The 49ers are expected to offer Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan their vacant head coaching job, and Shanahan is almost certain to accept the position, according to sources familiar with both parties' intentions. Because of NFL rules, the two sides cannot formally agree to a deal until after the Falcons' season is over, but barring an unforeseen change of heart on either side, Shanahan will eventually be signed to a multi-year contract.
The situation played out over the last several days, as 49ers CEO Jed York traveled to Seattle to interview candidates for the team's coach and GM vacancies. On Sunday, the day after the Falcons defeated the Seahawks in a divisional-round playoff game, York interviewed Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable for the coaching position.
The next morning, news broke that New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels -- considered one of the top remaining candidates, along with Shanahan and Cable -- had pulled his name out of contention. As York conducted back-to-back interviews Monday with Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer, the Seahawks' co-directors of player personnel, he felt increased urgency to reach out to Shanahan and convey his intention to offer him the job.
That essentially short-circuited the candidacy of Cable, who after learning early Tuesday of the Niners' intention to hire Shanahan -- and the coach's apparent willingness to accept the position -- prepared to pull his name from contention. However, Cable received a phone call Tuesday afternoon from 49ers owner Denise DeBartolo York, Jed's mother, who spent an hour interviewing him for the head-coaching position.
By that time, Kirchner had already withdrawn from consideration from the GM position -- because he had also learned of the 49ers' impending deal with Shanahan. Kirchner strongly preferred to work with Cable as his head coach, a view shared by Fitterer and one other prospective general manager candidate initially sought by the 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs director of player personnel Chris Ballard. The interview with Ballard never happened because the Chiefs reportedly blocked it; a source says the team gave Ballard a salary increase in response.
Cable, according to sources, called Jed York on Tuesday and told him he was no longer a candidate -- because, like Kirchner, he had become convinced that a 49ers/Shanahan deal was a foregone conclusion.
Another person who hoped to work with Cable was prospective defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who was fired as the Jacksonville Jaguars' head coach in December. Bradley, who is also being courted by newly hired Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn for the team's vacant defensive coordinator position, was waiting to see whether Cable would get the 49ers job. After Cable pulled out, the 49ers reached out to Bradley to see if he had interest in coming to San Francisco as Shanahan's defensive coordinator, but he rebuffed the team's advances.
Once the Falcons' season ends -- either after Sunday's NFC championship Game against the Packers at the Georgia Dome, or after Super Bowl LI in Houston two weeks later -- the 49ers will be free to sign Shanahan, and he'll presumably join them in conducting second interviews with some of the remaining general-manager candidates.
Along with Gutekunst, Packers director of football operations Eliot Wolf and Minnesota Vikings assistant general manager George Paton are viewed as the most likely candidates to pair with Shanahan, according to a source familiar with the 49ers' thinking. The 49ers have also interviewed ESPN television analyst Louis Riddick and Arizona Cardinals vice president of personnel Terry McDonough. Indianapolis Colts vice president of football operations Jimmy Raye III and Carolina Panthers assistant general manager Brandon Beane.