49ers Assistant a Surprise ‘Name to Watch’ as 2023 Head Coach: Analyst


Getty The 49ers pregame before their December 15, 2022 road game at Seattle.

DeMeco Ryans is on the hot list of future head coaches for the upcoming 2023 cycle, with “Black Monday” on the horizon when NFL teams decide to keep or fire who’s currently in charge on the field.

But could the San Francisco 49ers end up producing two head coaches for this upcoming period?

While Ryans remains a hot name, The Athletic’s Mike Jones on Friday, January 6 included 49ers run game coordinator and offensive line coach Chris Foerster as a name who could wind up receiving head coaching considerations.

“Under Foerster’s direction, the 49ers boast one of the best lines in football. Because of that strong line play, San Francisco has remained among the league leaders in rushing and scoring despite rampant injuries at quarterback and running back,” Jones wrote.

He included how 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan became reliant on Foerster’s coaching for the 49ers offense to sail along — especially after losing two prominent offensive coaches one season ago.

“After the last two hiring cycles robbed Shanahan of top offensive assistants Mike LaFleur (New York Jets offensive coordinator) and Mike McDaniel (Miami Dolphins head coach), the coach has leaned heavily on Foerster, and the 61-year-old has delivered,” Jones said.

Deeper Dive in Foerster’s Work

Foerster has coached the 49ers offensive line the last two seasons. In that time, here’s what’s happened under his watch:

Multiple Pro Bowlers: Last season witnessed Trent Williams and Laken Tomlinson earn Pro Bowl nods. This time, Williams continues to play at an All-Pro level.

Impact dominance from guys not named Williams: Aaron Banks went from Tomlinson’s replacement to putting together a Pro Bowl caliber season in his first starting campaign before spraining his MCL (Shanahan said on Friday Banks could be healthy by the first round of playoffs). Daniel Brunskill, meanwhile, hasn’t allowed a sack in 263 pass block attempts per Pro Football Focus. Foerster has also turned Brunskill into a valuable “swing guard” in playing both guard spots and executed this epic block against the Las Vegas Raiders:

Strong glimpse of the future: Banks is a young guy in his second season with signs of future Pro Bowl appearances on deck. But the 49ers also witnessed rookie Spencer Burford emerge immediately with only one sack allowed on 363 attempts while playing the opposite guard. Burford recently held his own versus Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby on New Year’s Day:

Foerster’s unit has additionally been stout at protecting the passer despite going through three different quarterbacks — surrendering 27 sacks which ties them at fourth-fewest in the league and the fewest among NFC West teams.

And with Foerster responsible for the running plays, the Niners ground game is ninth in the league in yards and are tied for sixth in rushing touchdowns with 18 — but is the most among teams in their division. Nine different 49ers have scored a rushing touchdown. And, under Foerster, Christian McCaffrey went from scoring two rushing touchdowns in Carolina to crossing the end zone six times after being traded by the Panthers.

If there’s a team that envisions establishing grit and toughness in the trenches, plus believes in a punishing style of football, Foerster could be getting some calls.

Team Linked as Possibility for Ryans Has Coaching Development

Ryans has been considered a strong possible fit for the Denver Broncos after the franchise fired first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett on December 26 — with Hackett not even completing his first season. Heavy NFL senior reporter Matt Lombardo wrote Friday that Ryans “could be an attractive option to owner & CEO Greg Penner” while adding the depth of talent on defense already in the Rocky Mountains could persuade Denver to lure in Ryans.

But now per ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter on Saturday, January 7, the Broncos have been granted permission to interview Super Bowl winning head coach Sean Payton. The former New Orleans Saints head coach is the first reported name to be allowed to speak with the Broncos’ brass.

If it’s not Denver for Ryans, jobs in Carolina and Indianapolis will have head coaching spots to fill after Week 18 while others could open on “Black Monday.”

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