49ers Rumors: Top 8 Candidates That Could Replace Jim Harbaugh As San Francisco's Head Coach

Whether or not you believe the San Francisco 49ers should get rid of head coach Jim Harbaugh after the season or not, it seems inevitable that change is coming. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazers’ report that Harbaugh won’t be returning after the season wasn’t the start of the fire – there have been reports dating back to last season that the coach was starting to wear thin on the Niners front office.

Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in the league, taking San Francisco to the NFC Championship Game in each of his first three seasons with the team. He’s going to be hard to replace, so who are the candidates that would be able to keep the 49ers playing at a high level?

8 ) Tony Dungy, former Bucs/Colts head coach

If the 49ers front office can coax Tony Dungy out of retirement, they’ll be rewarded with a Super Bowl-winning head coach who is 139-69 over 13 regular seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts. Dungy has been off the sidelines since 2008, but the chance to lead a team that seems to be ready to make a Super Bowl run could very well be intriguing to the current NFL analyst.

7) Todd Bowles, Arizona Cardinals Defensive Coordinator

Bowles has quietly led and constructed one of the league’s best defenses in Arizona, and they haven’t missed a beat despite having several starters hurt this season. He will be interviewed for practically every opening this offseason, but few are more attractive than his current division rival. Bowles is one of the rising stars in the NFL coaching world, and the 49ers would be smart to bring him back to San Francisco.

6) Bill Cowher, former NFL Head Coach

Cowher hasn’t coached in the league since 2006, but has stayed in the game as an analyst for CBS. He’s won a Super Bowl and would immediately command respect from everyone in the locker room. Cowher has said he would come back to coaching if the right situation presented itself, and the 49ers have Super Bowl talent.

5) Sean McDermott, Defensive Coordinator, Carolina Panthers

McDermott is a rising star in the coaching ranks, who already has 16 years of NFL coaching experience – including six as a defensive coordinator – at the age of 40. He’s the architect that has built and maintained Carolina’s top defense while being there since 2011, and received interest from multiple teams last year about their head coaching vacancies. McDermott would keep San Francisco as a defense-first team, and would be a nice consolation prize if the big names listed above pass on the job.

4) Pep Hamilton, Indianapolis Colts Offensive Coordinator

Hamilton followed Andrew Luck from Stanford to Indianapolis, and he’s led outstanding offenses at each stop. He’s going to be a hot candidate for every opening across the league, and San Francisco presents an attractive opportunity for him to return to the Bay Area. The 49ers would hope he could help develop Kaepernick the same way he did with Luck.

3) Jim Tomsula, Defensive Line Coach, San Francisco 49ers

Per a report by CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, Tomsula is one of three candidates the San Francisco 49ers that is currently “at the top of their list of candidates to replace” Harbaugh (the other two are listed below). Owner Jed York is a big fan of Tomsula, who was named interim head coach when Mike Singletary was let go in-season. Tomsula had a strong interview with the Vikings this past offseason, and the charismatic defensive line coach seems primed and ready to make the jump to full-time head coach.

2) Vic Fangio, Defensive Coordinator, San Francisco 49ers

Fangio has kept the San Francisco 49ers’ defense together despite a litany of costly injuries. He is likely to be on other teams’ lips when it comes to their own head coaching searches, so the 49ers could very well look to promote Fangio to keep him in house. If the 49ers want to maintain continuity, the decision could very well come down to Tomsula and Fangio.

1) Adam Gase, Offensive Coordinator, Denver Broncos

 Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports believes it’s a virtual lock that Gase will be an NFL head coach in 2015, and for good reason – Gase is the architect of one of the most dynamic (and productive) offenses in the modern era of NFL football. Gase turned down opportunities at advancement in both Minnesota and Cleveland last offseason, but a chance to take over one of the most storied franchises in all of sports could be enough to bring him to the West Coast. For the 49ers, Gase’s intellect and ability to get the most out of his personnel - and hopefully Colin Kaepernick - would present an attractive package to replace Harbaugh.

Who do you think the 49ers should look at if Harbaugh is let go after the season? Leave a response in the comments!

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