Gruden, big-name coaches and the 49ers

December, 29, 2010
12/29/10
3:29
PM ET
Thanks to @rcurtis67 for asking how Jon Gruden could be out of the running in San Francisco, which precipitated some Googling, which led to this NBC Bay Area item about Peter King's comments Tuesday night:
"The 49ers have not been trendsetters in anything recently, except losing. But I do think what they’re going to do this year is going to set an example for a lot of teams in this league to follow. ‘In’ are going to be the young, hungry, affordable, mostly assistant coaches in the NFL. ‘Out’ are going to be the been-there, done-that, won-Super-Bowl guys -- Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden. A lot of people have said, ‘Hey, Gruden is a good candidate for this San Francisco job’. And I’m told flat-out he is not a candidate for the San Francisco job. Instead, a guy like Jim Harbaugh, the Stanford coach, who I’m told by several people around the league is going to be the hot guy this coming offseason. Harbaugh is a guy the 49ers are definitely interested in -- and I think he is going to have interest in them."

The 49ers have gone with first-time head coaches for their last two hires. Neither succeeded. Before hiring Mike Singletary and Mike Nolan, the 49ers went with Dennis Erickson, who did have experience as a head coach. That failed, too. We have no evidence the 49ers' current leadership knows how to identify, develop or support successful head coaches. That does not doom the 49ers to failure in the future, but if they do not hire strong, experienced leadership, it's especially important for them to find an exceptional head coach.

Hiring head coaches with previous experience in the role can carry risks, too. If the 49ers go that route, they need to make sure that coach remains hungry. They would want to make sure he could assemble an ascending, forward-thinking staff. Gruden is a grinder by nature. I would not question his hunger or drive. The 49ers' current leadership could view his strong personality as a threat, however. And if teams really are going to focus on hiring cheaper coaches from the pool of assistants, Gruden obviously would not fit that mold.

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