49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

January 18, 2011
Harbaugh coaching staff updates

Jim Harbaugh has plenty of assistant-coach candidates, but so far has made only three official hires. More promise to come this week, perhaps today. If Harbaugh still does not have his entire staff in place, he likely will resume the interview process at next week's Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala. Where things stand as of now:

Offensive coordinator:
Greg Roman
Comment: Jim Harbaugh will call a lot of his own plays. Roman served the last two years under Harbaugh at Stanford and helped coordinate the team's running game.

Quarterbacks coach:
Comment: Harbaugh served as his own quarterbacks coach at the University of San Diego and likely will be very hands-on at this position.

Offensive line
Tim Drevno and Mike Solari
Comment: NFL teams typically have two coaches for this unit, although one of them usually is an assistant. It's not yet known how the division of labor will be handled.

Running backs coach:
Tom Rathman*
Comment: Rathman has not yet been retained, but he is considered a leading candidate because he has plenty of experience in a West Coast offense both as a player and a coach (nine seasons under Steve Mariucci in SF and Detroit)

Tight ends coach:
Comment: The team has made no attempt to retain Pete Hoener, who has served as tight ends coach since 2005. Roman coached tight ends both in the NFL (Houston) and at Stanford.

Wide receivers coach:
Comment: Jerry Sullivan has handled this job since 2005 but he told The Sacramento Bee that he would retire to his home in Austin, Texas. Pep Hamilton, who helped coach quarterbacks for the 49ers under Norv Turner in 2006, reportedly will be retained by Stanford. Hamilton also has been a quarterbacks coach and could have filled that role as well.
**Update, 12:15 p.m.** Yogi Roth, a former USC assistant coach, Tweeted that John Morton will take over as receivers coach for the 49ers. Morton coached alongside Harbaugh both with the Raiders and at the University of San Diego. USC coach Lane Kiffen has since confirmed the move.

Defensive coordinator
Vic Fangio
Comment: He spent 11 seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator. Last year he was Harbaugh's defensive coordinator at Stanford. He'll run a 3-4 system with the 49ers.

Defensive line:
Jim Tomsula*
Comment: This is another presumed retention that has not been announced. Tomsula, however, is popular with players and management, and he has presided over one of the team's best units since 2007.

Jim Leavitt*
Comment: Leavitt has interviewed with the position but has not been hired. He also is considering a position at Kansas State where Leavitt coached for six seasons prior to becoming the head coach at the University of South Florida. Leavitt has ties to Harbaugh's father, Jack, and to the DeBartolo family.

Ed Donatell*
Comment: The San Francisco Chronicle first reported interest in Donatell, a former defensive coordinator for the Falcons and Packers, and CSN Bay Area reports he is meeting with Harbaugh today.
**Update 2:15 p.m.** Oddly, confirmation of this hire has come not from the 49ers but from the Raiders. In his introductory press conference, new Raiders head coach Hue Jackson said that Donatell, who recruited Jackson at UOP, was the 49ers new secondary coach.

Special Teams
Comment: Kurt Schottenheimer's status is uncertain. Brian Polian, Harbaugh's special teams coordinator last season, is likely to remain at Stanford. The 49ers might show some interest in former linebacker Jeff Ulbrich, who served as an assistant special teams coach in Seattle this past season. Harbaugh also is considering Dave Fipp, an energetic and likable assistant under Al Everest and Schottenheimer.

Some sad news. Granville DeMerritt, a fixture on the 49ers' game-day staff since the franchise's inception, passed away last week. DeMerritt - everyone knew him as Granville or Gran -- was as warm and welcoming a man as you'll ever meet and he was a favorite among reporters and team employees. A memorial service for DeMerritt will be held on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Star of the Valley Church located at 495 White Oak Drive, Oakmont, CA (Santa Rosa).

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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