There is reportedly a “strong possibility” that new 49ers head coach Chip Kelly will retain incumbent defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, but it appears Mangini’s return isn’t a lock. According to Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (via Twitter), the Niners are interviewing Mike Vrabel today for their defensive coordinator job.
Vrabel, who spent most of his NFL playing career with the Patriots, winning three Super Bowls with New England, began his coaching career in 2011 following his retirement as a player. After spending three seasons as a positions coach at Ohio State, Vrabel joined the Texans in 2014. He has been the linebackers coach in Houston for the last two years.
Vrabel is the first outside candidate who has been mentioned as a possibility for the 49ers’ defensive coordinator position. It’s not clear yet how strongly Kelly and the Niners are considering him, or if the club plans on interviewing more candidates for the job. For the time being, I’d still view Mangini as the favorite, but that could change quickly.
Whoever ends up running the 49ers’ defense in 2016 will have a challenging task ahead. In Philadelphia, Kelly’s Eagles ranked at the bottom of the NFL in terms of time of possession in each of the last three seasons due to their fast-paced offense, which forced the defense to spend plenty of time on the field.
In 2015, Mangini’s unit ranked 29th in the NFL in yards allowed per game (387.4), finishing outside the top 25 against both the run and the pass.
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