The 5 best offensive coordinators in the history of San Francisco 49ers

Which former Niners offensive coordinators should be included in the top five in franchise history?

Let's take a stab at the rankings.

San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren
San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren / RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Historically known for innovative offenses, the 49ers have had some tremendous offensive coordinators over the years, including these five best.

Sure, the San Francisco 49ers have had some legendary defenses over the years.

But the franchise is known more for its offense, specifically after the late great head coach, Bill Walsh, brought his innovative West Coast offense to the Bay Area and turned a downtrodden Niners team into a dynasty during the 1980s, ultimately winning three Super Bowls during Walsh's tenure and influencing two more in the years thereafter.

Interestingly enough, though, Walsh never hired an offensive coordinator during his coaching tenure, which lasted from 1979 through 1988.

So, he gets the credit there and goes down as the best offensive mind San Francisco has ever had in addition to being the team's No. 1 head coach ever.

Who's the best offensive coordinator in 49ers history, though?

In order to be considered for such a list, one actually has to hold the title of "offensive coordinator." That rules out both Walsh and the Niners' current head coach, Kyle Shanahan, who also doubles as the offensive play caller.

Instead, in addition to owning that title, the five best are ranked based on offensive rankings and output, tenure with the team, playoff record and a handful of other X-factors and variables.

5 best offensive coordinators in 49ers history

Unlike head coaches and top player lists, it's hard to put together some honorable mentions when looking at offensive coordinators.

Mike McDaniel, who served under Shanahan as an offensive assistant until getting the promotion to coordinator in 2021, lasted only one year in the role with the team going 10-7 before he accepted a head-coaching job with the Miami Dolphins in 2022.

Greg Roman, meanwhile, served the team under then-head coach Jim Harbaugh between 2011 and 2014, which saw three consecutive NFC Championship game appearances and one Super Bowl.

But Roman's offenses never cracked the top 10 in points scored.

Both at least deserve a mention, though.

No. 5: Dick Stanfel (1971-1975)

Considered the first true offensive coordinator in San Francisco's history, Dick Stanfel oversaw some excellent offenses during the 49ers' first perennial playoff run during the early 1970s, which included offensive standouts like quarterback John Brodie.

Stanfel's offenses finished in the top 10 in points scored twice, and in 1971, the Niners boasted the fourth best scoring offense in the league with Brodie at the helm.

Additionally, those Niners offenses boasted the third best yardage offense in 1971, and Stanfel's passing offenses stayed within the top five over the first three years of his coordinating tenure.

San Francisco boasted a 33-36 regular-season record during Stanfel's tenure and made the playoffs twice, ultimately losing to the Dallas Cowboys each time.

No. 4: Marty Mornhinweg (1997-2000)

It's a narrow gap between Stanfel and the next coordinator on this list, Marty Mornhinweg, who led the 49ers offense from 1997 through 2000, a period of great transition when they were going from a future Hall of Famer in quarterback Steve Young to an up-and-coming Jeff Garcia under center.

Granted, having players like Young and wide receivers Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens helped. But, any time a coordinator's offense reaches No. 1 in yards, it gives an edge.

Mornhinweg's offense achieved that in 1998 while also ranking No. 3 in total scoring.

The Niners boasted the league's best rushing attack in 1998 and 1999, too, and they boasted a solid 35-29 regular-season record during his tenure while going 2-2 in the postseason despite the massive shift under center from Young to Garcia.

No. 3: Marc Trestman (1995-1996)

Marc Trestman might best be remembered for his inadequacies as head coach of the Chicago Bears, but he was actually a fairly good offensive coordinator, including a two-year term with San Francisco during 1995 and 1996.

Like Mornhinweg, Trestman had plenty of star talent at his disposal, but the latter certainly got the most out of it, helming the 49ers' scoring and passing offenses to the top of the NFL in 1995 while staying in the top six in total yards for both seasons.

The 1995 mark of 505 points scored remains a franchise-best total.

Despite a 1-2 postseason record during that span, Trestman's offenses helped the Niners achieve an impressive 23-9 regular-season record over those two years.

No. 2: Mike Shanahan (1992-1994)

There are plenty of similarities between Kyle Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan, who called offensive plays for San Francisco from 1992 through 1994 and helped oversee one of the NFL's most lopsided championship wins when the 49ers took down the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX.

In all three of his years as offensive coordinator, the Niners boasted the No. 1 scoring offense in the league, while the yardage totals ranked first, first and second during that same timeframe.

Again, San Francisco was loaded with talent on offense. But it was a dynamic, balanced attack where neither the offense nor defense fell out of the top six in total yardage.

Overall, Shanahan's offenses helped the 49ers achieve a 37-11 regular-season record, a 5-2 postseason record and the franchise's last Super Bowl victory.

Shanahan's labors ultimately got him back into the head-coaching ranks where he'd win two more Super Bowls at the helm of the Denver Broncos.

No. 1: Mike Holmgren (1989-1991)

Prior to Shanahan, there was Mike Holmgren, who was chosen as the offensive mastermind in the wake of Walsh's departure following 1988 under new head coach George Seifert.

Many view the Niners' 1989 team as the best in franchise history, and it would be hard to argue against it. Not only did San Francisco boast the No. 1 scoring and yardage offense in the league that year, but it also pummeled the Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV the following January.

Denver boasted the No. 1 defense in the league that season, by the way.

Holmgren's offenses never fell out of the top three in scoring over his three-year span, and the 49ers compiled a commanding 38-10 regular-season record while going 4-1 in the playoffs, including the franchise's fourth Super Bowl victory.

After his successful Niners tenure, Holmgren would lead the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl crown after the 1996 season as their head coach.

Offensive coordinator


Regular-season record

Postseason record

No. of top-5 scoring offenses

Mike Holmgren





Mike Shanahan





Marc Trestman





Marty Mornhinweg





Dick Stanfel





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