Sacramento Bee

49ers announce four candidates
January 22, 2003
All are current NFL coordinators; GM Terry Donahue says 'six to eight' coaches will be interviewed.

By Mike Triplett -- Bee Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO -- The 49ers have begun their coaching search with four candidates, all of them current NFL coordinators.

General manager Terry Donahue said via conference call Tuesday that he has received permission to speak with New England Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.

He also planned to interview 49ers defensive coordinator Jim Mora on Tuesday or today.

Donahue said these four will be among "six to eight" candidates interviewed for the job that was vacated when the 49ers fired Steve Mariucci one week ago.

Donahue said he has no plans to interview any other 49ers assistants, nor expected front-runner Dennis Green, the former long-time Minnesota Vikings coach.

"I think we have three categories," Donahue said, "We have the NFL coordinators, some college head coaches and some pro head coaches who are currently out of contract," Donahue said. "Right now, I'm spending most of my attention on the pro assistant coaches because those are the ones I'm probably not as familiar with."

Donahue also said the team will not force a timetable on the coaching search, disputing a report that owner John York wanted to have a coach in place by the end of next week. The general manager said he hopes to meet with each of these four candidates this week.

One theme that stands out with this group is that three of them are defensive coordinators. And the fourth, Childress, runs a West Coast offense in Philadelphia that is similar to the one the 49ers run. Donahue referred to it as "a twin brother to ours."

That's no coincidence. The team is adamant that it will continue to run the offense that has been in place since Bill Walsh introduced it in the late 1970s.

"I think one of the things that's kind of sacred in the 49ers organization is the offensive system," Donahue said. "I think the continuity of that system and the terminology for the quarterback and the offensive players would be important. It probably gives the organization its best chance to move forward with the greatest speed and ease of adjustment."

Donahue said he will not demand that a new coach retain any current assistants, but some will be strongly recommended. The team renewed the contract of offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, a former Sac State quarterback and assistant coach, earlier this week. It was set to expire at the end of the month.

Donahue said he hopes that the new coach will retain Knapp, quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner and offensive-line coach Pat Morris, the main directors of the 49ers' offense.

Childress, 46, has spent four years under Eagles coach Andy Reid -- a Mike Holmgren apprentice -- one as offensive coordinator. He is known for his creativity within the West Coast offense, often running reverses and end-arounds as well as mixing the pass and the run effectively. Childress was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Wisconsin from 1992 through 1998.

Johnson, 61, has spent four years at the helm of the Eagles' defense, which ranked fourth in the NFL this season. Johnson has been an NFL assistant with the Eagles, Seahawks, Colts and Cardinals for 17 years.

Crennel, 55, currently is the only minority candidate the 49ers are considering. He has been an NFL assistant coach for 22 years, most of them under Bill Belichik and Bill Parcells. He spent the last two seasons leading a Patriots defense that lifted New England to a Super Bowl title one year ago.

Mora, 41, whose father of the same name was an NFL head coach with the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts, has spent the last four seasons as the 49ers' defensive coordinator. He also asked for and received permission to interview for the Carolina Panthers' defensive coordinator position in case he is not named the 49ers' coach, Donahue said.

Donahue denied a report that he or someone in the 49ers' organization inquired about the availability of Holmgren, currently locked into a contract with the Seattle Seahawks.

Tell us what you think on the new 49ers Clubhouse message board.