Kyle Shanahan was forced to weigh what’s right for his team versus what’s right for his employee.
The decision to let quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello pursue — and eventually accept — the Denver Broncos’ offensive coordinator job wasn’t an easy one for the wunderkind 49ers head man.
“I needed more time to talk about it,” Shanahan said of initially denying the Broncos permission to meet with Scangarello, via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco.
“The initial reaction (was) I don’t want to lose good coaches, at all, and you don’t have to. But it’s very tough to keep a coach back when he’s getting a huge promotion. It’s a tough position that we’re in because I want to do right by people, always. But my No. 1 job is to do what’s best for the 49ers. That’s what you got to always think about, and losing good coaches is not what’s best for the 49ers.”
Shanahan said he relented on Scangarello after some hemming and hawing, and a particular promise from Denver general manager John Elway and new head coach Vic Fangio. “If I do this, you have to hire him,” he essentially said.
They were men of their word. Scangarello interviewed Monday and was signed Wednesday, becoming an offensive play-caller for the first time in his still-budding coaching career.
“With the addition of Rich Scangarello as our offensive coordinator, we’re getting an experienced coach who was a trusted and valued assistant with Kyle Shanahan for three seasons,” Fangio said in a statement released upon Scangarello’s hiring. “He worked wonders with all the quarterbacks who started for San Francisco during the previous two years as quarterbacks coach.
“With his background and knowledge, it’s the perfect time for Rich to be an offensive coordinator in the NFL. I find this opportunity for Rich very similar to when I first became a defensive coordinator many years ago, and he is ready to take this step in his career.”
Groomed by Shanahan, who once was a candidate for the Broncos’ head-coaching position, Scangarello’s first NFL gig came in Atlanta, where he served as an offensive quality-control coach alongside Shanahan, then the offensive coordinator. Scangarello spent 2016 as the OC of Wagner College before Shanahan got the 49ers’ head job and recruited Scangarello to run the QBs.
He put himself on the NFL map last season for his work with third-string Niners QB Nick Mullens, who replaced the injured Jimmy Garoppolo and C.J. Beathard. Despite a limited supporting cast, Mullens — a 2017 undrafted free agent — exceeded all expectations, completing 64.2 percent of his passes for 2,277 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions across eight starts. For comparison’s sake, his 90.8 passer rating was significantly higher than $36 million starting Broncos QB Case Keenum’s (81.2).
Mullens torched the Broncos for 332 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-14 upset victory this past season.
“Rich did a great job,” Shanahan said. “It was tough to lose him. He’s going do a great job in Denver.”