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GRANT COHN: The real reason 49ers wanted Eric Mangini

  • Eric Mangini joins the 49ers after two years with ESPN. (Associated Press)

Why exactly did the 49ers hire ESPN analyst and former NFL head coach Eric Mangini as an offensive consultant?

Conventional wisdom says Mangini will help 49ers' offensive coordinator Greg Roman game-plan against opposing defenses. That's what an offensive consultant is supposed to do, and it couldn't hurt the 49ers to have a fresh set of eyes on their offensive game plans, which have been good and not-so-good under Roman and Jim Harbaugh.

But Mangini is a defensive coach – he was a defensive assistant for the Jets from 1997 to 1999, a defensive backs coach for the Patriots from 2000-2004, and the Patriots' defensive coordinator in 2005. If the 49ers believed Roman needed help from a consultant, the Niners would have hired an offensive coach to fill that job. Roman has flaws as an offensive coordinator, but he is light years beyond Mangini when it comes to offensive strategy.

Here is the reason the 49ers hired Mangini, and it isn't for his football acumen. It's for his two-year stint at ESPN.

Think about what Mangini did at ESPN those years. He had ESPN's star power to get him return phone calls from any NFL front office or coaching staff, and he was able to avail himself of ESPN's vast database of analytical statistics and the collective knowledge of Bristol's NFL Insiders – Chris Mortensen, Herm Edwards, John Clayton and Mike Ditka to name a few.

Located in Mangini's brain is an encyclopedia of the NFL's past two seasons, and the 49ers, brilliantly, just bought it. If they could have stuck a zip drive in his ear and directly downloaded his memory bank without hiring him, they would have. Brains don't work like that.

The 49ers are relatively behind the curve when it comes to knowing what the rest of the league is thinking. Since Harbaugh and his coaching staff took over the 49ers two years ago, they have been an insular group.

They have hired no new coaches, meaning they haven't been interviewing NFL assistants, either. Interviewing NFL assistants is the go-to way for NFL franchises to cherry-pick information about other NFL franchises. This is known.

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