Outside of a miraculous return by Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers’ ideal choice for the franchise’s 19th head coach currently works for a division rival.
Darrell Bevell, the offensive coordinator of the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, is an absolute must-hire that hasn’t been explored.
The triumvirate of CEO Jed York, general manager Trent Baalke and president and chief negotiator Paraag Marathe has instead greased the wheels on several other candidates.
But it doesn’t include another worthy Seahawks coach on the offensive side of the ball.
More so, why interview rising offensive coordinators Adam Gase and Josh McDaniels without doing the same for a comparably aged and accomplished Bevell? Why not sit down with a young, but established coordinator that has successfully developed a similar quarterback and offense as the 49ers?
Let’s break down why Bevell would make a great hire as the 49ers’ next head coach.
Steal From the Enemy
You know the saying, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer?”
The Seahawks had been pilfering assets from the 49ers throughout the Harbaugh and Pete Carroll era. They had gobbled up the likes of former Niners fullback Michael Robinson, wideout Ricardo Lockette, fullback Will Tukuafu and defensive tackle Demarcus Dobbs.
Even cornerback Perrish Cox found himself in Seattle for a brief stretch before reuniting with San Francisco and becoming its best corner in 2014.
But why steal away backups when you can poach one of the division rival’s top coaches?
The 49ers can deplete Seattle’s ranks and strengthen their own by hiring Bevell. They would simultaneously weaken the Seahawks at the highest level while eliminating their own primary weakness (more on this later).
Acquiring the Seahawks’ uppermost offensive coach would have quadruple the effect as those four lower-depth-chart players combined.
Plus, this would in no way amount to signing an enemy asset just for the sake of it.
It would instead qualify as bringing in the right man for the job at exactly the right time.
Linear Progression, Right Trajectory
Unlike some recent trends in the NBA, most aspiring coaches must follow a linear progression and pay their dues before becoming an NFL head coach.
For example, after a productive playing career in college, serving as a graduate assistant and occupying various subordinate roles in the NCAA usually comes first.
Overseeing specific positional areas and coordinating an entire phase of the team—in both college and the NFL—would then follow.
And in the case that this rising sideline general has proven himself at each step along the way, he would then have a shot at securing a head-coaching gig at the highest level.
Enter: Darrell Bevell, former four-year starting quarterback at Wisconsin, graduate assistant at Iowa State, wide receivers coach at the University of Connecticut, offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach for the Green Bay Packers and offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings and Seahawks.
…and head coach of the 49ers?
We must lend a hat tip to Seahawks.com for providing the following background information.
After those successful stints as an assistant in the collegiate ranks, Bevell served on the Packers’ offensive staff from 2000-05. He quickly elevated to the quarterbacks coach in 2003, coaching some guy named Brett Favre for those final three years.
Favre completed a career-high 65.4 percent of his throws and led the NFL with 32 touchdown passes in 2003. The Packers offense as a whole ranked third in total yards the following season and were tops in completions in 2005.
Bevell continued his rise up the coaching ladder thereafter.
The Minnesota Vikings hired Bevell as their offensive coordinator in 2006. He guided the Adrian Peterson-led rushing attack for five years, helping him set multiple team records along the way.
His most impressive work during that time, however, came in 2009 when Favre and Co. ranked eighth in passing, fifth in total offense and second in scoring. The Vikings also featured six players with 40-plus receptions, which was only the second time that’s happened in league history.
Most recently, and most importantly, Bevell has excelled as the Seahawks coordinator since being named to the position in 2011.
And here is where this discussion finds its conclusion.
Offensive Mind—and the Right One
For the last three years under Bevell, the NFL has witnessed the rise of Russell Wilson and a ground-and-pound offense that just knows how to score.
He has thrown at least 20 touchdown passes, earned a passer rating of no lower than 95.0 and has passed—and rushed—for more yards in each of his first three seasons. He has also ranked no lower than seventh in both yards per attempt and yards per completion.
It all culminated in 2014 when Wilson racked up 3,475 yards through the air and another 849 yards and six scores on the ground. Oh, and don’t forget a league-best 7.2 yards per rush.
Seattle’s Legion of Boom notwithstanding, he also has a Super Bowl title to his name.
The Seahawks offense, for its part, has ranked in the top 10 in scoring since 2012.
Wilson and Co. have averaged an effective 25.5 points per game during that stretch, with Lynch compiling at least 1,200 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns in each season.
Bevell has indeed capitalized on his offense’s run-first identity behind Lynch, while making Wilson an effective weapon from both inside and outside the pocket.
He has maximized the skill set of the entire unit and hasn’t tried to change any player into something he isn’t.
The 49ers offense under Greg Roman in 2014, on the other hand, was anything but a balanced attack that highlighted its players’ best traits.
Roman, along with quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst, forced Kaepernick into becoming solely a pocket passer. Harbaugh certainly deserved some blame for authorizing it, but those aforementioned two essentially attempted a gridiron lobotomy of Kap’s instinctual nature as a runner and thrower on the move.
His mind became so clouded, his decision-making so jumbled, that he took unnecessary sacks, threw inaccurately and didn’t seize opportunities to gain yardage with his legs.
Throw it all together and Bevell and his 15 years of NFL experience would make a great match for the Kaepernick and Frank Gore-led contingent in San Francisco.
Retain Fangio as defensive coordinator and Bevell’s ascension to the top of the 49ers’ coaching tree is both logical and opportune.
As has been the case since Harbaugh’s forced departure, York, Baalke and Marathe are on the clock.
All team and player statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference unless otherwise noted.
Joe Levitt is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, waxing academic, colloquial and statistical eloquence on the San Francisco 49ers. Follow him on Twitter @jlevitt16