Kyle Shanahan vs. Tom Cable for Head Coach Points to Major 49ers Fork in the Road

The San Francisco 49ers are down to two head coaching candidates in their search to fill the 2017 void — Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Seattle Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable. The contrast between the two couldn’t be any more different.

York Caserio 49ers

Feb 8, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York during a “Handoff to Houston” press conference at the Super Bowl Media Center at Moscone Center-West. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

It’s come down to this for the San Francisco 49ers — either Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan or Seattle Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable will wind up being the head coach for the Niners in 2017.

This, of course after the news New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was bowing out of consideration.

It’s absolutely a turning point for the franchise heading into such an uncertain period in its history. Shanahan and Cable’s reputations couldn’t be any more different. And yet both have made it to the “final two.”

CEO Jed York and Vice President of Football Operations Paraag Marathe — who have been conducting the interviews — have a key decision to make. That goes without saying.

So let’s break down that situation. How did the Niners get, well, here?

Kicking things off with McDaniels bowing out.

Dec 18, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots Josh McDaniels offensive coordinator reacts as he leaves the field following the win against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field. The Patriots defeated the Broncos 16-3. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 18, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots Josh McDaniels offensive coordinator reacts as he leaves the field following the win against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field. The Patriots defeated the Broncos 16-3. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

What Josh McDaniels Bowing Out Means

Josh McDaniels cited the desire not to uproot his family from Massachusetts and travel clear across the country. That was his primary motive for staying put, at least on the surface.

But anyone reading between the lines knows the 49ers don’t exactly offer job security. Whoever takes the reins in 2017 will be the fourth head coach in as many years in Santa Clara.

And while Jed York has specified the desire to have a long-term figurehead in place, the reputation precedes his words.

It’s possible McDaniels started to realize he was the second runner behind Shanahan, especially after the latter’s dismantling of the Seahawks defense — whom the Niners face twice a year — in the NFC Divisional round.

Maybe McDaniels decided now would be the time to remove himself from consideration and remain loyal to Pats head coach Bill Belichick and Co.

Not like it’s a bad gig.

Yet a bigger reason would be the job security. McDaniels’ last head coaching stint didn’t go so well. The Denver Broncos released him just short of completing his second season. Did he learn from this? For sure. If anything, McDaniels learned the next head coaching spot would likely be his last opportunity.

So it better be a perfect situation. The 49ers offer anything but.

Jun 17, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan coaches during minicamp at Falcons Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 17, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan coaches during minicamp at Falcons Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Kyle Shanahan Factor

We’ve already discussed why Kyle Shanahan would be the best fit for head coach. In a nutshell, he’s done more with less over his coordinating career.

True, how would the Falcons’ numbers look without quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman?

Keep in mind though, Shanahan made quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Matt Schaub look good with the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans, respectively. Shanahan has “done more with less,” essentially.

And, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter pointed out (h/t Rob Lowder of Niners Wire), the Niners have been “honing in on Shanahan” since Sunday:

This would likely come as welcomed news by 49ers fans.

But there’s a problem. With Josh McDaniels out of the running, Shanahan can now place more leverage against San Francisco for any spot — power, money, personnel decisions, etc. He knows he’s the favorite now. There isn’t any questioning that.

Fine, but is this something Jed York and Co. — always reluctant to relinquish the overall say — would be willing to do?

And what happens if Shanahan, equally aware of the ugly situation in Santa Clara, bows out at the last minute?

Jan 3, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Seattle Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 3, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Seattle Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Cable? Really?

Tom Cable’s interview was surprising. In of itself, it’s not awful. Heck, the Niners are free to interview anyone they’d like, as long as the permissions are there. So why not conduct a large amount of interviews to determine the best fit?

It’s like dating… find out what you like and what you don’t like.

Still, this is the only head coaching interview Cable has received this offseason. That says something. Thirty-one other teams said “no thanks.” Only the Niners said, “OK, let’s see what you’ve got.”

Yet according to Seattle head coach Pete Carroll (h/t Andrew Siciliano of NFL Network), Cable has a legitimate chance to get the job:

Of course this could be nothing more than mere support for a fellow coach. Who knows how serious Carroll would be.

But Cable’s reputation isn’t something that can be ignored.

Of course, his stint with the Oakland Raiders wasn’t particularly great. Even more problematic though is his violent reputation — breaking the jaw of a Raiders assistant in an altercation, as well as two separate domestic violence allegations from a 2009 report.

And while it isn’t too hard to comb through Twitter and find fan outrage towards the thought of the Niners bringing in Cable, all one needs to do is take Niners Nation’s Stephanie McCarroll’s opinion to heart:

Nuff said.

49ers Jed York

Feb 1, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers chief executive officer Jed York during the Super Bowl 50 host committee press conference at the Moscone Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

What Now?

That’s your crossroads, 49ers. It’s as clear as day.

Of course Jed York and Co. could lose out on Kyle Shanahan and come to the conclusion Tom Cable isn’t the right fit either.

But that doesn’t bode much better. San Francisco would still be without a head coach. And the top candidates are all but gone. So the Niners would have to resort back to a castoff or retread. Or they’d be forced into another Jim Tomsula-like hiring.

That didn’t work out so well either.

Kudos for being patient, York. But this is a situation created by the organization. It’s time to choose what direction your team will take.

Better make it the right one.

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