Robert Saleh

How 49ers' coaches could benefit from new NFL career development rules

How 49ers' coaches could benefit from new NFL career development rules

Coach Kyle Shanahan calls the 49ers’ offensive plays, but he might no longer be able to call the shots for his two top offensive assistants.

Shanahan elevated Mike McDaniel and Mike LaFleur to “coordinator” positions following the 2017 season. A year later, Shanahan denied Arizona and Green Bay from interviewing McDaniel and LaFleur, respectively, from interviewing his assistants because he viewed those non-playing opportunities as lateral moves.

As part of the NFL’s newly adopted procedures in diversity, equity and inclusion, teams will no longer be allowed to deny assistant coaches from interviewing with a new team for a “bona fide” offensive, defensive or special-teams coordinator positions.

In order for permission to be automatically granted, the position cannot be "shared,” in which there it is a co-coordinator position or another coach or consultant on staff has any coordinating responsibilities.

A coordinator position is defined as job with responsibilities that include leadership of all meetings, reporting directly to the head coach and playing a role in the development of the game plan. The new role does not require game-calling duties during games.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would make the final, binding resolution if there is any dispute, according to the procedures the league approved on Tuesday.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

McDaniel, the 49ers’ run game coordinator, and LaFleur, the passing game coordinator, have major roles on Shanahan’s staff. Their influence has been particularly noticeable to the players during the team’s virtual offseason.

“They’ve been extremely involved and both of them could run their own offense right now -- probably could’ve years ago,” 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk said.

McDaniel, 37, and LaFleur, 33, have pre-recorded approximately 30 videos of 15 minutes apiece in which they install the team’s pass concepts and run game, Juszczyk said. Then, Shanahan takes the groundwork laid by McDaniel and LaFleur and goes into even greater depth with the nuances of the play.

[RELATED: How McDaniel's NFL journey started as child with Broncos]

Juszczyk said he anticipates a time in the near future when McDaniel and LaFleur are traditional offensive coordinators.

“I truly believe both of them are so capable and so ready to run their own offenses,” Juszczyk said. “It’s going to be a bummer for us when we lose one of them. They’re going to be really hard to replace because they’re really so valuable and important to this offense and contribute so much to what we do as a team.”

The league also announced enhancements to the Rooney Rule, in which teams will now be required to interview at least two external minority candidates for head coach vacancies; at least one minority candidate for any of the three coordinator vacancies; and at least one external minority candidate for the senior football operations or general manager position.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who was a finalist for the Cleveland Browns head-coaching position this year, is expected to be one of the top candidates for any openings after the 2020 season.

Robert Saleh told Joe Staley 49ers would add Nick Bosa year before draft

Robert Saleh told Joe Staley 49ers would add Nick Bosa year before draft

The 49ers entered the 2018 season with lofty expectations. With Jimmy Garoppolo entrenched as the starting quarterback, most expected the 49ers to take a leap in Year 2 under coach Kyle Shanahan.

But defensive coordinator Robert Saleh had his eye on a different prize. During the end of the 2018 offseason, Saleh predicted to left tackle Joe Staley that the 49ers were going to add Nick Bosa to their defensive line in the 2019 NFL Draft.

"He's telling me, 'Dude, there's this kid in college,'" Staley said on the "Bussin' With The Boys" podcast. "He's like, 'We're going to add him next year. It's going to be unbelievable. It's Nick Bosa from Ohio State. You have to see this kid. He's unbelievable. He's going to transform our defense.' "

This, of course, seemed like lunacy to Staley. Bosa was projected to be the top pick, and the 49ers had their eyes on a playoff berth.

"In my mind, I'm like, 'There's not a f--king shot in the world we're going to get him. That means we're going to be like the No. 1 overall pick in the f--king draft. I hope we don't f--king add this kid to our team.' And then it transpired that we ended up getting him, and we ended up having the bad year."

The 49ers' season ended up spiraling downward after Garoppolo tore his ACL in Week 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The 49ers finished the season at 4-12 and earned the No. 2 overall pick.

That wouldn't have been good enough to land Bosa in almost any other draft. But Kyler Murray's incredible Heisman Trophy-winning season shot him up draft boards, and the Arizona Cardinals tabbed the QB as the new face of their franchise. Bosa fell right into the 49ers' lap, and there's no doubt Saleh was fired up when he saw that happen.

[RELATED: Sherman think it's 'foolish' to blame Jimmy G for Super Bowl loss]

Bosa helped turn the 49ers' defensive line from a good unit into a great one, notching nine sacks and 47 combined tackles while earning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

I might have to see if Saleh has any stock tips.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Why Chris Simms believes 49ers' pass defense must evolve to stay ahead

Why Chris Simms believes 49ers' pass defense must evolve to stay ahead

The 49ers failed to hold onto a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV. And most of the blame seemed to be assigned to Jimmy Garoppolo, Kyle Shanahan and the offense.

But the team’s defense failed, too. The Kansas City Chiefs scored three touchdowns late in the fourth quarter, dealing San Francisco a disappointing 31-20 loss.

“They were put in a spot to close the door, slam it home, 'We’re going to be the Super Bowl champion' and didn’t do that," NBC Sports' Chris Simms said on the 49ers Insider Podcast.

The 49ers entered the 2020 NFL Draft with a need at cornerback, as none of their returners are signed beyond the 2020 season. But San Francisco did not use any of its five draft picks to address the position. The 49ers hit other needs, such as defensive tackle, wide receiver and offensive line.

“I thought there was a good chance if they stayed at [the No. 31 overall pick], that they might take a corner at 31,” Simms said. “I think Richard Sherman is getting there to the end of his career. You got a good cast of corners, but I don’t think anybody’s sitting there going, ‘Oh, they’re great.’”

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The 49ers' defense had a chance to win the game. They were leading 20-10 when Kansas City took over its own 17-yard line with 8:53 remaining in the Super Bowl. But the strength of the team surrendered 21 points the rest of the way to Patrick Mahomes and Co.

Kansas City receiver Tyreek Hill caught a 44-yard pass on a pivotal third-and-15 play in which 49ers cornerback Emmanuel Moseley vacated his deep zone. That play set up the touchdown that enabled the Chiefs to get close. Then, Sherman surrendered a 38-yard pass to Sammy Watkins along the right sideline with less than four minutes to play that led to the go-ahead touchdown.

Simms said he believes 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh must make an adjustment in the future to play a wider variety of coverages in key situations.

The 49ers’ defense is based on the system the Seattle Seahawks have implemented with great success over the past decade. The club relied heavily on cover-3, in which three defensive backs are responsible for each covering a deep-third of the field.

“They can be a little bit predictable at times,” Simms said. “That’s why we saw the third-and-15 converted. They kind of knew what kind of coverage they were going to play. ‘Let’s call this play; they’ve been calling this coverage a lot.’ When you do that, you’re very dependent on your talent to always come through.”

Simms said the game has evolved to the point where quarterbacks and pass-catchers have grown up playing in 7-on-7 passing leagues and have been taught how to beat zone coverages from an early age. Offenses are also getting better and taking advantage of vulnerabilities in the defenses.

[RELATEDWhy Shanahan views his blown Super Bowl leads differently]

There is a greater need for defenses to play lock-down man coverage on big downs, Simms said.

“If you want to make stops on third-and-4, third-and-5 in the NFL, you got to play man-to-man,” Simms said. “That’s what the really good defenses are doing. Whether that’s the Baltimore Ravens or New England Patriots. They’re not going to let you pick apart some zone and find a little hole and have a good quarterback, zoom, throw some laser in there.

“They’re going to go, ‘Nope, we’re going to glue you up, man to man, and really make you think twice and give you no windows to throw the ball and you’re going to have to make a great throw against man-to-man coverage against our really good corners.’ And I do think that’s probably one aspect that I’d like to see the 49ers improve over the next year or so.”