5 Potential Candidates to Replace Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco

By Vincent Frank

What’s that they say about putting the cart before the horse? Ask anyone that knows me, and they will tell you I am horrible with analogies.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has two more games on the sideline this season before what promises to be an eventful January for both the head man and his team. If all reports and indications up until this point are true, the two sides will be parting ways after what has to be considered a disastrous first season at Levi’s Stadium.

So as we wait to find out the news regarding Harbaugh’s future, some names have popped up as potential candidates to replace him in the coming month(s).

Here are five such candidates

Note: Jon Gruden agreed to an extension with ESPN, which puts him out of the conversation for any head-coaching vacancies.

1. Mike Holmgren

Holmgren will be linked to the 49ers every time they have a head coaching vacancy until he decides to hang it up completely. The Super Bowl-winning head coach is a San Francisco native. His coaching experience dates back to high schools in the region in the 1970’s and continued at San Francisco State where he was the offensive coordinator in 1981. Five years later, after a stint at BYU, Holmgren returned home as the 49ers quarterbacks coach from 1986-1988 before taking over as the team’s offensive coordinator prior to its Super Bowl run in 1989.┬áIt goes without saying that the link is definitely here between Holmgren and San Francisco.

Steve Berman over at Bay Area Sports Guy, who broke the Colin Kaepernick extension news earlier this year, reported on Friday that Holmgren has expressed interest in the 49ers job.

The respected local blogger didn’t indicate one way or another whether the 49ers would actually be interested in Holmgren. Though, it stands to reason that San Francisco would have interest in a veteran mind like that, especially considering his past relationship with the franchise.

2. Jim Tomsula

This one makes too much sense. Tomsula actually acted as San Francisco’s interim head coach in Week 17 of the 2010 season after Mike Singletary was fired. He has been with the organization since 2007 and the players absolutely love playing for him.

Outside of the fact that Tomsula seems like a legitimate in-house candidate to replace Harbaugh, he also possesses a very different coaching mentality than the current 49ers head coach. As passionate as any head coach on the sideline, Tomsula’s hands-on approach in practice and during game day’s leads many to believe that he would be a popular option within the team’s locker room.

A recent report from Arizona Central columnist Dan Bickley also indicates that San Francisco’s job could very well be Tomsula’s if he wants it. And while it makes little sense to draw that conclusion early in the process (even before Harbaugh has been ousted), there are indications that this could very well be the case.

There are, however, a couple issues here. Tomsula has not been a coordinator at the NFL level, which could be cause for alarm in San Francisco after the entire Singletary fiasco. He would also have to build an extremely strong offensive coaching staff in order to succeed, especially considering his focus is on the defensive side of the ball as the team’s line coach.

3. Brian Kelly

This is pure speculation than anything else. Kelly’s name has been thrown around by some local press here in San Francisco on social media, but it’s hard to believe the 49ers would show much interest in the Notre Dame head coach.

The largest issue I see with this scenario is that Kelly is too much like Harbaugh in terms of his mentality both on the football field and in practice. If San Francisco were to go in this direction, why not try like the dickens to keep Harbaugh around? After all, his success speaks for itself.

4. Vic Fangio

San Francisco’s current defensive coordinator would seem like a logical fit here. Fangio has done a tremendous job with the team’s defense, especially during a 2014 season that has seen over half of its starting lineup miss time due to injuries. Despite all this, San Francisco still ranks among the best defensive teams in the NFL.

With that said, Fangio’s loyalty to Harbaugh may get in the way. He followed the current 49ers head coach from Stanford to the same role in San Francisco and is said to be really close to Harbaugh. It remains to be seen if Fangio would even consider replacing his pal on the sideline, especially if the marriage between Harbaugh and the 49ers ends ugly.

5. Dan Quinn

I am pretty sure that San Francisco would like nothing more than to nab the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator. And for Dan Quinn, it really wouldn’t be much of a choice. While he could very well be groomed to replace Pete Carroll in the Pacific Northwest at some point in the future, Quinn also has a history with San Francisco. He coached on the 49ers defense from 2001-2004, first as a defensive quality coach and then as the team’s defensive line coach.

Photo: USA Today