It’s been a busy past seven or so days for the San Francisco 49ers coaching staff. On Wednesday, the Denver Broncos hired quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello to be their offensive coordinator. On the same day, we learned that the Green Bay Packers received permission to interview assistant offensive line coach Adam Stenavich for their vacant offensive line job.
Meanwhile, late last week we saw the Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns, and Minnesota Vikings all denied interviews with passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach Mike LaFleur, and the Packers and Arizona Cardinals both denied an opportunity to interview run game coordinator Mike McDaniel.
Early reports had Scangarello denied an interview with Denver before permission was eventually granted, but why in the end did he and Stenavich get a chance to interview, while McDaniel and LaFleur did not?
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will likely chat with the media next week at the Senior Bowl, and I’m sure he’ll get a question or two about this. In the meantime, I have a thought as to what might be happening.
The Packers, Browns, and Cardinals are all teams that have a head coach whose experience is on offense. The Packers hired former Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, the Browns promoted interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, and the Cardinals hired former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury. The commonality of all three is they are experienced offensive coaches who the front office hopes can innovate and upgrade their respective offenses.
When a team rejects an interview request, sometimes it is because they simply don’t want to let an assistant go yet. Sometimes it is because the assistant wants to stay but doesn’t want to be seen turning down an opportunity, and so the team can reject it for him and provide cover. Either could be possible here.
More specifically however, this could be about what the opportunities would have actually meant for McDaniel and LaFleur. Kyle Shanahan is effectively the offensive coordinator, but McDaniel and LaFleur are also in coordinator roles. In joining teams with offensive minds running the show, they would not have been moving into a clear promotion like Scangarello is getting in Denver.
I’m not sure why the 49ers would have declined the Broncos interview initially and then changed their mind, but in the end, Scangarello is getting an opportunity to build on what he has learned and shape an offense in his vision. McDaniel and LaFleur would not get to do that in Tennessee, Green Bay, or Arizona.
Some fans’ initial reaction to the rejected interviews was that Shanahan should not stand in the way of his coaches improving their careers. It is possible however that Shanahan and the assistants recognized that those would not have been a sufficient improvement. That is particularly true given that the 49ers offense stands a good chance of taking a big step forward in 2019 with the return of Jimmy Garoppolo. If the 49ers offense improves as it should, McDaniel and LaFleur will be hot candidates for offensive coordinator jobs a year from now. It’s a roll of the dice to some extent, but given the context, it seems like a worthwhile gamble for both assistants.