benton bringing veteran experience.
I find it odd they would just focus on Shanahan, but I also think that much like the offensive line, there’s a lot of potential in this group. Robert Saleh has said he thinks he could be working for DeMeco Ryans some day. Jeff Zgonina on the defensive line and Mike LaFleur and Mike McDaniel are interesting as pass- and run-game specialists, respectively. With more of the kinds of players they want in place this season, it will be something to watch to see how they develop things on both sides of the ball. It’s not something simple to say, “this happened because of the position coach” vs. “this happened because of the scheme or play call,” but all we can really look for is improvement.