There will be a rare occurrence this offseason for Jim Harbaugh's 49ers: The head coach will lose an established assistant. When the 49ers' season ends, assistant offensive line coach Tim Drevno will leave the team to become USC's offensive line coach, the school announced Monday.
Drevno has been with Harbaugh since 2004 when Harbaugh took over at the University of San Diego. Drevno has split his position coaching duties with Mike Solari the last three years in San Francisco. The 49ers' offensive line is considered one of the best in the league, and the 49ers finished third in rushing this season.
Drevno is the most well-known assistant to leave Harbaugh's staff. Still, he could lose more lieutenants this season because some of his more in-demand assistants are reaching the end of their contracts. For example, the team twice has blocked secondary coach Ed Donatell from interviewing for a defensive coordinator position because he had years left on his contract.
Who else could leave?
Greg Roman. The 49ers offensive coordinator wants to be a head coach whether it's at the NFL level or perhaps with a prominent college program. Roman would have gotten interviews with Jacksonville and perhaps San Diego last year if the 49ers hadn't gone to the Super Bowl, which restricted his chances to talk to possible suitors.
Vic Fangio. NFL teams typically like to hire offensive-minded coaches or young, energetic defensive coaches. Fangio, the 49ers defensive coordinator, is neither. But a smart owner would see Fangio's strengths. He's got plenty of experience, patience and a knack for putting the right players in the right roles. He'd be an excellent fit in, say, Houston where the roster already is loaded with talent.
Brad Seely. Special teams coaches don't get hired as head coaches, right? Tell that to John Harbaugh, who was the special teams coordinator in Philadelphia before being hired by the Ravens. Like Fangio, Seely would be a calming presence atop a team's coaching tree. An unstable organization - hello, Washington and Cleveland - would be well-served by a wise, patient coach like Seely.
Ed Donatell. The Buccaneers were eying him in 2011 and the Saints were interested last year. He'd pair nicely with a young, offensive minded head coach. (Say, for instance, Roman or Denver's Adam Gase). If Donatell leaves, assistant secondary coach Greg Jackson is an option to replace him.
Jim Tomsula. NFL observers are beginning to notice the long-time defensive-line coach, who teems with charisma, who is universally loved by his players and who has coached one of the NFL's best units for several seasons now. Tomsula could get looks as a defensive coordinator and perhaps a team would wonder if he could be a head coach. After all, he is undefeated in that position having taken over for one game for Mike Singletary at the end of the 2010 season.
Tom Rathman. The former 49ers fullback has been type-cast as a running backs coach and is one of the best in the game at that spot. But he has the experience and brains to move beyond that role and could get looks as an offensive coordinator, especially on on a team with an offensive-minded head coach.
Jim Leavitt. He's spent three seasons in relative anonymity as the 49ers' inside linebackers coach. Enough time has passed since his dismissal from South Florida. He is overqualified in his current position and may want to return to the college ranks.
Should they win Sunday, the 49ers' assistants can be interviewed for head-coaching jobs beginning on Jan. 12 . On Jan. 26, assistant coaches in the Super Bowl, who previously interviewed for a head-coaching job, can have a second interview with the same team no later than the Sunday preceding the Super Bowl.
Harbaugh on Tuesday released a statement about Drevno, the only assistant that has been with him throughout his coaching career:
"It is with great emotion, pride and excitement that we wish Tim Drevno continued success in his professional journey at The University of Southern California.
Coach Drevno and I have partnered for the last decade at The University of San Diego, Stanford University and the San Francisco 49ers. Tim has been a trusted agent, outstanding football coach and known friend every step of the way.
"Sarah and I have shared immense personal joy through our friendship with Tim, Shannon and family. We wish them happiness in their new venture and I am confident the entire Drevno family will attack this endeavor with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind."
-- Matt Barrows