Niners interviewing Henderson for defensive posts

Updated: January 13, 2007, 9:21 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Eight-year veteran assistant coach Donnie Henderson, fired as defensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions two weeks ago, will interview over the weekend for a similar position with the San Francisco 49ers. On Friday, 49ers coach Mike Nolan interviewed Jim Tomsula for the defensive line coach job.

The vacancies were created when Nolan dismissed defensive coordinator Billy Davis and defensive line coach Gary Emanuel two days after the season ended.

Henderson, 49, has been in the league since 1999 and has been a coordinator the last three of those years. He was the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets in 2004-2005 and then for the Lions in 2006.

The fiery and often outspoken Henderson was fired by Lions coach Rod Marinelli because of differences in philosophy and because of Detroit's poor play as well. Henderson prefers an aggressive, blitzing style of defense, while Marinelli favors the "cover two" scheme he helped coach for years in Tampa Bay.

Detroit statistically ranked No. 28 in total defense in 2006. Marinelli last week hired his son-in-law, former Tampa Bay linebackers coach Joe Barry, as his new coordinator.

Finding the right man for the coordinator job is key for Nolan. If his personnel allows, Nolan would like to continue the transition to a 3-4 front, a scheme with which Henderson has some experience.

A former Utah State defensive back, Henderson spent 15 years coaching at the college level before joining the Baltimore Ravens' staff as secondary coach in 1999. Henderson and Nolan worked together on the Ravens' staff for three seasons.

Tomsula, 39, has extensive experience working with defensive linemen and spent the last four seasons in the NFL Europe League. He was head coach of the Berlin Thunder the past two seasons.

San Francisco is also seeking a special teams coach after veteran NFL assistant Larry McDuff last week left the 49ers to become assistant head coach at the University of Texas.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.