If it’s a high-profile name with a Super Bowl pedigree that the 49ers want to be their next head coach, then Sean Payton won’t be their man.
But former Raiders coach Hue Jackson, who has helped guide the Cincinnati Bengals to the playoffs as offensive coordinator, might fit the bill to help the 49ers score a few points.
Payton took his name out of the race Wednesday when he announced his intent to remain as New Orleans Saints coach after days of speculation about his future.
The Niners apparently had singled out Payton as their primary target, although it was unclear how far the negotiations went in terms of compensation. Payton has two years left on a deal that pays $8 million annually, and the Saints want a high draft pick or picks to release him from his contract.
The 49ers were willing to include a high draft pick in exchange for Payton, the NFL Network reported.
“I know it appeared there was a looming decision, but I think this is really me saying again, ‘Here I am, and nothing’s changing,’” Payton said at a news conference that included Saints officials. “This is where I plan on coaching, and I don’t envision myself coaching for any other club.”
A primary reason that Payton would consider the Niners was his relationship with general manager Trent Baalke, a close confidant in recent years. He also was said to have had interest in the New York Giants and possibly Philadelphia Eagles, who had similar vacancies.
Payton wants to work in concert with the front office on personnel matters and won’t deny that he and Saints GM Mickey Loomis have had their share of disagreements over the years.
“We each like to win an argument, but I think it’s important in the discussions, when we’re going through things, that we both have the ability to look at what’s best,” Payton said. “That’s what has given us a chance at functional success. That’s what’s missing, quite honestly, in a lot of these organizations that spin the wheels.”
After one forgettable season under Jim Tomsula, who had never been a head coach outside of NFL Europe, indications were that Baalke valued championship experience more than ever.
“Experience in anything matters,” Baalke said earlier this week. “You learn from everything you do. … You learn from everything you do in this business and that’s all I hope to do — learn from it and get better.”
In that case, Mike Shanahan might meet the requirement.
On Wednesday, a face-to-face meeting between Shanahan and team officials was put on hold, but the two sides reportedly had spoken via telephone. The contact marks the second time in as many years that the organization has expressed interest in Shanahan, a one-time Niners offense coordinator.
Shanahan had a second sit-down with the Miami Dolphins earlier this week.
Interviews are scheduled with Buffalo Bills assistant Anthony Lynn and Jackson on Sunday in Cincinnati. Jackson also will interview that day with the Dolphins and Cleveland Browns. Only Jackson has been a head coach among them, and that for only one season in Oakland.
The coaching derby became more complicated when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in a surprise move, fired Lovie Smith. That job becomes attractive to potential 49ers frontrunners Chip Kelly and Jackson, who might like a shot at developing young quarterback Jameis Winston.
Shanahan is the father of Kyle, the Atlanta Falcons’ offense coordinator, who aspires to become a head coach one day. The 35-year-old has two years left on his contract. When the organization searched for Jim Harbaugh’s replacement one year ago, CEO Jed York indicated that the goal was to find a long-term coach and his successor. It’s possible if not likely that a possible father-to-son hand-off was part of the discussions.
In 20 seasons, Shanahan had a .552 win percentage (308-170) in stints with the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Raiders and Washington Redskins. His Broncos teams won back-to-back Super Bowl titles.
In the three seasons that Shanahan was in charge of their offense, the Niners were an unqualified success. League-wide, it ranked first in points and yards in the first two years and was first in points and second in yards in 1994, when the team captured its last Super Bowl title.
As it concerns Shanahan, 63, the greater question is more about his recent inactivity and less about his age. He has not coached since the 2013 season, the last of four with the Redskins. He had a 24-40 record and one postseason appearance there.
Shanahan said that he had not lost touch with the NFL and was up to speed on current trends.
“You go 18 hours a day for 40-something years, and then you got a year and a half to two years where you feel like you got the time to do whatever you want to do,” Shanahan said. “I still study the heck out of football. I actually have more time. I study more football now than I actually did before.”
Baalke pointed to himself as someone who grew in his role through the kind of trial and error that only years of experience can offer.
“Sometimes you’re going to make the right decision, and sometimes you’re going to make the wrong decision, and I’ve done both,” Baalke said. “We hired Jim Harbaugh and we hired Jim Tomsula. Some would say one was a strong hit and the other was a miss. That’s the game we’re in. You’re going to make mistakes. If you learn from them, that’s what you hope to do.”