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Four 49ers opponents land their next head coach [update]

One face is familiar to 49ers fans. The other two are young, creative minds.

Fooch’s update: The Browns are promoting Freddie Kitchens to be their next head coach.

The San Francisco 49ers slate of opponents for the 2019 season has been finalized, but five of them fired their head coaches early in the offseason. Three of those teams announced replacements on Tuesday. The Cardinals hired former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury to replace Steve Wilks, the Packers hired Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to replace Mike McCarthy, and the Buccaneers hired former Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians to replace Dirk Koetter. The Bengals are still in the process of hiring a replacement for Marvin Lewis, and the Browns are looking for a replacement for Hue Jackson.

While all three of these hiring decisions could fail, I like them for the most part. Two of them are new faces that are not retreads on the coaching circuit, and Arians is technically a retread, but had a lot of success in Arizona before he seemingly retired after the 2017 season. He has some history with Jameis Winston, and that will be what determines how far this relationship can go.

Of the three, LaFleur is in potentially the best shape moving forward. The Packers stumbled big time this season and finished with the 29th-ranked defense, but they’ve got Aaron Rodgers. He’s closer to retirement than the start of his career, but I suspect we see a resurgence from Rodgers in 2019.

Kingsbury is a huge wild card in Arizona. He is viewed by many as an innovative offensive mind, but who he finds to run the Cardinals defense is arguably his most important task in 2019. Sean McVay was able to bring Wade Phillips to Los Angeles and Matt Nagy convinced Vic Fangio to stick around in Chicago. Robert Saleh has Kyle Shanahan’s confidence, but can Kingsbury afford an inexperienced option running his defense? I think Kingsbury will do good things with Josh Rosen, but it might not matter if the defense drops out of the middle of the pack.

All three present new challenges to the 49ers defense. They bring three different styles to the field in a year that will be a significant marker for Saleh and the defense. I like seeing some new faces like LaFleur and Kingsbury, but they will make for unique challenges.