Gase is the favorite to be the next head coach of the 49ers. Gase is the only coach the 49ers have interviewed twice so far this offseason — they interviewed him for a second time Tuesday, according to reports.
Gase is 36 years old. He looks like a teenager. He has been an offensive coordinator for two whole seasons and has done impressive things like work with Peyton Manning.
Gase may be a whiz.
But, does he have gravitas?
Gravitas is the key word in this column. It means dignity, seriousness, solemnity of manner.
Does Gase have the gravitas to boss 49ers veterans? Do you have a life-sized picture of Gase convincing grizzled superstar Justin Smith not to retire, or Smith even answering Gase’s phone call?
Can you picture Gase telling intimidating veteran Anquan Boldin what to do? What about Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman or Aldon Smith?
They have gravitas. Hard to imagine them taking orders from a 36-year-old Michael Cera lookalike. I only can picture them giggling in his face.
Bowman said he wants Vic Fangio to be the head coach. Fangio said he wants out if the Niners hire Gase instead of him, according to NFL.com. How will Gase get Bowman’s respect if Gase comes at Fangio’s expense?
Fangio deserves to be the 49ers’ head coach. He has gravitas in spades. The locker room and the community already respect him. He kept the 49ers together this season after Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman lost the players’ confidence. The players listen to him.
Why run the risk the players won’t listen to Gase?
“Gravitas-shmavitas,” you might be saying. “Gase is the top offensive coach available, and the 49ers need someone to help the offense.”
Good point, imaginary reader. If the Niners want an offensive coach, Gase seems to be one other teams want. The Broncos had the best offense in the NFL in 2013 — Gase’s first season as the offensive coordinator. And the Broncos had the fourth-best offense in 2014.
Since becoming a coordinator two years ago, Gase has coached a Hall of Fame quarterback (Peyton Manning), and four elite receivers (Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker).
The 49ers don’t have those kind of players. The Niners have great run-blocking offensive linemen (Joe Staley, Alex Boone and Anthony Davis), a young, powerful running back (Carlos Hyde), and arguably the best fullback in the game — Bruce Miller.
Last season, the 49ers were 7-1 when Miller was on the field for more than 27 plays, and just 1-7 when he was on the field for 27 or fewer. The more Miller played, the better the 49ers played. Miller embodies the 49ers’ offensive identity, an identity Anthony Davis and other players have said the Niners must embrace. That identity is brutal power-running football.
Gase didn’t use a single fullback on his offense this past season. The Broncos didn’t even have one on the roster. He runs a one-back, pass-heavy offense. He has receivers running all over the field like ballerinas gone wild. Think an updated version of what Mike Martz used to run. Gase is Martz’s protégé. Martz flopped in San Francisco and is no longer employed in the NFL.
The worst thing Gase could do is impose his finesse passing offense onto the 49ers’ power-running personnel. If he tries that, he could lose the team before mini-camp. If he tries that, he will fail. The 49ers are not built to play football the way Gase coaches football. This is an obvious case of philosophical differences.
The worst thing the Niners could do is force Gase to learn and run the Niners’ current running game. That would be an Al Davis move. In 1988, Al Davis hired Mike Shanahan and demanded he run Al Davis’ offense. Shanahan refused and failed — didn’t last even two seasons. What was the point of hiring him in the first place? When you hire a coach, you’re hiring him to do what made him successful. Shanahan and the Raiders were a bad match. Gase and the 49ers are an equally bad match.
The 49ers already have one of the most successful running schemes in the NFL — Greg Roman and offensive line coach Mike Solari created it together. Roman is gone, but Solari isn’t. Let Solari build the offense around his running game that ranked top four in the NFL the past three seasons. Let runs open up the passing game, if Colin Kaepernick can learn the passing game — if not, get another quarterback. Put the offensive focus back where it belongs. Make Solari the 49ers’ offensive coordinator.
I hear you squawking over there, imaginary reader. You’re saying the 49ers need a quarterback guru most of all, an offensive coordinator who can develop Kaepernick.
But, that’s what a quarterbacks coach is for. Jeff Garcia is available. Jeff Garcia is a former 49er. Hire Garcia as quarterbacks coach under offensive coordinator Mike Solari and head coach Vic Fangio.
Forget Adam Gase as head coach. Forget him as anything.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.