By Michael Cunningham
Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan appears to be the front-runner for the vacant 49ers head coaching job after New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels pulled out of the running.
The San Jose Mercury News reported Monday that Shanahan now is the top candidate. Shanahan interviewed with the 49ers in the Atlanta area two weekends ago, when NFL rules allowed him to do so because the Falcons had a bye week for the wild-card round of the playoffs.
The Falcons beat the Seahawks to advance to Sunday’s NFC championship game against the Packers. By league rule, Shanahan isn’t allowed to have contact with the 49ers until after that game.
The Mercury News reported that Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable is the only other available candidate to interview with the 49ers.
Shanahan has never been a head coach but his work this with the Falcons this season made him an attractive candidate. He also interviewed with the Broncos and Jaguars before both teams hired other candidates. The Rams also were interested in Shanahan before also hiring another candidate.
After lackluster results in Shanahan’s first season, the Falcons set a franchise record for points this season while earning the NFC’s No. 2 seed. Quarterback Matt Ryan broke his own team mark for passing yards and is an NFL MVP candidate. And Ryan was selected to the Pro Bowl along with running back Devonta Freeman, wide receiver Julio Jones and center Alex Mack.