49ers Mailbag: Which GM best pairs with McDaniels?


49ers Mailbag: Which GM best pairs with McDaniels?

The 49ers are on Day 4 of their coach-general manager tour as they sort through a lengthy list of candidates for both jobs.

Before we get to answering questions posted on Facebook for 49ers Mailbag, here is where the search stands:

Wednesday, Jan. 4
Buffalo interim head coach Anthony Lynn (coach)

Thursday, Jan. 5
Green Bay director of football operations Eliot Wolf (GM)
Green Bay director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst (GM)

Friday, Jan. 6
Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton (GM)
Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan (coach)

Saturday, Jan. 7
New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (coach)

Sunday, Jan. 8
Indianapolis vice president of football operations Jimmy Raye III (GM)

Monday, Jan. 9
Washington offensive coordinator Sean McVay (coach)
Carolina assistant general manager Brandon Beane (GM)

Tuesday, Jan. 10
Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott (coach)
ESPN analyst Louis Riddick (GM)

Sunday, Jan. 15
Seattle offensive line/assistant head coach Tom Cable (coach)

Monday, Jan. 16
Seattle co-director of player personnel Scott Fitterer (GM)
Seattle co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner (GM)

Miami defensive coordinator Vance Joseph (coach)

* * *

Q: How are the Niners going to determine a good GM/HC pairing if they are hiring them at the same time? Shouldn't they hire a GM first?‬ (Dustin Heron)
A: That’s exactly how they plan to determine a good coach-GM pairing, by hiring them together.

Here’s what Jed York had to say during his press conference on Monday:
”We need to be open and flexible to structure. We need to make sure that the head coach and the general manager know each other, have a good understanding for each other. Doesn’t mean that they had to have worked together in the past, but they have to have a good respect for each other and a good understanding and know that they have similar visions and philosophies on building a football team.”

Remember all that talk that York might be demoted or stripped of power? Well, the opposite appears to be true. Although he was involved in the previous coaching searches, York ultimately left the decisions to GM Trent Baalke.

This time, York wants to sign off on both hires and determine for himself if he believes the coach and general manager will be able to work together and pull in the same direction.

Q: Which would McDaniels prefer? Caserio or Riddick?‬ (Isaac Lopez)
A: The 49ers’ job is certainly more intriguing to Josh McDaniels now than it’s ever been because he would have a major voice (the voice?) in the hiring of the team’s general manager.

He declined to interview with the 49ers in 2011, shortly after the Denver Broncos fired him as head coach after less than two seasons. Two years ago, McDaniels interviewed with the 49ers, but he was not sold on the job – most likely because he had continued questions about the structure with Baalke as general manager.

What makes this a good situation for McDaniels now is that he will be coming into a situation where he and a general manager of his choosing (or at least a GM with whom he feels comfortable) will have carte blanche to build the roster and do everything they deem necessary to turn the franchise around.

The 49ers are expected to have $80 million in cap room and 10 draft picks, including the No. 2 pick in each round.

It looks as if Nick Caserio is opting to remain as New England’s top personnel guy under coach Bill Belichick. ESPN analyst Louis Riddick has made it known what he thinks of McDaniels, and it’s safe to assume they know each other. Riddick has to be considered a strong candidate for a position he's already stated he would accept.

Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton is highly respected within NFL circles and could remain in the picture regardless of which way it goes at head coach. And although Green Bay executive Eliot Wolf does not know McDaniels, those who know both of them believe they would fit well together.

Q: Will all Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke guys be let go? Will new HC/GM determine new DC?‬ (Alex Tran)
A: The head coach and general manager will be completely free to choose their staffs. On Monday, York said he spoke to the coaching staff and those in football operations.

Said York:
“I let them know that the new general manager and the new head coach are going to make the final decisions on who’s here and who’s not. Those folks are all under contract. They are going to have the ability to go somewhere else and there are no tampering charges. They are free to talk to anybody else.”

So, yes, the takeaway is that Jed York and Paraag Marathe are conducting these interviews. According to York, he will make the hires and then step out of the way and give the coach and general manager all the support they feel they need to build the roster to their specifications.

Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in


Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in

The 49ers concluded the first wave of the free-agent signing period with the signings of players to fill the team’s biggest offseason needs.

--Cornerback. Aqib Talib would have been the answer in a trade with the Denver Broncos, but he wanted to play elsewhere. Instead, the 49ers signed veteran Richard Sherman, whom the Seattle Seahawks cut a day earlier.

--Interior offensive line. Center Weston Richburg was the player the team had rated as their top target in free agency, and they signed him to a lucrative five-year deal.

--Running back. The team decided Jerick McKinnon was a better fit than Carlos Hyde. They wrapped him up with a four-year contract.

--Edge rusher. Lacking many options in free agency, the 49ers signed Jeremiah Attaochu to a one-year contract in hopes he will earn a spot on the team and make a contribution at the “Leo” position.

The 49ers can still use more help at a number of different positions, including cornerback, wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker and edge rusher. While the 49ers might add some role players in the second wave of free agency, most of the major acquisitions at this point are likely to come in the draft.

On the 49ers Insider Podcast, 49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters addressed what positions he believes are strong in this year’s draft.

“I think running backs, absolutely. It’s a deep position,” Peters said. “Quarterbacks at the top is deeper than it was last year. Secondary, corners, it’s not deeper than it was last year, but it’s a strong class of corners. Those are the main ones. The offensive line class is a little better than last year, too.”

The 49ers got major contributions from their rookie class last season. Tight end George Kittle, receiver Trent Taylor, quarterback C.J. Beathard, running back Matt Breida, defensive lineman Solomom Thomas, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, linebacker Reuben Foster and safety Adrian Colbert each played more than 300 snaps.

The 49ers feel good about Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, as a starter with Sherman on the other side. Peters said a lot of the team’s rookies played larger roles than expected in 2017, but Witherspoon might have been at the top of the list.

“I don’t think he was active for the first four games,” Peters said of Witherspoon. “And he ended up playing at a high level at the end. Really driven, conscientious player who wants to be great. 

"We were lucky we got a chance to play a lot of rookies because that’ll help us moving forward.”

Shanahan sees versatile McKinnon as piece that was missing from 49ers' offense


Shanahan sees versatile McKinnon as piece that was missing from 49ers' offense

The player Kyle Shanahan studied on video was a lot better than the player he saw on the stat sheet.

The 49ers coach said he places a lot more emphasis on how he projects a player in his offense than what the player did with his former team.

And that is why the 49ers placed a large priority on signing former Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnonon the first day of the free-agent signing period. McKinnon comes to the 49ers on a four-year, $30 million contract with $11.7 million guaranteed.

McKinnon's stats might not suggest he is anywhere near a top running back in the NFL, but Shanahan sees it differently. And that is why the 49ers opted to pursue McKinnon instead of Carlos Hyde.

“I don’t know the numbers until I like the guy,” Shanahan said. “I always watch the guy first, and turn on the tape and get lost in it for a while. There were so many things I liked about him, visualizing how we would use him and stuff he would do. And even though there wasn’t a ton of it, you still got to see him do some stuff that we do a lot. Where he did it, he excelled a ton and was very good at it.

“Eventually, I look at the numbers and it did surprise me. Then you go back and you try to see why. I’m not going to get into all the whys, but I know all the stuff we liked about him, we cut up those numbers. I think they would’ve been good numbers.”

In four NFL seasons as a part-time player, McKinnon (5-9, 205), averaged 4.0 yards per rushing attempt. The past two years, he gained 539 and 570 yards with rushing averages of just 3.4 and 3.8 yards.

Hyde (6-foot, 230) is a bigger back with more production in his career. He rushed for 988 and 938 yards in 2016 and ’17 with averages of 4.6 and 3.9 yards.

Shanahan said he looked at every player who was available, and McKinnon was the player he evaluated to be the best of all the free agents. Shanahan has long valued running backs who are versatile in the run and pass games with an ability to make defenders miss.

“A good run is when you get more yards than what it was blocked for,” Shanahan said. “Sometimes, runs are blocked for negative 1 (yard) and the best run in the game was a 1-yard carry.

“Sometimes the one that most people could do is a 60-yarder because it was a busted coverage or a busted front and nobody was there. Numbers do tell stuff, but it’s never an absolute."

The 49ers signed McKinnon to be the starting running back with Matt Breida likely mixing into the action. The 49ers could also be in the market to add to the competition and depth through the draft.

Shanahan is likely to deploy multiple players, just as he did successfully with Atlanta Falcons running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. McKinnon is expected to take Freeman’s role. In each of Shanahan’s two seasons as Falcons offensive coordinator, Freeman accounted for more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage. He rushed for 1,056 and 1,079 yards while catching 578 and 462 yards in passes.

“I’m just excited to be in the offense that I feel is a perfect fit for me,” McKinnon said on Thursday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

“Things that coach Shanahan has done with the backs like he did in Atlanta with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, I see myself doing those kinds of things. For me, I feel like the scheme is right. The fit was just perfect for me. I feel like I can’t be in a better situation as a player.”

Shanahan said he liked McKinnon as a draft prospect in 2014 out of Georgia Southern but it was more difficult to evaluate him because he mostly played quarterback in college.

But in studying McKinnon while with the Vikings, he saw a runner who has speed and elusiveness while also exhibiting the strength to break arm tackles. He set the record at the NFL Scouting Combine for running backs with 32 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press in 2014. But McKinnon's best asset might be his ability to be a factor in the passing game in blitz pickup, while also being a dependable receiver out of the backfield or in the slot.

“When it comes to separating and beating linebackers and safeties in man-to-man coverage, I definitely think he’s an issue for teams,” Shanahan said. “I think this league, when it comes to third downs and things like that, you move the chains based off of matchups, which allows you to get points in the long run. I think Jerick is very versatile and we can do a lot of things with him.

“He’s good enough to make it as a runner alone in this league. He’s good enough to make it in the pass game as just a third down threat alone, but when you can do both of those, it gives you a lot of freedom as a coach.”