San Francisco 49ers: What Happens if Kyle Shanahan Backs Out of a Head Coaching Offer?

The San Francisco 49ers are down to two possible candidates for their head coaching vacancy. What if one of them, Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, elects to stay put and not sign on as head coach of the Niners?

The San Francisco 49ers are in a bit of a conundrum.

On Monday, news broke head coaching candidate Josh McDaniels was going to remove himself from consideration for the Niners head coaching gig. He’ll return to being the New England Patriots offensive coordinator for another season.

That leaves two candidates left on San Francisco’s interviewee list — Seattle Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable and Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

Like McDaniels, Shanahan is at the helm of a potent offense — No. 1 in the NFL, as a matter of fact.

And while anyone with an ego would prefer the title of “head coach” to “coordinator,” it’s still a very real possibility Shanahan follows the same route McDaniels did earlier this week.

Remember, the 49ers’ situation is a mess. Job security doesn’t exist in Santa Clara.

What happens if Shanahan bows out too?

Don’t Naturally Assume Tom Cable

Crossing off the names, that would lead us to believe CEO Jed York is stuck with Cable. He’s the last one left on the interview list.

So it’s a hiring by default, right?

Not so fast.

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

York may not be the most respected football mind among the Niners fan base. But even he knows this would be about the biggest PR disaster in recent 49ers history — perhaps even bigger than the “mutual” parting of ways with former head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Remember when the late Al Davis fired Cable at the end of the latter’s two-year stint with the Oakland Raiders? Even Davis was smart enough at that stage of his life to make the right call.

York might not care about your personal allegiance to the team. But he does care about full crowds at Levi’s Stadium because, well, that’s the audience for sponsors. Sponsors spend big money, and what’s the point of spending big money when no one is there to see it.

And no one would be if Cable was hired.

Round 2 of 49ers Interviews

It’s still a bit befuddling the Niners offered Cable an interview in the first place — the only one he’s received this offseason.

But, in all likelihood, York and Co. would be pressed into the next round of searches.

Jan 15, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York looks on during a press conference to introduce Jim Tomsula as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium Auditorium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 15, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York looks on during a press conference to introduce Jim Tomsula as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium Auditorium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Of course none of the NFL-level candidates in a proverbial Round 2 would be the top-tier targets. Those names have already evaporated. Instead, the Niners would be looking at second-rate guys.

Insert whatever name here you’d like. But the key factor to remember here is San Francisco is reaching a dangerous point where it can no longer be picky.

Desperate is a more reasonable description.

Or, perhaps, the Niners could go the collegiate route like they did with Harbaugh. It would literally have to take the most open of checkbooks and the willingness to let College Coach X have an overwhelming say in the on-field decisions.

Is that something York would be comfortable with?

Promoting from Within

Gasp. Not again.

Well, if the 49ers are scrambling, it’s a real possibility.

Promoting from within — just like the Niners did with one-and-done head coach Jim Tomsula after Harbaugh was let go — would be the last-ditch effort.

Aug 4, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins talks to the media at SAP Performance Facility. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 4, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins talks to the media at SAP Performance Facility. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a name to throw out — last year’s offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins. He was largely responsible for designing the running game. And San Francisco’s rushing offense finished fourth in the NFL with 2,019 yards.

Modkins has never been a head coach at any level though. Even if he was moderately successful, such a promotion would be seen easily as a move of desperation and not one of ingenuity.

Desperation derived of just how bad the 49ers’ situation has become.

Regardless, Cable isn’t the only answer here, folks. Yet the path York and the Niners have taken in previous seasons has led directly to this dilemma.

And it’s not one from which many good options can develop.

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