On Tuesday, when the 49ers announced the hiring of defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s statement hailed Kocurek’s “proven track record,” termed him one of the NFL’s “most respected” at his position, said the 49ers were “excited” to have him and blah, blah, blah.
Of course, this is standard stuff for such a hire. No team-issued press release ever undersells the credentials of the new guy.
That said, there’s little question the 49ers are genuinely enthused about adding Kocurek based on what Shanahan said on Dec. 31. At that time, Shanahan he didn’t anticipate making changes to his coaching staff, but offered a caveat: He might make a move if a superstar was on the open market.
“I mean, if Bill Belichick became available two weeks from now and said he wants to come here, and I was told I had to let someone go to bring him in, that would probably be a smart decision to do that,” Shanahan said. “I’m not going to ever say that (every coach) is just totally safe forever.”
The 49ers thought highly enough of Kocurek to fire Jeff Zgonina, who coached the defensive line the previous two seasons. In the statement, Shanahan strongly suggested the 49ers parted with Zgonina, who he termed a “good football coach,” because Kocurek became a free agent. Kocurek, who spent 2018 in Miami, was unemployed after the Dolphins fired head coach Adam Gase.
Photo: Tony Avelar / Associated Press
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“When he recently became available, we acted aggressively to add him to our staff,” Shanahan said, “because his philosophy, and the style of play he coaches, fits our scheme and personnel very well.”
Kocurek, 40, is quite familiar to 49ers executive Martin Mayhew. Kocurek spent 2009-2017 with the Lions, the last eight seasons as their defensive line coach, when Mayhew served as the team’s senior vice president and then general manager.
In Detroit, Kocurek was promoted from assistant defensive line coach in 2009 when he was 30. And he was one of a handful of assistants who were retained in 2014 when Jim Caldwell replaced Jim Schwartz as the Lions head coach.
With the 49ers, Kocurek will have a role in getting the most from several large investments next season: Solomon Thomas, Arik Armstead and the must-have edge rushers the 49ers are certain to acquire in free agency and/or the draft.
The 49ers invested the No. 3 pick in 2017 on Thomas, who has delivered just four career sacks and spent parts of last year receiving modest playing time. As for Armstead, another first-round pick, the 49ers sound as if they are leaning towards picking up his $9.04 million fifth-year option for 2019. That’s an overpayment for Armstead based on his career resume, but he was an excellent against the run last year and there’s reason to believe he possesses untapped potential.
It sounds as if Kocurek won’t be shy about trying to pull the best from his new charges: The new voice of the 49ers’ defensive line routinely reaches high decibels.
The high-energy Kocurek once required IV fluids to get through a practice, has said he’s “always been a wired-up dude” and his high volume spoke to Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake last year shortly after Kocurek joined the Dolphins.
“He’s a guy that’s old school, hard-nosed,” Wake said. “He’s demanding. He doesn’t bite he tongue. He tells you how it is … I love it. It’s a man’s game and there is no room for softness — especially the D-line. This is not quarterbacks. This is not receivers.”
Say this: The 49ers’ decision to fire Zgonina so they could hire Kocurek sould seem to speak louder than the nice words in their press release.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/49ers/article/49ers-Kyle-Shanahan-Kris-Kocurek-and-Bill-13541959.php.