SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers said goodbye to two of their top assistants last week but are keeping two more with a couple of in-house promotions that had been in the works for a while.
With former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur headed to the New York Jets as head coach and offensive coordinator, respectively, the Niners elevated inside linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans to replace Saleh as defensive coordinator, with run game coordinator Mike McDaniel taking over LaFleur's duties in a consolidated position as offensive coordinator.
Both moves had been expected since Saleh was announced as Jets head coach last week. In fact, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan hinted strongly that Ryans was his choice for the job at his season wrap-up news conference on Jan. 4.
"It's only a matter of time before DeMeco is a coordinator in this league," Shanahan said. "It's a matter of time before DeMeco will be a head coach."
Ryans retired in 2015, joining Shanahan's staff in 2017 as a defensive quality control coach before moving up to inside linebackers coach in 2018.
Over the past three seasons, Ryans has quickly won over his players with an approach they say is similar to Saleh's in terms of his measured, thoughtful communication skills mixed with a fiery and passionate personality on game days.
"He started as an LB coach the same year I came in as a rookie, and the progress you've seen me make is a direct reflection of the type of coach and person that he is," Warner said. "He's so passionate about what he does. It's not a mystery why he was so successful in the NFL. He's such a smart mind and him and Saleh are very similar in that way where they're both really smart and know exactly what they want. ... He's an amazing teacher. I've learned so much from him and continue to learn so much, and I think that's the key to being a great coach."
With LaFleur headed to the Jets, the 49ers had hoped to keep at least one of Shanahan's top offensive assistants in place.
McDaniel had drawn interest from the Miami Dolphins for their offensive coordinator job, but the Niners promoted McDaniel in order to keep him as Shanahan's primary offensive sounding board. Shanahan is expected to retain playcalling duties on game day, but McDaniel figures to retain a prominent role in game planning and play design, along with other responsibilities. McDaniel has long been one of Shanahan's closest coaching confidants, as he began his career as an intern with the Denver Broncos under Mike Shanahan. He spent three seasons under Kyle Shanahan with the Houston Texans and has also been with him at stops in Washington, Cleveland and Atlanta before joining the Niners.
With the 49ers, McDaniel has helped design and implement a run game that's been among the best in the league over the past two seasons. The Niners are sixth in the NFL in rushing yards and tied for third in rushing touchdowns over the past two years.
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March, has repeatedly credited McDaniel with his creative run play designs as well as finding unique ways to utilize him in the offense.
He congratulated McDaniel via social media Monday, writing that he was "So deserving of this promotion!!"
Absolute BEST in the game!! Nobody gets more out of his players than McDaniel! Most creative run scheme out there! So deserving of this promotion!! https://t.co/62uQpn8Dmj— Kyle Juszczyk (@JuiceCheck44) January 18, 2021
"I think Kyle and Mike McDaniel have just done such a great job of finding the best way to put me out there on the field and put me in situations to succeed," Juszczyk said on Jan. 4. "So I owe them so much for just the opportunities that they've given me the past four years."