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Jim HarbaughChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesJim Harbaugh has reached the NFC title game in each of his three seasons, so why would the 49ers look elsewhere?

Coach Jim Harbaugh's situation in San Francisco has been one of the most talked-about stories in the league in recent weeks.

If a resolution on his contract isn't reached, it will likely hover over the franchise all season and would be a major story next January, when Harbaugh could leave the team, although Harbaugh told Sports Illustrated this week he is happy with all aspects of his job and doesn’t see any way he will leave the team before the end of his contract. Still, getting the contract done would ease a lot of issues.

We all know the backdrop: Harbaugh has led the 49ers to the NFC title game in all three of his seasons as coach. He got them to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season. He is entering the fourth year of a five-year contract that pays him $5 million per year. Harbaugh and the 49ers have been in discussion about a new deal for about a year, but are not close to an extension. Team owner Jed York recently told the Sacramento Bee he thinks contract talks will resume after the NFL draft in early May.

Things got interesting when the Cleveland Browns pursued a trade for Harbaugh. The 49ers were not interested, but that could change next year.

There have been rampant reports that Harbaugh has had trouble with some in the 49ers' front office, including general manager Trent Baalke. York, Harbaugh and Baalke have long downplayed the friction, indicating that they can coexist.

However, there is enough smoke here to think this situation go could south if a contract isn't agreed upon this year. Let's look at some issues that may be part of this story as it further develops:

The history: While it would be stunning to see the 49ers-Harbaugh marriage disintegrate after such a stellar start, similar breakups have happened before.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones
AP Photo/Ron HeflinJim Harbaugh would not be the first successful coach to leave during a team's prime. Jimmy Johnson left the Cowboys after winning two Super Bowls because of fighting with owner Jerry Jones.
After winning two straight Super Bowls, Jimmy Johnson famously left the Cowboys in 1994 after fighting with owner Jerry Jones. Following the 1998 season, Mike Holmgren shocked the NFL when he left quarterback Brett Favre and a Green Bay Packers team in its prime after a seven-year run that included a Super Bowl win. Holmgren left for more power and much more money in Seattle. In 2002, the Raiders traded coach Jon Gruden to Tampa Bay for a massive amount of draft picks. The Raiders were burned as Gruden led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl win against Oakland in his first season. In 2007, the Chargers sided with general manager A.J. Smith in his feud with coach Marty Schottenheimer even though the Chargers went 14-2 the season before.

If Harbaugh leaves the 49ers, it wouldn't be the first time a coach and team split despite success.

The highest-paid coaches: Harbaugh told Sports Illustrated he is not unhappy with his pay, but the man is underpaid considering his massive NFL success. Nine of the 32 NFL coaches in 2013 made at least $7 million. Only five of them had won a Super Bowl.

I'd think it has to bother Harbaugh that Chip Kelly earned $6.5 million in his first NFL season and NFC West rival Jeff Fisher made $7 million in St. Louis. Coaches' salaries are at a premium and, by NFL standards, Harbaugh is underpaid.

The best coaches without power: He is hypercompetitive and likes to be in control. So, Harbaugh probably isn't always thrilled to defer personnel decisions to Baalke. But I don't sense Harbaugh wanting to be the general manager and making every decision as he said. He is a coach.

I don't see this as a deal-breaker.

There are plenty of great NFL coaches who don't have total power, including Harbaugh's brother, John, in Baltimore. There's also Mike McCarthy in Green Bay, Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh and Pete Carroll in Seattle. So, a lack of total power in the NFL really isn't a big deal anymore for coaches.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
AP Photo/Matt YorkWould Stanford coach David Shaw be a candidate to follow Jim Harbaugh again?
Where could Harbaugh land? Harbaugh's situation could cause teams to adjust their plans late in the season. I could see many owners prematurely firing a coach to get a shot at Harbaugh if he goes into January unsigned.

But right now, the list of teams that may be making a change next year and may make sense for Harbaugh isn't very long.

Miami and Dallas would be among the biggest suitors. Miami tried to hire Harbaugh before he went to San Francisco. The team has deep pockets, a need for good public relations, and the Dolphins have a good young quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. Dallas has big bucks and Tony Romo. Harbaugh could like both places.

Other possibilities could include both New York teams and Atlanta (coaching Matt Ryan would surely be intriguing). A potential long shot could be Oakland. Harbaugh was an assistant in Oakland and he could stay in the Bay Area. But the Raiders have to find a quarterback and ownership would have to be willing to shell out financially to make it work. Plus, the 49ers would need to get a haul from the Raiders to trade him to their Bay Area rival.

If I had to give odds on the early favorite, I'd look toward Miami.

Who could replace Harbaugh? It's only logical to think that San Francisco ownership, in the back of its mind, is thinking post-Harbaugh just in case.

The chance of getting draft picks for a coach the 49ers can't come to an agreement with could interest the team next offseason. Also, the idea of front-office peace could be at the forefront as well, especially if things go haywire the rest of this year.

The first place the 49ers would likely look to replace Harbaugh is on the current staff. Because the team has been so successful, I could see the 49ers having interest in staying close to home. Offensive and defensive coordinators Greg Roman and Vic Fangio, respectively, would likely be on the 49ers' list. Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula is a favorite of the front office. He was a candidate when Harbaugh was hired and his players love him.

Here's another name the 49ers could look at -- David Shaw. He replaced Harbaugh at Stanford. I'm sure he wouldn't be afraid to do it again.

Shaw has been steadfast in his desire to stay at Stanford. But if he were ever to leave for the NFL, this would likely be an appealing situation. He and his family could stay in their house and he'd go to a near perfect NFL situation with a franchise quarterback in Colin Kaepernick.

There is plenty to unfold in this situation in the next several months. Harbaugh and the 49ers could end it all by coming to a contract extension. But as we have realized early this offseason, it's not that simple.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Of the seven candidates the Minnesota Vikings interviewed for their head coaching job, four of them -- Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, and 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula -- were coaching with their respective teams into the NFC Championship Game. The Seahawks beat the 49ers to advance to Super Bowl XLVIII, where they will face a Denver Broncos team that has two coaches (offensive coordinator Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio) the Vikings had requested to interview, but never talked to before hiring Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

We've talked previously about how the Vikings' coaching search was focused almost exclusively on current coordinators, and most of the candidates in whom the Vikings expressed interest were coaching with teams that made the playoffs. That put an inherent bind on the Vikings' coaching search, and it's interesting to wonder if things would have played out differently if, say, the Bengals would have won their wild-card weekend game against the San Diego Chargers and the 49ers would have lost a close wild-card game against the Green Bay Packers, rather than advancing all the way to the NFC title game.

It's impossible to know, but as Mark Craig of the Minneapolis Star Tribune points out, Bevell and Del Rio might have factored much more prominently in the Vikings' coaching search if their teams hadn't kept winning. The interview process for coordinators carries NFL rules by which the Vikings had to abide, and a playoff result in one city can affect the timing of a coaching search in another. General manager Rick Spielman said the Vikings would take as long as they needed to find the right coaching candidate, and Zimmer came out as the clear favorite after an initial round of interviews, but it's also hard to judge the coaching search in a vacuum, when no team decided it could wait for Bevell, Quinn, Gase or Del Rio to finish their seasons.

For those coaches, the chances to take a head coaching job will have to wait at least a year. The tradeoff of coaching in the Super Bowl is undoubtedly worth it, but as the Broncos and Seahawks make final preparations for Sunday's game, it's interesting to think about whether any of their coordinators would have altered the Vikings' coaching search if their teams had lost earlier.
There is one head coaching vacancy in the NFL -- the Cleveland Browns'.

If the Browns do not hire a San Francisco assistant (the job appears to be wide open but no 49ers' assistants have been connected to the job as of yet), that means Jim Harbaugh's key assistants will return for the 2014 season. Earlier this month, Harbaugh said he thought at least one assistant would get an NFL head coaching job.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula interviewed with Minnesota. Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio were on the Redskins' interview list initially.

Harbaugh said Friday "it was hard to believe" none of his coaches have gotten job. He said many of his assistants are better coaches than he is.

"It will happen," Harbaugh said. "There will be a smart club."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- At this moment, now that the Detroit Lions have hired Jim Caldwell as their next head coach, the Minnesota Vikings are one of two teams still searching for a head coach. The other is the Cleveland Browns, who just fired Rob Chudzinski after one season and have to explain to candidates why they should trust the team.

Zimmer
There's a strong case to be made that the Vikings' job is the better of the two, and at this point only one of the team's known candidates (former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden) has accepted a job elsewhere.

The Vikings are conducting a second interview with Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer inside their facility as we speak, and if they chose to do so, they could make the 57-year-old Zimmer their next coach today. But is there a reason to hire Zimmer before the Vikings can talk to candidates like Seattle's Darrell Bevell and Dan Quinn and San Francisco's Greg Roman a second time?

There might not be, and if the Denver Broncos lose Sunday, their top assistants (offensive coordinator Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio) would also be in play. The Browns reportedly want to wait on Gase before making their decision, so there might not be anything pushing the Vikings until Denver's season is over.

When the Vikings fired Leslie Frazier, general manager Rick Spielman outlined a process in which the team would likely whittle its search down to two or three finalists after an initial round of interviews. Zimmer appears to be the first of those finalists, is believed to be the front-runner for the job and could grab it if he impresses ownership Tuesday.

But the Vikings' last two coaching searches happened in relative haste, and Spielman has turned to a deliberate decision-making process for the moves he badly needs to get right. Now, the Vikings can somehow thank a confluence of events for putting them in a situation where they're facing little outside pressure, other than Spielman's stated preference to have a coach in place by the Senior Bowl.

Zimmer might be the man for the job, but it would also appear as if the Vikings have the luxury of being able to wait a little longer to make sure that's the case.
The San Francisco 49ers' postseason success may be costing their assistant coaches a chance for upward mobility again.

There are now only two of the original seven head-coaching jobs open in the league -- Minnesota and Cleveland.

49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula interviewed for the Vikings opening Saturday. No 49ers coaches have yet been connected to the Browns' opening.

The Vikings have begun the second round of interviews. A source close to Tomsula said he enjoyed the meeting with the Vikings, but a second interview has not been set up thus far.

The 49ers are preparing to play Seattle in the NFC title game Sunday. If they go to the Super Bowl, it would decrease chances of their assistants getting a job because the Vikings and Browns will likely want to move quickly. The same issue occurred last year when the 49ers played in the Super Bowl.

In other 49ers notes:

A look at the 49ers-Seahawks' West Coast ... defense.

In an Insider piece, Mike Sando thinks receiver Anquan Boldin and safety Donte Whitner are free agents who should be re-signed.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The working theory around the Minnesota Vikings' coaching search has been that general manager Rick Spielman would bring two or three finalists back to Minnesota to meet with ownership after an initial round of interviews, which ostensibly concluded when Spielman talked to San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman on Saturday.

As ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported on Sunday morning, Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will come to Minnesota early this week for a second interview. The Vikings talked to Zimmer last Wednesday in Cincinnati, and the chatter after that interview had been that Zimmer was one of the Vikings' top candidates. Now, he appears to be their first finalist.

We can glean a couple things from that. First, the Vikings seem to be done with their initial round of interviews, though I suppose it's always possible for them to change their timeline if Denver were to lose in time for Spielman to talk with offensive coordinator Adam Gase or defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. But Spielman had pegged his timetable to the Senior Bowl, so if the Vikings want to have a coach in place by then, it would seem likely they'd get their list of finalists together this week.

And second, if the Vikings are indeed done with their preliminary interviews, it seems like their search has been a little narrower than we expected. They've talked to six offensive or defensive coordinators, and also were believed to visit with 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula on Saturday. As we discussed yesterday, the coordinator pool has been fraught with risks over the years, to the point where Texans owner Bob McNair wanted to stay away from one. There's a big leap from game planning for one side of the ball to running the whole operation, reading the mood of a team, dealing with the media more frequently and so on. Some former coordinators have been able to handle it, like Green Bay's Mike McCarthy or New Orleans' Sean Payton. Others haven't, and the Vikings' last two fired coaches (Brad Childress and Leslie Frazier) are former coordinators.

Time will tell if Zimmer, or one of the other coordinators the Vikings have interviewed, will be able to make the jump successfully, but the Vikings' search does seem to be moving forward.
MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Minnesota Vikings hired Brad Childress as their head coach in 2006, infamously keeping him in the Twin Cities before he could get on a plane to interview for the Green Bay Packers' head-coaching position, they were taking their chances on an offensive coordinator from a successful team (Philadelphia) who had not been a NFL head coach or a playcaller for the Eagles. That search wrapped up six days after Vikings ownership fired Mike Tice on the final day of the season.

When the Vikings removed the interim tag from Leslie Frazier's title before their final game of the 2010 season, they were taking their chances on a defensive coordinator who'd done good work for them and managed to win three of the final six games in a chaotic year marked by the collapse of the Metrodome. But Frazier, like the man he replaced in the middle of the season, had not been a head coach.

Those two searches were relatively short -- the first likely because of the Wilf family's inexperience as NFL owners, the second because the Vikings were rewarding a candidate who had interviewed for a handful of jobs elsewhere and who had kept the team together during a trying season. The Vikings' current search for a head coach, though, has general manager Rick Spielman criss-crossing the country, talking to coaching candidates. As ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reported on Saturday and as we discussed on Friday, the Vikings will interview San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman on Saturday.

That would make Roman the sixth known candidate the Vikings have talked to. And all of those -- Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Cleveland defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and Roman -- are current coordinators who have never been NFL head coaches beyond an interim level.

After the Vikings fired Frazier on Dec. 30, Spielman outlined his process by talking about the research he'd already done on previous head coaches. NFL coaches can come from 13 different backgrounds, he said, and none had proven to be more successful than any other.

"That can be anything from head coaches that are currently offensive coordinators, former head coaches that are currently defensive coordinators, defensive coordinators [and] offensive coordinators without head-coaching experiences, college head coaches with and without NFL coaching experience," Spielman said. "So there is a long list of areas that you can look for in a head coach."

We'll say this with the disclaimer that the Vikings could certainly be talking to candidates whose names haven't been publicized, but the list so far has zeroed in, almost exclusively, on coordinators who haven't been permanent head coaches yet. As ESPN's John Clayton pointed out this week, the Houston Texans decided to go away from a coordinator because of how many have failed at the NFL level -- 60 percent, in Texans owner Bob McNair's estimation.

If the Vikings have found the coordinator pool to contain the best candidates, great. Spielman has too much riding on this hire -- his reputation as a GM and possibly his future with the team -- not to turn over every stone, and he has gone through this search in his typical diligent manner.

Roman certainly has the wares to be conducting an extensive interview tour this year, too; he's helped the 49ers get to the NFC title game and the Super Bowl with two different quarterbacks, and has designed one of the league's most diverse offenses behind quarterback Colin Kaepernick and a power running game. The Vikings could certainly use someone with that kind of offensive know-how, especially if he's able to develop a young quarterback.

But it's worth pointing out the considerable risk in the coordinator pool, and the Vikings should be well-acquainted with that, based on the past two coaches they've hired (and fired). The search, at least so far and at least with the names that have become public, hasn't included as much diversity in coaching backgrounds as we thought it could. We'll have to presume that's because Spielman is finding the right people in a class of coordinators that's historically been fraught with risk.

"There is no specific [type of coach we have to have]: offense, defense, college coach, high school coach, whatever," Spielman said on Dec. 30. "It is a coach that we feel is the best fit for our organization."
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Greg Roman’s chances for a head coaching job are not dead.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Minnesota Vikings are planning on interviewing the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive coordinator Saturday in Charlotte. The 49ers arrived Friday night for their divisional playoff game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

This will be Roman’s first NFL head coaching interview. He interviewed at Penn State on Monday. That job went to Vanderbilt’s James Franklin. The Redskins were also interested in Roman, but an interview never materialized.

The Vikings also have interest in 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, and he could get an interview as well.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Carlos Rogers is missing practice for the fifth straight practice with a hamstring injury.

Rogers
The San Francisco 49ers cornerback said Thursday that he hopes to play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. However, he must practice if he is going to play. San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said he doesn’t expect Rogers to play against the Panthers if he doesn’t practice. That means Rogers must practice Friday before the 49ers fly to North Carolina.

Rogers has been running this week.

“I have to be smart,” he said. “I don’t know if I will be ready, but I am trying.”

All indications are that if Rogers can’t play, Perrish Cox will be the nickel cornerback. He played virtually the entire game at Green Bay over veteran Eric Wright. Fangio said the team went with Cox, who was signed earlier in the week, because he had a better week of practice than Wright.

Rotational defensive tackle DeMarcus Dobbs (knee) returned to practice after missing Wednesday’s session.

In other 49ers notes:

Fangio said he has had no contact with any teams about a head-coaching job. ESPN reported that the Redskins were interested in him. However, they hired Jay Gruden on Thursday.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman called talk that he interviewed for the Penn State job “speculation.” The school reportedly will hire Vanderbilt coach James Franklin. Roman’s name has also been attached to the open Minnesota Vikings job.

In an Insider piece, Matt Williamson thinks 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick could be a weak link at Carolina. He certainly was the last time these two teams played. But will it happen again?

ESPN Stats & Information has a matchup to watch in the game.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings suddenly found themselves with an opening in their schedule today, after Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden -- whom the Vikings were scheduled to interview in Cincinnati -- accepted the Washington Redskins' head coaching job. Gruden is believed to be the first candidate to come off the market that the Vikings had planned to interview, and now, it will be interesting to see how they react.

Bowles
Zimmer
To this point, we know they've talked to five people: Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton, and Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. They've requested interviews with San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. At this point, the Vikings could talk to the 49ers candidates this week, and then not again until their season is over. They'd have to wait until after the Broncos' season is over to talk to either Gase or Del Rio, and can't go back to Bevell or Quinn until the Seahawks are done.

So the Vikings, in other words, have a few options at this point: They could talk to one of the 49ers' candidates between now and Sunday, conduct interviews with candidates they haven't talked with yet, or double back to some of their previous candidates. Considering they're believed to be high on both Zimmer and Bowles, they might well pursue the third option.

John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, said general manager Rick Spielman was very impressed with Bowles, but added that the Vikings would want to talk again with Bevell and Quinn. Spielman said last week that he planned to bring two or three finalists to Vikings ownership after an initial round of interviews, and that the Wilfs would make the final call at that point.

Here's where things get interesting, though: Zimmer, whom ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter said has emerged as a favorite for the Vikings, was interviewing with the Tennessee Titans on Thursday, and Bowles has also talked with the Cleveland Browns. Do the Vikings risk waiting on the Seahawks to be eliminated from the playoffs, or do they move forward with the candidates who are available now in hopes of securing one of their top guys before he goes somewhere else? Spielman had said he wanted to have a coach in place by the Senior Bowl, and while he would still have time to make that happen, it's possible the Seahawks could wind up in the Super Bowl, keeping Bevell and Quinn off-limits until February.

The Vikings aren't at a point where they have to rush their process, and they could well be talking to other candidates we don't know about. But the candidate pool does appear to have split into two groups -- those who are available now, and those who might not be available until much later. It will be interesting to see if Spielman has to alter his process because of competing teams, and what will happen if the 49ers, Seahawks or Broncos should happen to lose this weekend. The results of those games could help steer the Vikings firmly in one direction or another.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- On Thursday, when the Vikings are schedule to interview Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, it will have been 10 days since the team fired Leslie Frazier. At that juncture of their coaching search, here's what we know so far:
  • The Vikings interviewed Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn over the weekend. They talked to Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles on Monday and Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton on Tuesday. They interviewed Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer on Wednesday.
  • They are scheduled to interview Gruden on Thursday.
  • They have requested interviews with San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.

That means as of Thursday, the Vikings will have talked to six coordinators in the last six days, with four more still on the schedule. There could be other candidates they've talked to, but given what general manager Rick Spielman said last week -- that each interview is likely to last six to eight hours -- it's tough to imagine the Vikings have done more formal interviews than the ones mentioned so far.

A couple of themes emerge from this list, as it's currently constituted:
  • The 10 names on this list are all current coordinators. Eight of the 10 have never been full-time NFL head coaches. Of those eight, one (Bowles) has been an interim head coach. After firing Frazier, Spielman talked about having researched 13 categories where head coaches come from, concluding that none was more successful than another. The majority of the list so far, though, is made up of coordinators with no prior head coaching experience -- which was the same category Frazier came from before he got the Vikings' interim job and then became head coach. Four of the eight coaches hired last year were previously coordinators, and one of those four (Bruce Arians) had been an interim coach. In 2012, coordinators made up three of the NFL's seven coaching hires, and all of them were first-time coaches. It's been a popular cradle for head coaches, but based on what we know so far, Spielman's search has been more focused than it has been diverse.
  • We talked about this last week, but I think there's a real possibility the Vikings could bring in a coach who wants to run a 3-4 defense, and the coaches they've either talked to or expressed interest in so far would corroborate that theory. Quinn runs a 3-4/4-3 hybrid in Seattle and ran a 3-4 defense at the University of Florida. Bowles and Horton run 3-4 defense. Whisenhunt used a 3-4 when he was Arizona's head coach, and Roman's current team (the 49ers) uses one. If you're keeping score, based on the candidates we know about, the Vikings have split their time talking to or expressing interest in coaches from 3-4 and 4-3 teams. At the very least, it's an idea they're considering.
  • The Vikings are one of five teams still looking for a head coach, but they're still not in any danger of missing Spielman's self-imposed deadline of the Senior Bowl. The GM said he will take two or three names to ownership for a final yes-or-no decision, and practices don't start at the Senior Bowl until Jan. 20. That might make it tough for Gase or Del Rio to enter the process if the Broncos wind up in the Super Bowl, but Spielman has also said the Vikings could wait until after the Senior Bowl if it took that long to find the right guy.

My guess is, we'll see things heat up in the next five to seven days. But barring an unexpected batch of names, it seems there are definite trends emerging in the Vikings' search.
Monday, San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh talked about the possibilities of losing some assistant coaches.

Mangini
Mangini
49ers’ offensive coordinator Greg Roman, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula are getting in head-coaching openings. Now, another member of Harbaugh’s staff could also attract interest.

Last week, the Miami Herald reported 49ers’ senior offensive consultant Eric Mangini could be a candidate as the Miami Dolphins’ general manager should then team make a change. Tuesday, the Dolphins announced they are mutually parting ways with general manager Jeff Ireland. Thus, now that Ireland is out, perhaps the Dolphins will show an interest in Mangini.

Last month, I spoke to Mangini, the former two-time NFL head coach, about his role in San Francisco and his future. He said he is open to anything in the future and enjoyed this season working with the 49ers.

I got the sense Mangini is enjoying being back in the game and is open to new things. So, perhaps if the Dolphins do pursue him, moving into the front office could appeal to him.

Losing Mangini, who has been helpful for the 49ers, would be less complicated for the 49ers than the three above-mentioned coaches because he isn’t in charge of a specific area and he has been with the team just a short period of time.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings wasted little time in expanding their coaching search to include coordinators whose teams played in the first round of the playoffs over the weekend. And as expected, they went right to Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

They are one of four teams to request an interview with Gruden, according to a league source. Gruden, who has won praise around the league for his work with Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, is free to interview for jobs now that the Bengals are out of the playoffs, and could emerge as one of the hottest coaching candidates this offseason.

It's telling that four of the five teams with coaching openings -- Washington, Tennessee, Detroit and the Vikings -- have requested permission to talk to Gruden and even though the Bengals' offense sputtered in the team's loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, Gruden has built plenty of momentum before this season. He interviewed for four jobs -- Seattle, San Diego, Philadelphia and Arizona -- after last season, and seemed likely to get strong consideration this year. The Bengals jumped from 18th to sixth in the league in offense in Gruden's three seasons, and they've made the playoffs in each of his three seasons working with Dalton, who was drafted after the Vikings took Christian Ponder.

Gruden, the younger brother of ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst Jon Gruden, would follow the Vikings' interviews with Seattle offensive and defensive coordinators Darrell Bevell and Dan Quinn over the weekend. They also have scheduled talks with Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Cleveland defensive coordinator Ray Horton on Monday and Tuesday, and had requested to talk to Denver offensive and defensive coordinators Adam Gase and Jack Del Rio.

San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman and Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer are also able to interview for jobs this week, and both could wind up on the Vikings' radar.
At noon Monday, the Detroit Lions' coaching search will officially hit its second week, with some candidates already off the board and others available to talk for the first time.

“We will go through the process,” Lions team president Tom Lewand said when he and Martin Mayhew announced they had fired Jim Schwartz last Monday. “I think going through a thorough process is extremely important.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that has to be a long process, but it has to be a thorough process.”

Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell already interviewed and is the only known candidate to formally do so. John Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation, told ESPN.com last week that Caldwell was told the Lions would get back to him in a few days after his Friday interview.

Now starting its second week, much of the focus will begin with San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who is a candidate for some of the five current NFL openings.

While requests to talk with coaches have yet to go out or be made official, here are some of the candidates the Lions might target:

Ken Whisenhunt, San Diego offensive coordinator: It would be beyond stunning if Whisenhunt did not interview with the Lions this week. ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported Sunday it is essentially his job to lose, which makes sense considering he fits all of the qualities Detroit is looking for in its next coach. The downside for Whisenhunt is the Lions cannot hire him for at least another week, as they can’t make an official move -- if they choose to do so -- until San Diego is out of the playoffs. But they can at least chat with him this week if they would prefer.

Jay Gruden, Cincinnati offensive coordinator: Schefter mentioned him as someone Detroit would likely want to talk with as well, as he has played a major role in developing quarterback Andy Dalton (and you can argue whether that is good or bad after his performance Sunday, but he has been a very good regular-season quarterback). He has also been a head coach before in the AFL and UFL and was successful there. Another thing to watch with Gruden is his ties to agent Bob LaMonte, who also lists Detroit senior personnel executive Brian Xanders among his clients.

Greg Roman, San Francisco offensive coordinator: Like Whisenhunt, if the Lions want to talk to Roman, they can talk, but not hire since San Francisco is still in the playoffs. His name has not come up as much as Whisenhunt and Gruden, but he has been a head coaching candidate before and he has developed a dynamic offense with the 49ers. It is unknown how much Roman really helped develop Colin Kaepernick, though, as he has a bevy of coaches with quarterback experience in San Francisco, including Jim Harbaugh, quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst and offensive assistant Ronald Curry. He has coached David Carr, Andrew Luck and Kaepernick, though.

Mike Zimmer, Cincinnati defensive coordinator: He isn’t an offensive coach and he does not have head coaching experience, but Zimmer led one of the top-ranked defenses in the NFL and has been a defensive coordinator since 2000. He’s also been close in the past, interviewing for the Cleveland job last season. In Mayhew’s news conference to discuss firing Schwartz, he mentioned that an offensive coach wasn’t a dealbreaker for the Lions, but that whomever the team hired would have to bring in someone to work with Matthew Stafford. If Zimmer gets an interview, that would have to be a strong part of his presentation to truly be considered.

Other names that might get a look: Cincinnati assistant and former Raiders head coach Hue Jackson; Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
Colin KaepernickRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesColin Kaepernick threw for 227 yards and ran for 98 to power the 49ers past the Packers again.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When San Francisco 49ers guard Alex Boone heard the fans at Lambeau Field moan, he knew quarterback Colin Kaepernick was destroying the Green Bay Packers once again.

“Everyone yelled and got quiet,” Boone said. “I knew Colin was at it again.”

It was third-and-8 from the Green Bay 38-yard line with 1:13 with the NFC wild-card game tied at 20. Had the 49ers failed to convert, it is unlikely a long field goal in frigid weather would have been attempted. Getting the first down was paramount.

So, the 49ers relied on their young quarterback who, despite his lack of experience, is proving to be an elite postseason performer.

When his first receiving option wasn't there, Kaepernick darted toward the 49ers’ sideline for 11 yards and the first down. Five plays later, kicker Phil Dawson hit a 33-yard field goal as time expired to give the 49ers a 23-20 victory and send them to Carolina to face the Panthers Sunday in the NFC divisional round.

“It was a signature play,” 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “But we’ve come to expect that.”

Especially against Green Bay. Kaepernick has started just 27 NFL games. But he has become a certified Packers killer. It has to be getting on the nerves of Green Bay fans. After all, Kaepernick was born in Milwaukee and lived in Fond du Lac for the first four years of his life.

Since last January, Kaepernick has led the 49ers to three wins over the Packers including two in the playoffs. He was spectacular in all three, accounting for combined 1,201 total yards.

Last year, in divisional round against the Packers, Kaepernick ran for a quarterback-record 181 yards. In Week 1 of this season, Kaepernick threw for a career-high 412 yards.

This time, Kaepernick beat the Packers both in the air and on the ground. He finished with 227 yards passing and 98 rushing. Whenever Kaepernick had to make a play Sunday, he did.

“He was phenomenal,” Boone said. “One big play clutch plays after another.”

None were bigger than his last carry, though.

Had Kaepernick failed to get a first down, the game would have likely gone to overtime. Instead, as Kaepernick sprinted past his teammates on the sidelines and the first-down marker, it was obvious to all -- he was leading the 49ers to another win over the Packers.

Kaepernick said his first option on the play was receiver Michael Crabtree, who had his biggest game of the season since returning from a torn Achilles, but the one-on-one play didn’t develop.

“It didn’t look good to me,” Kaepernick said. “So I tried to make something happen.”

Added Roman: “We saw some things on film and knew there would be some certain opportunities. Colin saw it and went. And I’m glad he did. That was the huge play of the ball game.”

Kaepernick had success running all game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, had 85 scramble yards on four of his rushes Sunday. It was the second highest scramble total of the NFL season. Seattle’s Russell Wilson had 91 scramble yards against the Colts in Week 5. Kaepernick’s ground success was typical of his playoff success. In four playoff games, Kaepernick is averaging 11.0 yards before contact per rush.

“He was around the edge so fast,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of his quarterback. “If it was one yard, it was 20 yards.”

Kaepernick has been playing at a high level for the past seven games, in which the 49ers are undefeated. A big reason for Kaepernick's improved play has been the return of Crabtree, which may be a sign of things to come as the 49ers try to extend their postseason run. Crabtree had eight catches for 125 yards.

Crabtree allows Kaepernick more freedom. That was evident on the game-clinching run. On that play, Crabtree was covered, but it helped open Kaepernick’s lane. Harbaugh marveled at his quarterback’s ability to strike at the biggest moment.

“[He’s] somebody that answers in the clutch time of the game, on the important down,” Harbaugh said. “He’s Kaepernick tough and I think it’s pretty awesome.”

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