Mike Shanahan

49ers Notes: Shanahan, Lynch, Garoppolo

The trade that sent Jimmy Garoppolo from New England to San Francisco has turned out to be one of the most important swaps in recent NFL history, with Tom Brady‘s former backup set to start in Super Bowl LIV. Despite other suitors believed to be in the mix for Garoppolo in 2017, Bill Belichick alerted Kyle Shanahan he was willing to part with the former second-round pick for a second-rounder. The 49ers quickly accepted but did so after initially being willing to offer the Patriots more for the then-fourth-year passer, Seth Wickersham of ESPN.com reports. But Belichick, despite previous refusals to trade Garoppolo, was not posturing when he indicated he would take a Round 2 pick for his contract-year quarterback.

It ended up costing the 49ers only the No. 43 overall selection in 2018 to land their starting quarterback. While this process was murkier on the Patriots’ end, it helped the 49ers construct a rebuild that has them in their seventh Super Bowl.

A week away from the 49ers’ Super Bowl matchup with the Chiefs, here is the latest out of San Francisco:

  • Going back to when this rebuild began, Shanahan did not mince words about the state of the 49ers during his interview for their top coaching job. Early in the then-Falcons OC’s 2017 interview, he told team CEO Jed York the roster left over from the Trent Baalke era at that time was “horrible,” Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. This led to a gradual rebuild that did not get far off the ground before this season, with the 49ers going 10-22. But York was on board with the process, viewing 2019 as the first real season on which the Shanahan-John Lynch regime could be judged, Maiocco adds. York gave the HC-GM duo six-year contracts because of the team going through three coaches in three years from 2014-16.
  • Lynch’s hire came about because he cold-called Shanahan with an offer to pair with him in San Francisco, Wickersham adds. A recommendation from Mike Shanahan, who coached Lynch in Denver, helped seal the deal for his son. Lynch had spoken at length with Kyle Shanahan on the phone in preparation for games he would call as a broadcaster, per Wickersham, and hoped for a chance to return to football. Shanahan did not have much familiarity with the other finalists for the 49ers’ GM job — Vikings assistant GM George Paton and Cardinals VP of player personnel Terry McDonough — and the decision to hire a GM out of the broadcast booth has helped the 49ers return to the Super Bowl.
  • Despite dealing with a dislocated shoulder that induced pain preventing him from walking off the field last weekend, Tevin Coleman has received good news about his status for Super Bowl LIV.

Mike Shanahan On Broncos’ Interest, Coaching Plans

Mike Shanahan revealed his side of the late-2017 discussions centered around the Broncos bringing him back as head coach. The two-time Super Bowl-winning HC said he was “close” to taking the job, had it been offered.

I was close. I was close,” Shanahan said, via The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala (subscription required). “But one thing that has to happen: You all have to be on the same page. And one thing you have to make sure of when you are a head football coach is the owner, the GM, the quarterback are all on the same page. If it doesn’t happen, the chance of you winning a Super Bowl aren’t very good.

So, anyway, if that situation had happened, I was going to take it. If not — but anyway, I had a great conversation with John as everybody knows and it didn’t work out. Sometimes it works out for the right reasons.”

John Elway made the initial contact regarding the short-lived reunion, Jhabvala reports, and the Hall of Fame quarterback-turned-GM discussed the job — which then belonged to Vance Joseph — with his former coach. But at the time, Broncos CEO Joe Ellis informed Elway his firing Joseph after one season would have required him to conduct a thorough search — rather than earmark the job for Shanahan. The Broncos would have obviously needed to comply with the Rooney Rule as well.

As for the quarterback component of this, Kirk Cousins may or may not have been part of the equation. Conflicting reports emerged on then-free agency-bound passer following Shanahan to Denver. But the Shanahan process did not progress too far, and the Broncos made other plans. They retained Joseph for the 2018 season and signed the player Cousins wound up replacing in Minnesota, Case Keenum. They are now on another HC-QB combo in Vic Fangio and Joe Flacco.

Shanahan’s greatest coaching moments came in Denver. He helped the Broncos to two Super Bowl titles and four playoff byes. His Raiders and Redskins tenures did not go as well. The 66-year-old coach has not ruled out a return to the sidelines.

You always miss coaching,” Shanahan said. “But it’s been five years. I made the decision a long time ago, right when I got fired. I said if I didn’t get the right job right away where we had a chance to win a Super Bowl that I was probably going to do what I’m doing, which is kind of being a dad and following (my) son and the organization and being a part of it.”

Elway did enlist Mike Shanahan’s help while securing a deal with new OC Rich Scangarello, who worked for Kyle Shanahan for two seasons. Scangarello’s offense will look somewhat similar to what the Broncos primarily ran under the elder Shanahan.

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Latest On Broncos’ HC Search

The Broncos’ John Harbaugh interest appears to have cooled. A potential trade for the Ravens HC is not on the Broncos’ radar, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Neither is a once-discussed reunion with Mike Shanahan, per Denver7’s Troy Renck (Twitter link). Former Denver OC Adam Gase is also out of the picture.

One more candidate John Elway is hoping to meet with emerged Monday afternoon, however, in Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Both the Bengals and Cardinals have already sought summits with the 35-year-old Taylor. Taylor already has a meeting scheduled with the Broncos, per SNY.tv’s Ralph Vacchiano (Twitter link). The Rams’ bye allows for teams to interview Taylor this week.

Denver already sought an audience with New England linebackers coach Brian Flores and has secured meetings with Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak and Bears DC Vic Fangio. Denver’s last such hire, Vance Joseph, obviously didn’t work out. But offensive coaches are in high demand.

Additionally, Gary Kubiak is expected to stay in Denver, 9News’ Mike Klis notes (via Twitter). Kubiak has spent the past two years in Denver’s front office but has been connected to a possible return to offensive coordinating; that could help explain the Broncos’ interest in defensive-minded leaders. Elway confirmed (via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com) a Kubiak return to an offensive staff position is being considered.

Elway told Joseph’s assistants they are still under contract with the Broncos, but given the turnover that usually comes with new HC hires, these aids will be allowed to pursue other jobs, per Klis (on Twitter).

Elway considered a move to bring back Shanahan last year, but Broncos president Joe Ellis played the lead role in scuttling that. The Broncos had been connected to Harbaugh for a bit, even after it became known the Ravens were not going to fire him. He and Kubiak worked together in Baltimore.

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Mike Shanahan Not Option For Broncos HC?

The NFL news cycle had not seen Mike Shanahan-Broncos overlap in many years, but Monday brought that, with a report indicating the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach was a consideration for the Broncos late last year.

With the Broncos likely set to have a coaching vacancy soon, Shanahan would conceivably be in play for a Broncos reunion this time around. But that does not appear to be the case. The 66-year-old coach will not be among the candidates considered if/when the Broncos fire Vance Joseph, Mike Klis of 9News reports.

John Elway‘s hesitance in giving Joseph his second season was partially Shanahan-related, but Broncos president Joe Ellis was less on-board than the GM, ultimately nixing the idea. However, the talks for Shanahan to reclaim his post as Broncos HC did not go too far, with The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala reporting (subscription required) Ellis did not directly refute the idea of Shanahan 2.0. The Elway-Ellis talks regarding Shanahan were not especially formal, Jhabvala notes, adding no offer or deal framework was discussed.

This news called into question who was making the final football decisions in Denver, but Jhabvala notes the GM, and not Ellis, is still the point man on football operations. Ellis did give Elway the go-ahead to fire Joseph after last season if he so chose, but that a thorough coaching search be conducted rather than rehiring Shanahan. That said, Ellis did not want Shanahan to be part of the search. And it appears that stance remains.

The Broncos fired Shanahan after 14 seasons in 2008. He has not coached since his Redskins tenure ended after the 2013 campaign. Part of this Shanahan-return talk involved Kirk Cousins, with Woody Paige of the Colorado Springs Gazette reporting Shanahan and his former pupil met during the offseason, Cousins indicating he would follow Shanahan to Denver at a reduced rate. However, Jhabvala refutes this, writing Cousins did not meet with Shanahan nor discuss a discount Broncos setup.

Denver then went with Case Keenum for Joseph’s second year, and while the results have been better than they were in 2017, injuries and some maligned in-game coaching decisions have weakened this year’s team. Joseph, who met with Elway on Monday about the Shanahan reports, is 11-19 in two years. Joseph will not be fired before the season ends, Klis adds.

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Broncos Considered Mike Shanahan

In January of 2018, Vance Joseph narrowly avoided getting the ax after just one season as the Broncos’ head coach. Before the team settled on keeping him, GM John Elway considered hiring old friend Mike Shanahan to man the sidelines, according to Mike Klis of 9News

Shanahan, it seems, expressed serious interest in the job. And Elway, at minimum, was intrigued. He brought the idea to CEO Joe Ellis, where the idea more or less died. Ellis presented Elway with two main courses of action: conduct a wide-ranging search for a new head coach that would not include Shanahan, or give Joseph a second season with a better quarterback.

Elway went with Door No. 2, but Case Keenum has not lived up to expectations thus far in Denver. And, once again, Joseph is on the hot seat, but it doesn’t sound like Shanahan will be considered if a change is made.

Shanahan led the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowls, but his run in Denver did not end on a high note. The Broncos missed the postseason in his final three years as head coach and he has just one playoff win to his credit over his last 14 years as a head coach. And, he boasts an impressive coaching tree, but he has not coached since his 2013 dismissal in Washington.

The Broncos limped to a 3-6 start this year, but a three-game winning streak (which included Ws over the Chargers and Steelers), brought them back to the .500 mark. Unfortunately, injuries to cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and receiver Emmanuel Sanders took them down a peg and they are now out of the playoff picture at 6-8.

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Broncos To Enter Kirk Cousins Sweepstakes?

Kirk Cousins said on multiple occasions how critical a team’s competitive situation would be to his free agency decision, and given the talent remaining from the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 title, they fit this profile better than some of Cousins’ top expected suitors despite their 5-11 2017 performance.

The Broncos are ready to enter the market for a veteran or rookie quarterback, Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com notes, having made that decision after quarterback play did the most to sink their ’17 slate. But Robinson adds the Broncos’ veteran-heavy roster would gel with a pursuit of a veteran. Robinson tabs the Broncos as making more sense for Cousins than the Jets, Browns, Cardinals and even Jaguars, who are strongly considering retaining Blake Bortles.

And the most successful coach in Broncos history’s assessment of Cousins will impact John Elway‘s decision here. Robinson writes Mike Shanahan has made it known to Elway and Gary Kubiak he believes Cousins is a special player who’s been limited by some Redskins shortcomings, and the Broncos will lend weight to their former HC/de facto GM’s endorsement. Robinson adds that veteran backing for a free agent quarterback signing exists. Some, like linebacker Brandon Marshall, have offered effusive praise for Cousins while he was still under contract with Washington.

The current Broncos centerpiece gave a strong Cousins endorsement as well, doing so after praising him following Washington’s Week 16 win over Denver.

He knows exactly how I feel about Kirk Cousins and what he’d mean to our team,” Von Miller said when asked about Cousins on The Dan Patrick Show (video link). “And what he would mean to a lot of other teams. He’s the hot quarterback on the market right now. … Yeah, we need Kirk. We need Kirk. I’d like to have Kirk. We have great quarterbacks now. Kirk could take us over the edge.”

While Cousins could command a deal possibly north of Matthew Stafford‘s NFL-record $27MM-AAV agreement, Robinson notes the possibility of a slight compromise for a winning team is in play. A “good team” would be able to get a deal done with Cousins for $24-$25MM per year with heavy guarantees, Robinson writes. Cousins said during an appearance on PFT Live he was “willing to make sacrifices” to be in the best position to win. Although considering a soon-to-be 34-year-old Alex Smith received a $23.5MM-per-year accord from the Redskins, the soon-to-be 30-year-old Cousins barely eclipsing that may be difficult to envision given his opportunity.

The Broncos have Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch under contract, but Robinson makes it clear they’re in the market for an upgrade. And the quarterback they prefer in the draft is not expected to be there at No. 5. Robinson reports Elway and Kubiak view Josh Rosen as having the most best most refined passing motion in the draft, adding it would be a lock the Broncos would take the UCLA product at 5 if he were still on the board. Rosen, though, is projected to go to the Browns at No. 1 or Giants at No. 2 on most mock drafts.

Should the Broncos not land Cousins, and the Vikings tag Case Keenum, Mike Klis of 9News reports notes they will pursue a stopgap quarterback and prepare to draft a rookie at No. 5. Dominoes still exist in a complex marketplace, but it’s fairly clear the Broncos will strongly consider Cousins before turning to the draft.

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Extra Points: Fitzgerald, Talib, Titans, Jets

Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald has yet to make his intentions for the 2018 season public knowledge, but signs are point toward the future Hall of Famer returning for his 15th NFL campaign.

New offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said he has talked with Fitzgerald and that the receiver is “excited,” reports ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss. Fitzgerald reportedly told the new offensive coordinator is verbiage was similar to previous coaches Bruce Arians and Ken Whisenhunt.

Kurt Warner also said that he gets the sense that Fitzgerald is leaning toward returning, the Hall of Fame quarterback said on 98.7 Arizona Sports radio“Last couple of times I’ve talked, I really feel like he wants to come back and play this season and he’s more committed to it. But that was before all the changes that took place.But I get the feeling that he is going to come back.”

Fitzgerald hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down in recent years. After moving to the slot in 2015, the perennial Pro Bowl selection has cleared 100 catches and 1,000 yards in each season and has cemented his status as one of the game’s all-time greats.

Though he is leaning toward returning, his status is sure to be decided by what the Cardinals do to fill the vacancy at quarterback left by the retirement of Carson Palmer. With plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, the team making a run at Redskins signal-caller Kirk Cousins for a quick fix would make plenty of sense.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Speaking of Cousins, the soon-to-be free agent is expected to receive plenty of interest from the Jets. On Monday, former head coach Mike Shanahan praised Cousins as a special player, the New York Daily News’ Manish Mehta writes. This portends to the Jets, as new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates was groomed under Shanahan in Denver. Shanahan said: “I think Kirk Cousins could be successful in any offense that he ran. Those quarterbacks are hard to find.”
  • The Broncos, according to reports, have recently placed cornerback Aqib Talib on the trade block. ABC 7 in Denver’s Troy Renck looked at a few possible destinations for the veteran cornerback, listing the 49ers, Rams and Cowboys. Talib is signed through the 2019 campaign.
  • Bills center Eric Wood put his retirement on hold and remains on the Bills roster due to the team’s salary cap restrictions, ESPN’s Mike Rodak reports (Twitter link). When he is eventually moved to the retired list, Wood will receive $4.8 MM in injury guaranteed salary for 2018, while keeping the $4.3M in signing bonus paid, tweets NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
  • The Titans have hired Raiders wide receivers coach Rob Moore for the same position, ESPN’s Adam Caplan tweets. He also notes the team interviewed former Raiders running backs coach Bernie Parmalee last week.
  • The Panthers will hire Travelle Wharton as an assistant offensive line coach, ESPN’s David Newton hears. Wharton previously spent two stints with the Panthers as an offensive lineman.

Extra Points: Raiders, 49ers, Falcons, Bears

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson decided Monday to rescind his offer to help the relocation-minded Raiders pay for a stadium in Las Vegas, but that’s not going to faze the franchise. The Raiders issued a statement in response to Adelson’s choice to withdraw support, saying: “The Raiders deeply appreciate the efforts of the Adelson family to bring the Raiders to Las Vegas. We know this project could not have advanced to this point without them. The Raiders remain steadfast in honoring Mark Davis’ commitment to Governor Sandoval and the State of Nevada to pursue relocation to Las Vegas” (via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com).

Without Adelson, who had planned to give the Raiders $650MM toward a proposed $1.9 billion facility, the team plans to invest $1.15 billion and accept operating responsibilities, Sandoval’s office told the Associated Press (Twitter link via Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle). The Raiders could receive help from Goldman Sachs to make that happen.

Now the latest from the NFC:

  • Rookie general manager John Lynch declared Monday he’ll “aggressively pursue” people he has relationships with to join him in the 49ers’ front office (Twitter link via Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com). That won’t include rumored candidate and longtime NFL head coach Mike Shanahan, whom Lynch played for in Denver from 2004-07 and who’s the father of soon-to-be 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. Lynch expects to listen to the elder Shanahan’s advice, but he’s not going to take an official role with the 49ers, tweets Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports.
  • Kristin Campbell, the agent for Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, publicly pushed for a lucrative contract extension for her client Monday afternoon. Campbell has since spoken again on Freeman’s future, telling D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she and Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff “are on the same page” and will engage in extension talks during the offseason. Campbell will seek top three running back money for the 24-year-old Freeman, a back-to-back Pro Bowler. “Who was the last running back to go to back to back Pro Bowls?” Campbell said. Adrian Peterson. Adrian is considered one of the most prolific backs of the past 10 years, wouldn’t you say?” Peterson’s current contract pays him an average of $14MM per year, which easily tops his position.
  • Wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson turned down a new contract to return the Bears for a second season and is mulling taking a position with a different team, reports Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Johnson could return to New Orleans, where he coached from 2006-11, Biggs suggests. The Saints are in the market for a WRs coach, having lost John Morton to the Jets over the weekend.
  • The Bills will hire Phil McGeoghan to coach their receivers, relays ESPN’s Adam Caplan (Twitter link). McGeoghan, who was the Dolphins’ assistant receivers coach from 2012-15, spent last season coaching East Carolina’s wideouts.
  • Contrary to a report from last week, the Eagles and personnel executive Rick Mueller have not yet parted ways. Mueller is working from home and will join the Eagles at next month’s scouting combine, though his contract is up in May, per Geoff Mosher of 97.5 The Fanatic (Twitter link).

Mike Shanahan Could Take Job With 49ers

Two-time Super Bowl champion Mike Shanahan has no interest in coaching anymore, but he has expressed a desire to work in a team’s front office. That could happen soon, as there’s “increasing chatter in league circles” that Shanahan will join his son, Falcons offensive coordinator and 49ers head-coach-in-waiting Kyle Shanahan, in San Francisco, reports Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

Mike Shanahan

It’s unclear which role the elder Shanahan would take on with the Niners, who are also lacking a general manager. Regardless, the team wouldn’t be thrilled to welcome him, according to Florio, but it might be the cost of doing business for a club with only one head coaching candidate remaining as February nears. Given the 49ers’ desperate situation, Kyle Shanahan “has a tremendous amount of power” over the organization, writes Florio.

Another stint in San Francisco would be the second for Mike Shanahan, who previously served as its offensive coordinator from 1992-94. The former Raiders, Broncos and Redskins head coach was also under consideration to return to the 49ers as their sideline leader in the prior two offseasons. Shanahan, 64, interviewed to become the 49ers’ head coach, though they ended up tabbing Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly in those searches. Now, their decisions to choose those one-and-done coaches over Mike Shanahan could lead to the hiring of him as an executive and his son as their head coach this year.

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Latest On 49ers’ Head Coach/GM Search

The 49ers will bring in current Falcons’ OC Kyle Shanahan for a second interview either tomorrow or Tuesday if Atlanta should lose the NFC Championship Game today, according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com (via Twitter). If the Falcons should win, Shanahan’s second interview will take place on Friday. The 37-year-0ld is, of course, considered the runaway favorite to land the team’s head coaching job, and the second interview appears to be more of a formality than anything else.

Kyle Shanahan (vertical)

In the meantime, San Francisco is continuing to plug away with its GM search, but Michael Silver of NFL.com tweets that long-time NFL coach Mike Shanahan (Kyle Shanahan’s father) will not be joining the team in a formal role. Vikings assistant GM George Paton and Cardinals vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough are currently viewed as the leading candidates for the 49ers’ GM position, though Kyle Shanahan has no obvious connection with either man. Per Silver (Twitter link), if team CEO Jed York does not sense a fit between Shanahan and Paton or McDonough, he may reopen the GM search.

Silver adds (Twitter links) that York has not decided whether Shanahan or the new GM will have formal control of the 53-man roster, and that York does not view roster control as a “major issue.” He is putting a larger emphasis on creating a strong partnership between coach and GM.

Silver views Paton as the top choice at the moment, with McDonough running second (Twitter link). Had Mike Shanahan returned to the team as a head coach, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that McDonough would have been his choice.

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