Coach Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh have already had discussions about the offseason.
And things could move fast next week -- after the 49ers wrap up the season Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks in Glendale, Arizona.
If Saleh becomes an NFL head coach, he will likely want to take some 49ers assistant coaches with him.
It’s a scenario Shanahan knows well. He was in the same position four years ago when he left his position on Dan Quinn’s staff as Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator to become the 49ers’ head coach.
“I think there's definitely a respect level and everyone does it differently,” Shanahan said. “It depends where you are. Before I thought about anything, I always went through Dan Quinn and asked him what he was OK with.”
Shanahan was granted permission to take running backs coach Bobby Turner and offensive assistants Mike LaFleur and Mike McDaniel with him to the 49ers.
Generally, NFL assistant coaches are under contract to their teams for the current season and the next season. Teams can deny an assistant permission to leave for non-play-calling coordinator positions.
In recent years, Shanahan did not grant permission to LaFleur to join his brother’s staff with the Green Bay Packers and he blocked McDaniel from joining Kliff Kingsbury with the Arizona Cardinals.
After one year with the 49ers, LaFleur and McDaniel were given promotions with “coordinator” titles. LaFleur is the 49ers’ passing game coordinator, while McDaniel is the run game coordinator. Shanahan still calls the team’s offensive plays.
Shanahan said both of those jobs would have been lateral moves as coordinator positions on staffs with the head coach as the primary play-caller.
Shanahan recently joked he has "set the bar low" for the number of assistants he has told Saleh he can take with him.
On Friday, Shanahan said he, general manager John Lynch and CEO Jed York have to balance what’s best for the coach and what’s best for the team in making those decisions.
“I didn’t want people to hold me back when I had a chance to improve my career, a chance to help my family out and go forward,” Shanahan said. “That’s why, if you have someone who's getting a huge opportunity, that's something that me, John, I know Jed, we always want to try to do what's best for the organization, but we also want to help people out.
“So, we'll look into anything, but I also know it's once you're a position coach, once you're a coordinator, there's not many moves going up. So when it's not that case, you're never going to hurt the Niners just because someone's excited for a change of scenery.”
If Saleh becomes a head coach, LaFleur would be a strong candidate to join him as offensive coordinator. He could also take linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans, unless Shanahan has designs on promoting him to the role of defensive coordinator.
Offensive line coach John Benton, assistant defensive line coach Aaron Whitecotton and safeties coach Daniel Bullocks could also be targets for Saleh's potential staff. Saleh coached with both men while with the Jacksonville Jaguars before coming to the 49ers.