The San Francisco 49ers are in the midst of transition and change as an organization/franchise when it comes to trying to fill a vacancy at the head coach and general manager positions, respectively. Having said that, who’s been the one consistent face on the sidelines? Running back’s coach Tom Rathman…
Niners Live discusses why the new 49ers’ head coach needs to keep Tom Rathman on his coaching staff. We’ll recap and highlight his resume, credentials, and why Coach Rathman needs to be retained.
Tom Rathman rejoined the 49ers as the team’s running backs coach in 2009 after serving the previous two seasons in the same capacity with the Oakland Raiders. It marks Rathman’s second coaching stint in San Francisco, having also coached the running backs for the team from 1997-02.
The 49ers did not miss a beat in the rushing game throughout the 2015 season. Despite an injury to RB Carlos Hyde, RBs Shaun Draughn and DuJuan Harris were brought in midseason where Draughn registered career-bests in both rushing yards (273) and receiving yards (176) during his six games with San Francisco.
Under Rathman’s tutelage, RB Frank Gore solidified his reputation as one of the NFL’s premier backs after rushing for over 1,000 yards in 2014 (1,106), marking the eighth time he has surpassed 1,000 rushing yards in a season in his career.
The San Francisco rushing attack averaged 136.0 yards per game in 2014, fourth-best in the NFL. The team also averaged 4.6 yards per carry, tied for the third-highest mark in the league.
In 2013, Gore recorded his franchise-record seventh, 1,000-yard season finishing with 1,128 yards on the ground which ranked 9th in the NFL. Gore’s nine rushing touchdowns were his highest since 2009 and his 71 career touchdowns rank third in franchise history. The rushing offense ranked in the top-5 in numerous categories in the NFL including first in 20-plus yard runs (20), third in rushing yards per game (137.6) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (18).
In 2012, Gore finished the season with 1,214 rushing yards to rank fifth in the NFC and 10th in the NFL. The team finished the year ranked fourth in the NFL with 2,491 rushing yards (155.7 yards per game) behind Gore, FB Bruce Miller and the league’s best offensive line.
In 2011, Gore was selected to his third career Pro Bowl as he became the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, again surpassing Hall of Famer Joe “The Jet” Perry. Gore also became the first player in franchise history to rush for over 100 yards in five consecutive games. Rathman also played a key role in developing starting FB Bruce Miller as he made the transition to the offensive side of the ball after starring at defensive end in college. The offense finished the season with the league’s eighth-best run game.
Gore was having one of the best seasons of his career in 2010 before being placed on Injured Reserve with a hip injury. Despite playing in only 11 games, he earned Pro Bowl recognition as an alternate at season’s end. At the time of his injury, Gore ranked fifth in the NFC in rushing yards (853) and second in yards from scrimmage (1,305).
A year prior, Gore became the first player in 49ers history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in four seasons (2006-09), as the fifth-year veteran posted 1,120 rushing yards and a career-high 10 rushing touchdowns on the season, despite missing two games due to injury. For his efforts, Gore was named an alternate for the 2010 Pro Bowl, and eventually played in the honorary game. He also was twice named NFC Offensive Player of the Week (2 and 14).
While with the Raiders, Rathman oversaw a rushing attack that ranked 10th (124.2) in the NFL in 2008 and ranked sixth (130.4) the year prior. Rathman played an instrumental role in developing RB Justin Fargas, who rushed for 1,009 yards in 2007 and 853 yards in 2008.
Prior to joining the Raiders, Rathman served as the running backs coach for the Detroit Lions from 2003-05. In 2004, Rathman tutored RB Kevin Jones, who rushed for 1,133 yards, including an NFL-leading 825 yards on 153 attempts (5.4 yards per carry) over the final seven games of the season. Jones’ performance in his first NFL season was tops among rookies in the NFL that year and the best rookie season by a Lions running back since RB Barry Sanders in 1989.
During Rathman’s first coaching stint with the 49ers, San Francisco’s rushing attack finished in the top-10 among NFL teams in five of the six seasons under his guidance, including top-ranked seasons in 1998 (159.0) and 1999 (130.9), to go along with a second-ranked unit in 2001 (140.3).
In 2001, Rathman was instrumental in guiding RB Garrison Hearst, the two-time NFL Comeback Player of the Year, to his second career Pro Bowl selection. He coached RB Charlie Garner to his second consecutive 1,000-yard season and his first career Pro Bowl selection in 2000 after gaining 1,142 yards on 258 carries and a career-high seven touchdowns. Garner also eclipsed his career-highs with 68 receptions for 647 yards and three touchdowns.
Prior to his coaching career, Rathman enjoyed an NFL playing career of his own that spanned nine seasons (1986-94) as a fullback. He entered the league as a third-round pick by San Francisco, where he spent the first eight years of his career helping the 49ers capture two Super Bowl Championships (XXIII and XXIV) and seven NFC West titles. Rathman played his final season in the NFL with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1994, closing out his NFL career with 2,020 rushing yards, 320 receptions for 2,684 yards and 34 total touchdowns.
In between his playing and coaching career in the NFL, the Grand Island, NE native helped rebuild the Menlo College (CA) program by serving as the team’s offensive coordinator in 1996 after serving as the running backs coach at Serra High School in San Mateo (CA) in 1995.
A three-year letterman at Nebraska, Rathman rushed for 1,425 yards and averaged more than six yards per carry.
Rathman and his wife, Holly, have three daughters: Nicole, Alexandra, and Samantha. Via the team’s website.
Allow me to leave you with this:
Rathman exemplifies a model of consistency in which his running backs’ group has improved every year and set career highs under his tutelage. In 2016, Carlos Hyde rushed 217 times for 988 yards while averaging 4.6 yards a carry and six touchdowns, all career highs, via ESPN.com. Rathman is known as one of the top running back coaches in the league, if not the best and is well-respected amongst his peers. Rathman has played and coached for a multitude of coaches, personalities, styles, and schemes.
NFL head coaches under whom Tom Rathman has served:
- Steve Mariucci, San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions (1997-2005)
- Art Shell, Oakland Raiders (2006)
- Lane Kiffin, Oakland Raiders (2007-2008)
- Mike Singletary, San Francisco 49ers (2009-2010)
- Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers (2011-2014)
- Jim Tomsula, San Francisco 49ers (2015)
- Chip Kelly, San Francisco 49ers (2016)
If there’s a Hall of Fame for a class act, experience, attention to detail, toughness, leader/teacher, motivator, and ultimate professional, Rathman would be a unanimous selection. It would behoove the new head coach and general manager to retain the coaching services of the great Tom Rathman. #eyeswideopen
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