Tom Rathman, who has spent 22 seasons with the 49ers as a player and coach, will not return to the team’s coaching staff for the 2017 season, he told CSNBayArea.com on Sunday.
“I’m not going to be back,” Rathman said. “I feel like it’s the best for everybody if I just parted and let those guys do their thing and take me out of the equation so that nobody’s uncomfortable.
“I’m looking to coach running backs and that’s what I want to do. I’m just going to wait for the next opportunity and go for it when it happens.”
Rathman’s spot as the 49ers’ running backs coach the past eight seasons was filled on Friday when the club announced the hiring of Bobby Turner to serve in that capacity on Kyle Shanahan’s staff.
Shanahan said he made a promise to Turner a long time ago to hire him to his coaching staff if he were to ever become an NFL head coach. Turner coached under Shanahan’s father, Mike, with Denver and Washington.
Shanahan and general manager John Lynch met with Rathman on Thursday morning and discussed ways to keep Rathman on the staff. Rathman said there was not a role on the staff that made sense for him or the 49ers.
“It was all positive,” said Rathman, 54. “I have no hard feelings. It’s just the nature of the business. Everybody just has to understand that. In pro football, coaches get fired and new guys come in and they bring their guys. I totally understand it. I don’t have a problem with it. Being in the business for 28 years, playing and coaching, you understand what it is. You can never take anything for granted.”
Rathman was a fullback with the 49ers from 1986 to ’93, during which time he was a starter on two Super Bowl-winning teams and seven NFC West champions. He finished his career in 1994 with the Los Angeles Raiders before transitioning into coaching.
He spent one season as the offensive coordinator at Menlo College. Rathman was then hired the following year to Steve Mariucci’s staff with the 49ers, where he coached from 1997 to 2002. Rathman followed Mariucci to the Detroit Lions for three seasons before serving as Lane Kiffin’s running backs coach with the Raiders in 2007 and ’08.
Rathman returned to the 49ers in 2009, where he has worked on coaching staffs with head coaches Mike Singletary, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly.
“It’s been fantastic,” Rathman said of his time with the 49ers. “Just going back to the playing days in the DeBartolo era. Playing for the organization and coaching for Eddie and the York family and Jed. They’ve shown me nothing but respect. I have no hard feelings. I still feel like I’m part of the family. Even though I won’t be there, I’ll still feel part of the family.”
Rathman said he wanted to reach out to some people with whom he has worked to inform them before news of his exit from the 49ers became public. Among those with whom he spoke were Carlos Hyde and Frank Gore. Hyde posted a photo of Rathman on social media Saturday night with no caption.
“I did talk to Frank, too,” Rathman said.
Gore’s reaction, according to Rathman, “That sucks.”
“You try to explain it to everybody that it’s the way the business works,” Rathman said. “He understands that, because as a player, the 49ers had to let him go. Whether you’re playing or whether you’re coaching, it’s pretty much the same thing. It’s a very volatile industry. You have to go out and produce. That’s the bottom line in this industry, whether you’re coaching or playing. We just didn’t do enough producing.”
Rathman said he will look to resume coaching in the NFL.
“Because it’s so late, all the jobs are pretty much snagged,” Rathman said. “I’ll continue to hunt. If I have to be out this year, I’ll get back in next year and take my coaching show on the road for however long I have to.
“I’m looking to do another stint, one more push, in pro football and just try to get to that Super Bowl level and win another Super Bowl.”