Linehan, a respected offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings, was fired four games into his third season as the St. Louis Rams' head coach last September. He still wants to return to coaching this year, but he said he doesn't want to rush his choice.
"They were great to me from the top down, from ownership to the front office to (49ers coach) Mike (Singletary)," Linehan told The Associated Press in a phone interview from his home in St. Louis. "It's just timing right now. I'm just not ready to make a decision."
Linehan was offered the 49ers' job Thursday after his second interview with Singletary and general manager Scot McCloughan, who are looking for the seventh offensive coordinator in the last seven seasons for a franchise that redefined offensive football under Bill Walsh in the 1980s.
Linehan asked for a couple of days to deliberate with his family, but he still didn't feel ready to commit to San Francisco.
"They did not give me a timeline or pressure me or anything," Linehan said. "The franchise and the history and the direction were just unbelievable. I just wouldn't want to leave Mike or Scot or anybody hanging and drag this thing out."
Linehan emerged last week as the favorite in a field of four finalists that included Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and Indianapolis Colts receivers coach Clyde Christensen. But Linehan is out, and Dennison was retained on the staff of new Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels last week.
Linehan's decision is a setback for Singletary, who said he hoped to have a new coordinator hired "yesterday" when he discussed offensive coordinator Mike Martz's firing Dec. 31.
"I believe and have faith in the process we have set forth in our search for an offensive coordinator," Singletary said in a statement released by the team. "While we'd like to fill this position sooner rather than later, we will remain patient in our approach. The right person for the 49ers is out there."
Singletary went 5-4 after taking over for Mike Nolan during the season, and the 49ers removed the interim designation from his title about 15 minutes after San Francisco beat the Washington Redskins in the season finale to complete its sixth consecutive losing season. Singletary then fired Martz two days later, saying the coordinator's inventive passing schemes clashed with his desire for a run-based attack.
But Singletary's two remaining candidates both have roots in pass-based offenses. Chudzinski became a hot coaching prospect last season when Derek Anderson's passing led Cleveland to a 10-6 record with 402 points, and Christensen has been a key part of the Indianapolis offenses built around Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.
Linehan seemed to be an ideal fit for the 49ers, and not just for his history of building effective running games. He spent three seasons in Minnesota tutoring quarterback Shaun Hill, who led San Francisco's resurgence under Singletary, and Linehan also has coached with John L. Smith, the uncle of 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.
Linehan, who said he has been contacted by other teams about possible jobs, expects to attend the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., next week along with nearly every team's coaching staff -- including Singletary and the 49ers' assistants.
"I'm going to have to move some time," Linehan said. "I've got to find a spot here sooner or later. I'm trying to figure out what's the best situation for the Linehans."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press