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Coordinator Search Part 2 - By Bryan Hersh Feb 21 2007

THIS CONTENT IS COPYWRITED, REDISTRIBUTION OF IT (including copy/pasting it to a message board, forum or bbs) IS PROHIBITED AND COULD RESULT IN LEGAL ACTIONS - feel free to quote up to 1 paragraph providing a source link to http://www.49ersparadise.com is included

49ers fans who thought they were safe after the Cowboys hired Wade Phillips and not Norv Turner are now faced with the dread they feared just weeks ago. Norv Turner informed 49ers coach Mike Nolan on Monday morning that he would be leaving his offensive coordinator position to become the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. Turner joins a club that has had its coaching staff decimated this offseason, but also ranks among the league best for player talent. Nolan is left trying to fill the team's second coordinator position this offseason, and his third offensive coordinator in as many years.

Nolan has suggested that like last year, when Mike McCarthy left to coach the Packers, this is an opportunity for the team to get better. Skeptics though realize that the 49ers thought well enough of Turner to extend his contract - and clearly were not looking to improve upon the offensive coordinator position. There are also worries that teams will block the 49ers from interviewing their staff because it is so late in the offseason. This could seriously limit the 49ers from finding the best man for the job. Concerns also exist as to how young quarterback Alex Smith will handle the transition to another coordinator and perhaps a third offensive system.

The 49ers are really not in a position to retard the development of Smith. Smith is the future of the team, but he will only be able to help it succeed if the team is able to help him progress in his development. Turner was an excellent match for Smith, and the addition of veteran quarterback Trent Dilfer helped ease the transition. Dilfer will once again have to serve as a guiding light, but Nolan must make sure to get the right man also. That means finding a coach that can develop Smith beyond his current level, regardless of what offensive system is in place. Consistency should also be a virtue Nolan looks for - in order to give Smith a comfort level in the years to come. That may mean finding a coach who runs one of the two offensive systems that Smith is familiar with, finding a coach who will be with the team long term, or both.

There is no arguing that this was a hard hit to the team. Turner had completely turned around one of the leagues worst offenses and made it respectable. But the 49ers may be able to overcome the loss. To do this, Trent Dilfer will have to serve as a crutch for Smith, and Mike Nolan must find the right coach – whether that means promoting from within the organization, or seeking outside help. Below is a rundown of some possible candidates:

From within the organization, Nolan has several options. Of course promoting any one of them, would mean having to find someone to fill there previously held coaching position.

Jerry Sullivan – 49ers WR Coach
Sullivan is regarded around the league as one of the best WR coaches in the NFL. He knows the 49ers current offense, and fits in well with the staff. Sullivan has one forgettable year as an offensive coordinator on his resume (with the Cardinals). He clearly is not as proven a play caller as Turner was, but no assistant coach would be. 49ers fans and media believe he is the front-runner for the position from the current staff, and still others believe the team should let him keep doing what he does best. Sullivan could be on pace for a head coaching position if he has a tremendous year as offensive coordinator for the 49ers because of his NFL experience. Some 49ers fans hope that Jerry Rice would assume Sullivan’s spot should he be promoted, and as intriguing an idea as that may be, it’s hard to believe Rice would find a place on the coaching staff.

Jim Hostler – 49ers QB Coach
The primary tutor to Alex Smith, Hostler has a great relationship with the teams’ franchise quarterback. There has been little credit thrown his way though for the improvement in Smith’s game. He has held various assistant offensive coach positions around the league and would be a bit of a project at offensive coordinator given a lack of experience in the area.

George Warhop – 49ers OL Coach
The 49ers offensive line has not exactly been a bright spot for the team in recent years. Warhop though is a veteran coach who has also had time around the league. His grasp of the 49ers offense is quite firm, and he may be disciplined enough to favor the run, and let Frank Gore be the center piece of the offense.

Pete Hoener – 49ers TE Coach
Tight end coach Pete Hoener is among the most experienced staff members on the 49ers. He has 8 years of NFL coaching experience, and 25 years at the collegiate level. During those periods Hoener has held a variety of positions including 15 years as an offensive coordinator at various big name colleges. This experience may give him a leg up on the rest of the 49ers coaching staff.

Bishop Harris – 49ers RB Coach
Harris has helped Frank Gore materialize as a top tier NFL running back. He has a wealth of experience at the pro and collegiate level, and has even held a head-coaching role at North Carolina Central from 1991-1992. Harris is to running backs, what Jerry Sullivan is to wide receivers. Replacing Harris would be a very difficult task – and like Sullivan, if he has a tremendous year, could be recruited to a head coach position.

The following is a list of short-term solution coaches. These are coaches, which are a step away from being head coaches, and would not do much for the team in the way of consistency but may serve as an adequate band-aid until next offseason when the team may have more options available to them.

Steve Mariucci – Unemployed
Former 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci is an interesting candidate due to his familiarity with the west coast offense, and his preference to run the ball. This could be a match for the team on a short term basis. Mariucci though, parted ways with ill feelings to team owner John York, his return is unlikely – though worth considering.

Jim Fassel – Unemployed
Fassel has all the experience one could hope for in an offensive coordinator, and even has experience bringing along great quarterbacks like Phil Simms and John Elway. Fassel has coached winning teams (though many 49ers fans will remember him fondly for blowing a 38-14 lead in the playoffs to the 49ers) and even taken clubs to the Super Bowl. He is overqualified for the position, but there is no telling as to whether or not he fits with what Mike Nolan would be looking for if he were to select a short term option.

Dave Campo - Unemployed
Campo shares many similarities with Norv Turner. The two both have extensive experience working with the Cowboys. Campo though has pent his career on the defensive side of the ball. There is obviously question as to how easily he could convert his knowledge to the offensive side of the ball, but is an intriguing prospect because of his likely familiarity with Turner’s system.

The following are alternative options that would likely be able to stick around the 49ers organization for a few years. They are typically less experienced, though have good credentials.
Ken Zampese – Bengals QB Coach
Zamepese’s name may be famous, but that is not the reason to consider Ken. As the Bengals QB coach, Zampese was instrumental in helping QB Jon Kitna resurrect his career and has been instrumental in the development of youngster Carson Palmer. This ability to harvest quarterbacks makes Zampese an interesting prospect to the 49ers, and to Alex Smith. Zampese was a part of the Rams great passing attack in the earlier part of the decade. He has also worked under Ray Rhodes in Philadelphia and Green Bay. His collegiate career includes a brief stint as offensive coordinator. Zampese’s father Ernie, is credited in teaching Norv Turner the “Don ‘Air’ Coryell” offense, Ken’s familiarity with the system would make him a natural fit to replace Turner.

Jim Caldwell – Colts QB Coach
It’s hard to argue with Caldwell’s resume: “Peyton Manning”. But beyond the success Caldwell has had grooming Manning, he has also worked for Tampa Bay, and 20 years of collegiate experience, where he served as a head coach and held coordinator positions. He has a winning history in his ranks – and given the 49ers situation with Alex Smith, could be a perfect candidate for the 49ers role. Caldwell’s known for his development of quarterbacks, and his resume really speaks for itself.

Dan Henning – Unemployed
The former offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers has a reputation as being too conservative – which may mean Nolan stays away. But Henning is regarded very highly by his players, and his experience may draw Nolan’s attention. Although Henning may not be the best possible candidate, depending on how flexible other teams’ are, the 49ers may be forced to work from a very short list.

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