SAN FRANCISCO—Jim Harbaugh is gone.
The coach who led the San Francisco 49ers to three consecutive NFC championship games will now make a living coaching the Michigan Wolverines.
So what’s next for San Francisco?
Mike Shanahan has been to town and appears a promising candidate. With two super bowl championships and a reputation as an offensive mastermind, Shanahan has an NFL resumé the envy of many.
Heck, he even led the Redskins to their first NFC East title since 2000.
But then there’s the negative. He’s never been a Super Bowl winner without Terrell Davis and John Elway. He drafted Jay Cutler, then was run out of Denver. He was hired to save Washington, drafted Robert Griffin III, and then ran him into the ground.
Even UCLA coach Jim Mora, linked to a number of NFL destinations, has been rumored to be of interest to the Niners organization. But Mora, while far younger and currently more relevant then Shanahan, has far less NFL pedigree.
So how about an in-house replacement?
According to reports, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s interview went extremely well, lasting six hours and offering the football lifer an opportunity to flash his prestigious football intellect.
And though his unit regressed as a whole in 2014, the past year may have been Fangio’s best as a coordinator, as he overcame a rash of injuries and suspensions en route to yet another season in the top-ten for points allowed and the top-five in yards allowed.
If the 49ers want an answer to their coaching quandary, they should look no further than one of their most hated rivals, All-Pro Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who played under Fangio, nicknamed Lord Fangio, during his collegiate career at Stanford.
“Lord Fangio has brought a sense of calm, a feeling that’s it’s going to work,” Sherman said. “There’s a belief in one another, that we have the athletes, that we can play with anybody.”
Rival endorsements aside, expect Fangio, who shares a similar bond with his current Niners players, to return to a franchise that is telling anyone who will listen that 2015 will not be a rebuilding year.