Mike Lafleur

49ers mailbag: Could co-coordinators ease Kyle Shanahan's workload?

49ers mailbag: Could co-coordinators ease Kyle Shanahan's workload?

It has been two weeks since the 49ers’ loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. That’s more than enough time to turn the page and look ahead.

So that’s what we’re doing -- with the help from some of our Twitter friends. Here is the first offseason edition of the 49ers Mailbag.

Kyle Shanahan is one of the best play-callers in the NFL. I don’t think there’s even a question about that. Is there? So I can’t envision any scenario in which Shanahan stops doing the thing he does best.

Shanahan certainly believes McDaniel and LaFleur are ready to call plays. McDaniel and LaFleur are, in essence, co-offensive coordinators. They are responsible for putting together the first components of the weekly game plan.

Through the first three seasons together with the 49ers, they have found a pretty good rhythm together and Shanahan finds himself placing more trust in them. What they’re doing is working.

If the 49ers have the $19 million-plus in cap room to devote to a franchise tag for Arik Armstead, then I think they could work out a long-term deal that would work for both sides.

As for the question about a tag-and-trade, I’m sure you’re thinking about how the Kansas City Chiefs tagged Dee Ford a year ago and, then, traded him to the 49ers. In that instance, the Chiefs had Frank Clark on the line, so that made sense.

In this case, I don’t think there’s anyone who plays Armstead’s position they would prefer over him. Armstead is exactly what the 49ers need: A defensive end on base downs who moves inside next to DeForest Buckner to rush the passer in nickel situations.

There is no need for the 49ers to do anything with Thomas, except work with him to continue to improve and become more valuable as a rotational player on the defensive line. The 49ers certainly will not pick up the fifth-year option on Thomas for the 2021 season. But with Thomas’ rookie contract guaranteed, there is no cap advantage in parting ways with him this year.

Regardless, Thomas should have a significant role next season. But if for whatever reason Armstead is not back, Thomas has a strong chance to be a starter.

The possibility of recouping a draft pick is part of the reason the 49ers felt compelled to make the trade in the first place. In my opinion, they would have preferred Mohamed Sanu, who was under contract through the 2020 season. But the Patriots offered the Atlanta Falcons a second-round draft pick, and the 49ers did not have a second-round pick after dealing it to Kansas City for Dee Ford.

Instead, the 49ers acquired Sanders and a fifth-round pick from Denver in return for third- and fourth-round draft picks. The 49ers do not figure to be active with veteran acquisitions on the free-agent market this offseason, so it is likely the 49ers have more losses than gains. If Sanders is a loss, the 49ers would stand a good chance of picking up a compensatory pick for the 2021 draft.


Get stronger. Work. Work. Work.

Pettis had a good offseason program a year ago, but he was not the same player when he came back for training camp. Other receivers on the team came back stronger at the opening of camp. Pettis did not. That is why Pettis struggled and fell out of favor to the point he rarely played in the second half of the season.

Pettis needs to take it up another few notches to get stronger and avoid the nagging injuries that also set him back last season. Pettis has more ability than almost anyone on the team to run some of Shanahan’s favorite routes. He will have an opportunity to prove himself in the offseason and training camp this year.

If Jalen Hurd and Pettis are both healthy, I think the answer is Hurd. The reason is because of his size and his unique skill set.

I envision Hurd being a big part of the 49ers’ two-minute offense because of his versatility. The 49ers can line him up anywhere in the formation, including running back. That puts the onus on the defense to figure out how they want to treat him. Is he a runner, wide receiver or tight end? Then, based on the defensive personnel, the 49ers can exploit those weaknesses.

[RELATED: Juice sick of Jimmy G, Shanahan criticism after Super Bowl]

The draft takes place more than a month after free agency. So the answer to this question could change, based on what the 49ers’ roster looks like at the time of the draft. But, right now, if the 49ers hold onto the No. 31 overall pick, the team can choose among the best available wide receiver, cornerback or defensive lineman.

There are two ways to look at this. But if there’s a team willing to move up to No. 31 overall, then that is the default move. It would make a lot of sense to sit out the first round of the draft to come away with multiple picks on Day 2.

But if there is someone at No. 31 with whom the organization has fallen in love, then they should take that player. The advantage of holding onto the first-round draft pick is that the 49ers would control the contract rights to the player for five years, instead of four.

NFL rumors: 49ers extend coveted assistant Mike LaFleur's contract

NFL rumors: 49ers extend coveted assistant Mike LaFleur's contract

Mike LaFleur reportedly is sticking around in Santa Clara. 

LaFleur signed a contract extension with the 49ers to remain their passing game coordinator, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported hours before Super Bowl LIV, citing a league source. Schefter didn't clarify how long LaFleur's extension is. 

The Cleveland Browns reportedly were interested in hiring LaFleur -- or 49ers run game coordinator -- Mike McDaniel as offensive coordinator, but the Browns reportedly hired former Cincinnati Bengals quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt to that position last week. It's unclear if Van Pelt or Stefanski will call plays for the Browns in 2020, but the 49ers reportedly were "unlikely" to allow LaFleur to go to Cleveland.

The 49ers previously didn't allow LaFleur to interview for the Green Bay Packers' offensive coordinator position as he wouldn't have called plays under Mike LaFleur, his brother and Green Bay's head coach.  

“I have so much respect for [49ers coach Kyle Shanahan]," LaFleur said of not joining the Packers on The 49ers Insider Podcast in November. "I love being here. I love working here. I love living in this area. It was really a non-story for me."

[RELATED: How 49ers' run game could set up success vs. Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV]

LaFleur has coached under Shanahan with the Browns, Atlanta Falcons and now with the 49ers. 

Shanahan himself reportedly is in line for an extension this summer. If LaFleur isn't promoted to a play-calling coordinator position elsewhere, he could continue to work with Shanahan for some time.

NFL rumors: Browns targeting 49ers assistants for coordinator jobs

NFL rumors: Browns targeting 49ers assistants for coordinator jobs

The 49ers have at least one game left this postseason, and the end of their playoff run reportedly could mean the end of some assistants' time in Santa Clara.

That is, if the Cleveland Browns get their way. 

The Browns are interested in hiring "either" 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur or run game coordinator Mike McDaniel as their offensive coordinator, and 49ers passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach Joe Woods "is considered a top candidate for Cleveland's defensive coordinator job," NFL Media's Ian Rapaport reported Sunday morning. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Woods is "on track" to become the Browns' DC if the two sides reach a contract agreement. 

Cleveland hired former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski as head coach last week, and Rapoport wrote that Stefanski's "prowess on offense" might preclude the Browns from hiring their own offensive coordinator. Additionally, Rapaport noted that they might not even request interviews with LaFleur and McDaniel because both are still under contract with the 49ers and "unlikely to be allowed out to go to Cleveland."

Last year, the 49ers didn't allow LaFleur to interview for the Green Bay Packers' offensive coordinator position. Though he would've worked with his brother, Matt, Mike LaFleur would have been a non-play-calling coordinator. Since neither he nor McDaniel currently have play-calling duties under 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, it seems unlikely either coach would be in line for a promotion if Stefanski assumes play-calling duties. 

[RELATED: How Shanahan handled 49ers' 0-9 start in '17 led them here]

NFL Media's Jim Trotter reported last week that Woods was a finalist for the Browns' vacancy at defensive coordinator. Before coming to the 49ers this season, the 49-year-old Woods served as the Denver Broncos' defensive coordinator from 2017 through '18. In his first season coaching the 49ers' defensive backs, San Francisco ranked 10th in passes defensed (74) after finishing 32nd (39) last year.

The Browns also interviewed current 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh for their head-coaching position before ultimately hiring Stefanski

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.