One of the most important jobs of a head coach is hiring a good staff. Here is who potential New York Jets HC candidates could bring along with them for coordinator roles.
Robert Saleh (49ers defensive coordinator)
Two particular names from the San Francisco staff have been commonly linked to Robert Saleh as the potential offensive coordinator on his new staff: Mike LaFleur and Mike McDaniel.
Since Kyle Shanahan took over as the 49ers’ head coach in 2017, San Francisco has not had a coach hold the title of offensive coordinator – Shanahan has been the de facto OC. However, the 49ers have had a passing game coordinator and a run game coordinator, LaFleur and McDaniel.
LaFleur, 34, is the younger brother of Packers head coach Matt LaFleur. He joined the 49ers as a wide receivers coach in 2017, holding the role for two years before being promoted to passing game coordinator in 2019. It’s worth noting that LaFleur has a very close relationship with Saleh – LaFleur was the best man at Saleh’s wedding.
In LaFleur’s first season leading the passing attack, San Francisco ranked eighth in pass offense DVOA and third in net yards per pass attempt (7.4). The Niners dropped to 22nd in pass offense DVOA this past season as Jimmy Garoppolo started only six games while Nick Mullens started eight and C.J. Beathard started two. However, even with a backup quarterback on the field for 10 starts, LaFleur helped the 49ers rank 12th in passing yards (252.1 per game) and 13th in net yards per pass attempt (6.6). LaFleur somehow squeezed a 105.7 passer rating out of Beathard over his two starts (his career rating entering 2020 was 74.6).
Play action is a crucial piece of the aerial attack in San Francisco. In 2019, Garoppolo used play action on 31.9% of his passing dropbacks, tied for the sixth-highest rate among 40 qualifiers. He thrived off of play action, ranking sixth in the NFL with 10.8 yards per attempt after using a play fake. In 2020, Garoppolo used play action 32.3% of the time, ninth-highest, and he ranked 10th-best with 9.0 yards per attempt when using it.
Since LaFleur took over as the passing game coordinator in 2019, the 49ers rank seventh in the NFL in net yards per pass attempt (7.0) and 11th in team passer rating (96.0).
McDaniel, 37, was an offensive assistant under Shanahan with the Falcons from 2015-16. McDaniel followed Shanahan to San Francisco and has been the 49ers’ run game coordinator since 2017. Over McDaniel’s tenure from 2017-20, the 49ers have ranked 16th, 30th, seventh and 15th in rush offense DVOA. In their 2019 Super Bowl season, the Niners led the league in rushing touchdowns (23) and ranked second in total rushing yards (144.1 per game), while their non-quarterbacks averaged an incredible 5.0 yards per carry.
The 49ers’ running game is known for its basis on outside zone concepts and its heavy usage of motion and deception working off of those core outside zone plays. In 2019, the 49ers incorporated pre-snap motion on 72% of their running plays, tops in the NFL.
Relying upon strong blocking at the skill positions is another staple of McDaniel and Shanahan’s run game. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk, signed by San Francisco shortly after McDaniel and Shanahan were hired in 2017, is by far the most used fullback in the NFL with a position-high 17.7 snaps per game since 2017. Superstar tight end George Kittle has ranked top 10 at his position in run blocking snaps per game in each of the last three seasons, establishing himself as one of the most devastating non-offensive line blockers in the world.
There are two other unique components of the McDaniel-Shanahan run game. One is a committee approach at running back. The 49ers have had three backs log at least 80 carries in each of the past two seasons. In addition, San Francisco loves to get non-running backs involved on the ground. Since 2019, the 49ers’ wide receivers and tight ends have combined for 315 rushing yards on 38 carries, a tremendous average of 8.3 yards per carry.
Defensively, look out for longtime Texans and Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans. He is the inside linebackers coach in San Francisco, where he has helped 2018 third-round pick Fred Warner develop into one of the league’s absolute best players at the position (Warner led all linebackers with an 88.6 overall Pro Football Focus grade in 2020). Ryans is considered one of the favorites to replace Saleh as the defensive coordinator in San Francisco, but it’s possible that Saleh – who coached Ryans in Houston for five years (2006-10) – could convince Ryans to follow him to his new team and take the DC role there.