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San Francisco 49ers Head Coaching Candidates Include Jon Gruden, Jim Harbaugh, Bill Cowher, Brian Billick

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Following the firing of Mike Singletary, a preliminary list of legitimate head coaches who’ve had great success at either the collegiate or professional level have popped up for the now vacant San Francisco 49ers coaching job. Yes, Jim Tomsula is now the new man-in-charge, but it’s almost certainly a one game deal to wrap up a playoff-less season.

Here’s a list of the usual suspects.

Jon Gruden. Gruden has coached for the Oakland Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leading them to a 100-85 overall record and a Super Bowl title. Gruden already has the pattern of getting a solid team to a Super Bowl championship, although the Bucs were a lot closer to the top than this Niners team has ever been.

He’s still very young at 47, and could provide some reassurance to Niners fans looking for a coach with solid experience and long-term stability. Would Gruden be willing to return to the Bay Area and leave his cushy Monday Night Football gig?

Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh has resurrected a moribund Stanford Cardinal football team that was 1-11 in 2006 and taken them to a BCS bowl in 2010. Not much is known about Harbaugh’s intentions (he could be going anywhere next year), but he wouldn’t have to leave the Bay Area, and he does have experience with a pro-style offense. Would the Yorks be willing to take a chance on a college coach with little pro coaching experience? The most successful coach in 49ers history did come from the Farm.

For more on Harbaugh, check the official SB Nation Bay Area storystream.

Bill Cowher. This is probably a long shot. Cowher is always very. He is undoubtedly the most accomplished of the coaches out there, with an incredible 149-90 record and a Super Bowl title with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But would he be able to succeed outside the Steel Curtain? And would he want to deal with the eccentric ownership of the Yorks after enjoying the stability of the Rooneys?

Cowher’s name has come up before though, and he never seems to have seriously considered throwing himself back into the fray. We’ll believe it when we see it.

Brian Billick. Billick has long been interested in returning to football. He’s 80-64 with the Baltimore Ravens and also has a Super Bowl ring, like the other three coaches on this list. Unfortunately, his M.O. is solid defense with a struggling offense and inconsistent quarterback play. I’m pretty sure the Niners have seen plenty of that, although Billick is far more experienced than either Singletary or Nolan were.

There are plenty of other candidates for this job though, and we’ll explore them on future posts.