The 49ers have hired Mike Solari as their new offensive line coach. He replaces Chris Foerster, who signed with the Washington Redskins.
Solari, 55, rejoins the 49ers and brings more than 20 years of NFL offensive coaching experience to San Francisco, after having previously served as the tight ends/assistant offensive line coach for the 49ers from 1992-96 under legendary coach Bobb McKittrick. Solari most recently spent two seasons (2008-09) as the offensive line coach for the Seattle Seahawks. Under his direction, tackle Walter Jones made the Pro Bowl in 2008.
Following his initial stint with the 49ers, Solari spent nine seasons as offensive line coach for Kansas City (1997-2005), three of which came under current 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye (1998-2000), who held the same position for the Chiefs at the time. With Solari directing the Kansas City offensive line, the team averaged 126.8 rushing yards per game, ranking fourth in the NFL during that time span.
The Daly City, CA, native was promoted by the Chiefs to offensive coordinator in 2006. During his 11-year tenure in Kansas City, the team finished in the top 10 in rushing on seven occasions, in the top five four times, and ranked 6th in the NFL in total offense (359.2 yards per game) over that span. Solari was one of just six assistant coaches in team history to record more than a decade of service with the franchise.
Solari’s line produced a trio of Pro Bowl offensive linemen in 2004 and 2005, in guards Will Shields and Brian Waters, as well as tackle Willie Roaf. Kansas City became the first club to accomplish that feat since Dallas from 1993-96. Thanks in part to his strong line, the Chiefs offense led the league in total offense in 2004 (franchise-record 418.4 ypg) and 2005 (387.0 ypg).
While with the 49ers from 1992 to 1996, Solari was largely responsible for the development of tight end Brent Jones, who made four Pro Bowl appearances, and was instrumental in the team’s successful Super Bowl XXIX season.
Solari began his NFL coaching career with the Dallas Cowboys in 1987, where he was the assistant offensive line/special teams coach for two seasons. He moved on to the Phoenix Cardinals for one season, working with Gene Stallings before joining him at the University of Alabama (1990-91).
His coaching career began at Mission Bay (CA) High School in 1976, followed by stints at Mira Costa Junior College (1978) and U.S. International (1979). In 1980, he helped lead Boise State to the NCAA Division I-AA Championship. He also spent time at the University of Cincinnati (1981-82), Kansas (1983-85) and served as the offensive coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh (1986).
A former offensive lineman at San Diego State, he was a teammate of Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards and Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox.
Solari is married to wife, Patti, and the couple has three children, Tamara, Stephanie and Michael.
SOLARI’S COACHING HISTORY
YEARS COACHING BACKGROUND
2008-09 Offensive Line, Seattle Seahawks
2006-07 Offensive Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
1997-05 Offensive Line, Kansas City Chiefs
1992-96 Tight Ends/Assistant Offensive Line, San Francisco 49ers
1990-91 Offensive Line, Alabama
1989 Offensive Line, Phoenix Cardinals
1987-88 Assistant Offensive Line/Special Teams, Dallas Cowboys
1986 Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line, University of Pittsburgh
1983-85 Offensive Line, Kansas
1981-82 Offensive Line, University of Cincinnati
1980 Offensive Line, Boise State
1979 Offensive Line, U.S. International
1978 Offensive Line, Mira Costa Junior College
1976-77 Offensive Line, Mission Bay High School
It’s nice to have Solari with the team with his connection to Bobb McKittrick.
Head coach Mike Singletary conducted with the interview with Solari’s wife Patti. Singletary was also looking forward to interviewing Larry Mac Duff and his wife for the then vacant special teams coaching position.
Below is the transcript for both Singletary and Scolari’s conference calls.
Head Coach Mike Singletary
On whether former offensive line coach Chris Foerster was one of Singletary’s assistants who was contacted by other teams:
On whether he expected to lose Foerster:
On whether he’s surprised that Foerster went to Washington:
“Yes, it was.”
On why he granted permission for the Redskins to interview Foerster if Singletary wished to retain him:
“I’ll tell you how it went. First of all, I was contacted by our office here that said that Washington wanted to [inaudible]. And I said, well, at what position? It would be a lateral move, and I said no. That was my initial response. So, I was done with it. I got a call from Chris Foerster later on that really expressed that his family is out there, out east. He loved it here, loved what we are doing, but if there was any way to be closer to his family, he’d really appreciate it if he could do the interview and go from there. I think, for me, his family is important. Family is very important. It’s something that I talk about. I could not not do that, give him the chance to be closer to his family. He’s got a kid in high school, senior last year – all that sort of thing. So, I granted it.”
On whether his family being out there dates back to the time when Foerster was with the Ravens:
On how he was able to get Mike Solari so quickly:
“It’s really interesting how it happened. Mike Solari is a guy who, when I was interviewing for head coaching jobs around the league, he was my No. 1 guy. The fact that I would be able to get him at this juncture and how this happened is really amazing. I think it’s a win-win situation. When I talked to Chris this morning, I just told him that I believe things work out for a reason. I told Chris this morning, best of luck to you, and I hope everything goes well. I had an interview set up with Mike Solari and my wife and I felt like that would be – everything would work itself out.”
On whether he interviewed him last year when he was looking for an offensive coordinator:
“No sir, I did not.”
On whether he wasn’t given permission by the Seahawks then:
“I didn’t ask to do that.”
On what he likes about Solari as an offensive line coach:
“Well, first of all, I like him as a person, first of all. From there, I like the fact that where he’s been, the experience that he’s had, and I guess he’s really done a great job when I look at his track record. I think he knows what I’m talking about, in terms of the physicality that I’m talking about bringing, in terms of the mental make-up that I would like to have as an offensive line because everything starts with the offensive line. I think he understands that very well and I talked to him a few times, and there’s a lot to like about him.”
On whether physicality is a part of Solari’s background:
“Yes it is, particularly when he was at Kansas City. He had a very physical offensive line there, very mentally tough, dominating-type of an offensive line. The fact that he has experience as a coordinator, the fact that [offensive coordinator] Jimmy Raye is familiar with him, I think it’s an ideal situation.”
On whether he will be accompanying the rest of the staff to the Senior Bowl:
“Yes sir, he will.”
On whether he will get to have a say on who the team picks in April should it target an offensive lineman:
“He will get to have an opinion, yes.”
On whether any other members of his staff are garnering interest elsewhere:
“Yes, but I don’t want to get into names. Basically, I’ve declined those, just as I did Chris, and we’re moving forward with what we have.”
On how much input offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye had on Mike Solari from their three years together in Kansas City:
“Well, first of all, I had already contacted Mike Solari, and Jimmy was calling after I had talked to Mike, initially made contact with him, and Jimmy was calling to make me more familiar with him. I just told Jimmy that I knew about him, and he was my No. 1 guy when I was interviewing for o-line guys. So, I just kind of helped Jimmy understand that I had a good idea of who he was and what he was about.”
On what he means by “when he was interviewing o-line guys:”
“No, being interviewed as a head coach.”
On whether he is referring to his interviews for other head coaching jobs around the league:
On whether Solari would have been his No. 1 choice:
“He would have been my No. 1 choice.”
On how he knew Mike Solari so well back then:
“This is a small league, and I think even though there are 32 teams, you just kind of get around as you’re asking people, ‘Who does good work?’ And, you look at the film, word of mouth and that kind of thing. Got to know Mike and talked to him a couple of times. So, that’s kind of how it happened.”
Offensive Line Coach Mike Solari
On whether he is in Santa Clara:
“Yes I am. I am in Santa Clara, yes.”
On when he interviewed with Coach Singletary:
“I interviewed this morning with Coach Singletary.”
On whether he had made contact prior to this with Coach Singletary at any point about joining his staff if Coach Singletary were hired as a head coach:
“Yes, we had. When I was in Kansas City, we spoke and I always really admired Mike from afar and I always looked forward to the opportunity to work with him. I was excited about the possibility when he was up for some different head coaching jobs in the NFL.”
On whether it was for offensive line or offensive coordinator:
“It was for offensive line.”
On how their styles and philosophies mesh:
“I think in the sense that we understand that the most important part of the game are the big people up front on the offensive line being able to be physical and come off the line of scrimmage together and being able to orchestrate as one. I think we are very similar in the sense of understanding, in the sense of fundamentals and techniques win championships. It’s a matter of those five guys coming together and orchestrating as one.”
On how familiar he is with what the 49ers have on the offensive line:
“I know that the offensive line – the San Francisco 49ers have some young offensive linemen and it is exciting for an offensive line coach to have those men to be able to coach and get them to play at a level they want to play at. I’m really looking forward to coming in and working with them with their techniques and fundamentals.”
On working with former 49ers offensive line coach Bobb McKittrick in the mid-90s and what he takes from him and whether what he did then is still applicable today:
“The key thing about Bobb, he was a great line coach. It was great to work with him. I learned quite a bit from Bobb. The thing about Bobb was the details and how no stone was unturned. It was the little things and the blueprint of building a championship and the blueprint of building an offensive line unit in the sense of technique, fundamentals, crowd their sled, development of offensive linemen into very good football players. I learned a lot from Bobb and I still use those fundamentals today, in working with the offensive line, no matter where I’ve been, whether it be Kansas City or my time in Seattle, Bobb was a tremendous coach and person.”
On whether there are similarities between what the Chiefs ran with Jimmy Raye and what the 49ers do here:
“I believe so. Jimmy Raye is an outstanding football coach and he has tremendous knowledge in the game. I was really fortunate to work with Jimmy those many years and learned a lot from him. Again, he loves the power running game very much, like Coach Singletary. Being physical at the point of attack, coming off the line of scrimmage and again, Jimmy is the same, in the sense that he understands you win with technique and fundamentals.”
On whether the personnel matches up with what the Chiefs had a decade ago:
“I think it’s a little bit different. I think the San Francisco 49ers line has a little bit more youth that needs to be further developed. When I was at Kansas City, we had [T] Willie Roaf at the end of his career and we had a little bit more of an offensive line with a [G] Will Shields and a [C] Casey Wiegmann, [G] Brian Waters was the young player then. Here, there’s more youth on this offensive line and like I said, it’s kind of exciting to come in and being able to coach some of these young guys, like a [T] Joe Staley and [G] Chilo [Rachal] at the right guard position. I’m looking forward to working with them.”
On how many times in the past he has taken a high draft pick and turned them into a starter on the offensive line:
“We did it this year. Most recently would have been this year with a young man named [C] Max Unger out of the University of Oregon. We drafted him in the second round and started him at right guard and the last three games of the season, we moved him from right guard to center and that would be the most recent one, in the sense of starting a rookie and developing him and getting him up to speed. We had [T] John Tait at Kansas City, a first-round draft choice. He came in, we started him at LT and again those guys are always learning on the run and you try to get them as familiar with the offense as possible with the techniques that you need to be successful at this level and they are always kind of behind because they are always learning, but that would be most recent.”
On how he was let go from Seattle:
“The actual fact was I met with Pete Carroll and Pete was bringing in Alex Gibbs and it was something that Pete felt strongly about in the sense that he had Alex come by USC every year to work with the coaches. They talked about the schemes, like the wide zone and the tight zone, and Pete decided if he got another job in the NFL he would hire him. So, Pete told me that he was going to hire Alex Gibbs as the offensive line coach and if I’d be interested in staying as the tight ends coach. My love is the offensive line and I think my strength is coaching the offensive line, so this was something I wanted to do. It was a great opportunity here with Coach Singletary and I’m very fortunate how things worked out and it was a great opportunity for me to be back here and I really appreciate the York’s for giving me the opportunity to come back and be the offensive line coach with the San Francisco 49ers.”
On how much input he will have in devising the run game:
“Well, I have to sit down with Jimmy Raye and again, whatever Jimmy needs to be successful, I’ll do and again, the most important thing is we are all pieces of a puzzle put together as a staff and our job is to make sure that Jimmy has whatever he needs to be able to call the game that he needs to call up to win and that will be decided by Jimmy Raye and what he needs done by me on my part.”
On how much, percentage-wise, he incorporates zone and man blocking techniques:
“Well, what happened this year with Coach [Jim] Mora, we went with the theory that it was going to be -we were going to go with zone blocking, wide zone and tight zone, to answer your question. I guess what I should be saying is, you need a little bit of both, the wide zones, the tight zones, [inaudible], but also you need to be able to run a power scheme, have man blocking and variations. Now, with more teams going to the 3-4 front, you need some variation because the wide zone, what they are doing is taking away the wide zone and you are seeing that from the 34 front teams they are biting those outside linebackers and they are penetrating them up the field where your back can’t press the line of scrimmage and get a good cut off that first step which is very, very important in the wide zones. You need to change up the variations of your blocking scheme and you need to do what the strength of your personnel is with your runner and your offensive line.”
On what the 49ers strength is right now:
“Again, I need to do more work and look at the film. Again, the offensive line is a group of young men that are talented with some different things. But again, that’s something that Jimmy Raye is right on top of and he is an outstanding coach. He’s on top of that with what their strengths are and so forth. That’s where I need to get caught up to speed, watching some film on these guys and then also having some suggestions on what I think, what I believe that they can do, but Jimmy Raye has a great deal of that.”
On one of the needs on the team being a tackle and whether he would like to have some input on who they draft:
“Yes, I’ll give my input, but again, it’s up to Mike and how he wants to utilize it. I’m sure they’ll give me some offensive linemen to evaluate and it’s my job to evaluate them. It’s my job to have a very good feel of the offensive linemen here and to be able to insert them where they would fit, in the sense of, they are better than this player here and not as good as these players here and be able to insert them and be able to make a statement that I believe they can improve the offensive line or this guy is a starter, I’m sure they would take my reports and understand what I’m trying to say on the reports and being able to evaluate the offensive line and how I see them.”
On whether it’s accurate that Coach Singletary and his wife Kim talked to him:
On whether that was the first time that he had ever been evaluated by a head coach’s wife:
“I enjoyed it. I enjoyed her company. I enjoyed her being a part of it. It was great. My wife was there also. It was special. It was special for my wife. On my part, Patty, my wife, they’re such an important part of the profession. They work so hard and they literally raise our families because of the hours that we invest as a professional coach, just like all coaches at different levels. It’s unbelievable what these wives do to be able to do a great job in our home.”
On how old his children are:
“Tamara is our oldest. She’s 24 years old and she’s up in Seattle with us. Stephanie just graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois, she’s 22 and then Michael is our youngest, he’s going to Missouri-Rolla and he’s 21.”
On being an empty nester at this point:
“Yes, how about that?”
On whether that was the first time that a prospective employer had his wife interview him:
“Yes, as a matter of fact we were telling Coach Singletary the last time Patty was invited, we were interviewed by Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys. Patty wasn’t able to make it because we had our oldest Tamara, but yes.”
On the interview being this morning:
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