Earlier in the week, it felt like the 49ers would be gutted and lose multiple members on their coaching staff and in their front office. Adam Peters isn’t going anywhere now that Carolina and Denver both have general managers.
Things changed rather quickly on Thursday night when the Jets announced that they hired 49ers DC Robert Saleh, who is bringing Mike LaFleur to be his OC in New York. That wasn’t the only coordinator Saleh tried to bring along with him.
Saleh is expected to bring several 49ers assistants with him to New York, though Shanahan said he will “set the bar very low” on how many he can take. His key hire, of course, will be his offensive coordinator and a league source said he is hoping to bring Mike LaFleur, the 49ers passing game coordinator, with him to run the Jets’ offense. A source added he also wanted to bring 49ers linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans along as his defensive coordinator, but Ryans might replace Saleh in San Francisco instead.
He also was reportedly interested in former Jaguars head coach and Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, but he recently was hire by the Las Vegas Raiders.
It’s been a rapid rise for the 36-year-old former Texans linebacker. He retired in 2015 after a 10-year NFL career and began his coaching tenure in 2017 as a defensive quality control coach for the 49ers. His quick promotion to defensive coordinator after only four seasons in the coaching ranks speaks to how well thought of he is in the organization.
Saleh was integral in building the 49ers defense that carried the team to the Super Bowl last season. He did a good job keeping the unit competitive this year after suffering numerous injuries to key players.
Over the last few days the buzz suggested that Saleh was the likely frontrunner for the job. He was the first candidate to receive a second-round interview. Even though he left without a deal yesterday, the two sides apparently liked the match.
Their poll has a 95% approval rating for Saleh.
Why does Surtain make sense?
Surtain makes sense because the 49ers have spent precious little draft capital on cornerbacks in the last four years and as a result hardly have any young blood in the pipeline at the position.
The team used a third-round pick in 2017 on Ahkello Witherspoon, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March. So are Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams and Dontae Johnson while Emmanuel Moseley will be a restricted free agent.
The only cornerbacks under contract for 2021: Tim Harris and Adonis Alexander. Each signed reserve/future deals with the team earlier this month. Their NFL regular-season playing experience on defense amounts to the 11 snaps Alexander played for Washington in 2018.
If Shanahan is indeed that high on Darnold, moving Garoppolo to acquire him begins to make a lot of sense.
A swap would cost the Jets a little more than $19 million in cap space, a very reasonable cost for a starter. Garoppolo has consistently received rave reviews for his presence in the locker room. Saleh surely wants to carry a lot of what he helped build in San Francisco to his next job, and players like Garoppolo could do that. Furthermore, his familiarity with the offense could be a great help to a young quarterback like Fields or Wilson.
Plus, without any guaranteed salary remaining in his contract, Garoppolo gives the franchise ample flexibility.
“Two names to watch here: Matthew Stafford, and Carson Wentz,” Lombardo noted on Twitter. “San Francisco is well positioned, with $26 million in cap space currently, and the organization is eager to add a QB they can ‘win with rather than in spite of,’ I’m told.”
“I think the 49ers would at least think about a Stafford trade — like they did earlier this year with Tom Brady. They would have no room, cap wise, for Garoppolo and Stafford, so they’d have to shed Garoppolo. A scenario, though one that’s perhaps far-fetched: Robert Saleh becomes Lions head coach and hires one of Shanahan’s lieutenants, Mike LaFleur, to run his offense. They then acquire Garoppolo to run said offense. Of course, that would leave Shanahan with Stafford, a QB who doesn’t know his offense. Which is why he’d probably stick with Jimmy G.”