49ers’ coaches have plenty of connections to Lions

49ers’ coaches have plenty of connections to Lions

This story initially appeared in The Detroit News.

By Justin Rogers | The Detroit News

ALLEN PARK, Michigan — NFL coaches, especially assistants, don’t tend to stick in one place for too long. Between promotions and firings, the length of a resume can grow quickly. Add in the growing number of former players on staffs around the league and it becomes easy to find connections between franchises.

But even with that tendency, the San Francisco 49ers have more than the typical number of ties to the Detroit Lions, given no direct overlap between head coaches Dan Campbell and Kyle Shanahan. Here are those connections:

Assistant head coach and running back coach Anthony Lynn

The former Chargers head coach spent one season in Detroit as the offensive coordinator during Campbell’s first year with the franchise. It proved to be a rocky union and Lynn had his play-calling duties pulled late in the season, ultimately leading to Ben Johnson’s ascension into the role.

Lynn has long had a reputation for maximizing run games, and he has done just that, in working with one of the league’s top backfield talents, Christian McCaffrey. The 49ers finished in the top five in both yards per game and yards per carry this season.

Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek

The longtime Lions defensive line coach was part of Jim Schwartz’s staff and was one of the few assistants to stick with the franchise through Jim Caldwell’s tenure. During that time, the team’s front produced some high-end production, led by players such as Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Ezekiel Ansah.

Kocurek’s aggressive, attacking style has continued to produce results in San Francisco, where the team has recorded 44 or more sacks each of the past three seasons, led by 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa.

Linebacker coach Johnny Holland

Holland’s two-year stint in Detroit wasn’t particularly memorable. He started as a low-level defensive assistant in 2004 and took over the team’s linebacking unit in 2005, prior to moving on to Houston, following head coach Steve Mariucci’s firing.

To be fair, Holland didn’t have much to work with during his time with the Lions. The group was paced by 32-year-old Earl Holmes’ 75 tackles in his final season, and the veteran was complemented by Boss Bailey, James Davis and Wali Rainer. Holland has things a little better these days, working with All-Pro Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, one of the best tandems in the league.

Defensive backs coach Daniel Bullocks

A second-round pick for the Lions in 2006, his pro career lasted just four seasons, including two spent on injured reserve. The franchise released him in 2010, and after not finding another NFL opportunity, Bullocks transitioned into coaching, joining Northern Iowa’s staff in 2012.

Bullocks returned to the NFL in 2016 with the Jaguars and has been part of Shanahan’s staff from the start, 2017, first serving as an assistant defensive backs coach. He’s since been promoted twice, first to work with the safeties and now the entire secondary.

Assistant defensive line coach Darryl Tapp

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An NFL journeyman who saw time with six different franchises during his 12-year career. That included a two-year stop in Detroit, where he played 32 games under Kocurek. The two have reunited in San Francisco, where Tapp is in his third season with the franchise.

Quarterbacks coach Brian Griese

Not a Lions connect, but certainly a Michigan one. The former University of Michigan standout, who helped steer the program to the 1997 national title, went on to play 11 seasons in the NFL, making 83 starts.

Griese spent the first decade of his post-retirement career as a broadcaster, before making the switch to coaching, joining the 49ers in 2022. He’s played an instrumental role in the emergence of second-year quarterback Brock Purdy, a seventh-round pick a year ago, who led the league in passer rating this season.