Niners name Manusky defensive coordinator

Updated: February 1, 2007, 5:08 PM ET
Associated Press

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers hired San Diego linebackers coach Greg Manusky as their defensive coordinator Thursday.

Manusky, who played 12 seasons in the NFL, spent the last five years on the Chargers' staff, where he worked on one of the league's top defenses. He spent the previous season with Washington before following coach Marty Schottenheimer to San Diego, where they ran a 3-4 defense similar to the scheme favored by 49ers coach Mike Nolan.

"I'm just excited to be part of an organization that's building something now. It's an up-and-coming situation."
-- Greg Manusky

After a nine-hour job interview Monday, Manusky emerged as Nolan's top choice despite no previous experience as an NFL coordinator.

"I'm just excited to be part of an organization that's building something now," Manusky said. "It's an up-and-coming situation."

Manusky replaces Billy Davis, who was fired last month after two seasons. Nolan, a longtime defensive coordinator for four NFL teams, was heavily involved with preparing the Niners' defense, yet still dismissed Davis when the unit yielded an NFL-worst 412 points in 2006 after giving up 428 in 2005.

Nolan plans to allow Manusky to call the 49ers' defensive game plan, hopefully relieving himself of some Sunday stress. Manusky has never called a game before, but Nolan is confident in his ability to pick it up quickly.

"I wanted to get an NFL-experienced guy into the job -- someone that had been around it, seen it, done it the right way," Nolan said. "We will continue to collectively put a game plan together, but that will be Greg's call. I think he's got a great mind to do it."

Nolan chose Manusky over Jaguars assistant Dave Campo, former Lions assistant Donnie Henderson and 49ers assistant head coach Mike Singletary, who is a candidate to fill the Dallas Cowboys' head coaching vacancy.

San Francisco offensive coordinator Norv Turner is considered the front-runner for that job in Dallas, which could mean Nolan will have to replace his top three assistants from his 7-9 team. Al Everest was named the 49ers' special teams coordinator last month after Larry Mac Duff left to become assistant head coach at the University of Texas.

The Cowboys aren't expected to choose a coach until after the Super Bowl.

"I've spoken with Norv since he got back [from Dallas], and it's still gray," Nolan said. "I'd love to know one way or the other, so I know what I've got to do. I would have to guess -- and only guess -- that he's the leading candidate."

Nolan also lost offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy to the top job with the Green Bay Packers last season -- a remarkable track record for a club with just 11 wins in the last two seasons.

"We've got a plan in place," Nolan said. "If something happens, I guess we'll just create a situation where anybody who wants to be a head coach should come and be our coordinator."

Despite Nolan's lengthy career as an assistant, he never coached with either Davis or Manusky before hiring them. But Nolan got a glowing recommendation for Manusky from San Diego defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, Nolan's former boss with the Denver Broncos.

Manusky was a special-teams standout during his playing career with Washington, Minnesota and Kansas City, playing in 113 consecutive games at one point. He recalls Vikings assistant coaches Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin first encouraging him to pursue a coaching career.

Manusky was thought to be a top candidate to replace Phillips -- another candidate for the top job in Dallas -- or Manusky might have become Phillips' defensive coordinator with the Cowboys.

"The last couple of years, Coach Wade, I've been asking him for advice," Manusky said. "I've been trying to take that next step and [looking] at it from the perspective of a defensive coordinator. Even though I haven't called any [games], I've been training myself for the last couple of years."

The 49ers also signed safety Keith Lewis to a three-year contract extension. Lewis, a longtime special-teams standout known as a heavy hitter, started San Francisco's final nine games and made 72 tackles.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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