49ers key matchup No. 2: Jean Francois vs. McQuistan


49ers key matchup No. 2: Jean Francois vs. McQuistan

Editor's note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Seahawks matchups to watch Sunday, 5:20 p.m. (NBC-TV), at CenturyLink Field, Seattle.

[RELATED: 49ers key matchup No. 3: Crabtree vs. Sherman]

49ers RDT Ricky Jean Francois vs. Seattle LG Paul McQuistan

Tale of the tape
Jean Francois (95): 6-foot-3, 295 pounds, fourth season, LSU
McQuistan (67): 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, seventh season, Weber State

The 49ers called on Ricky Jean Francois, their first defensive lineman off the sideline, in the second half a week ago when Justin Smith was unable to return to action due to a left elbow injury against the New England Patriots.

Smith did not practice this week, and he is not expected to be available Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks. Even if Smith does suit up, Jean Francois will likely be counted upon to play most of the game.

When asked how he feels about Jean Francois' ability to step into the lineup in place of an All-Pro player, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said, "I feel good. I think we all felt good about Ricky Jean and Ray (McDonald), anybody who goes in there. Next guy up."

McDonald and Jean Francois provided big plays for the 49ers a week ago after the Patriots rallied to score four consecutive touchdowns to pull into a 31-31 tie in the fourth quarter. McDonald and Jean Francois produced back-to-back sacks of quarterback Tom Brady as the 49ers held onto the momentum and a 41-34 victory.

Jean Francois is expected to make his fourth career start. And the 49ers' most versatile defensive lineman will be going against the Seahawks' most versatile offensive lineman. Seattle's Paul McQuistan moved from right guard to left guard when James Carpenter went on injured reserve. McQuistan also played left tackle last year when Russell Okung was injured.

Jean Francois' effectiveness can also be measured in how outside linebacker Aldon Smith fares against Okung, who is having an outstanding season at left tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, Okung has yet to surrender a quarterback sack and has been beaten for only two quarterback hits in 13 games.

Aldon Smith has 19.5 sacks through 14 games, just three behind Michael Strahan's NFL record of 22.5 sacks, which he set for the New York Giants in 2001.

Justin Smith, who has made 185 consecutive regular-season starts since his rookie season in 2001 with the Cincinnati Bengals, generally attracts a lot of double teams. He ties up blockers, which benefits Aldon Smith, as well as inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Jean Francois must do a good job in his one-on-one matchups against McQuistan.

After all, Jean Francois said he figures the Seahawks will try to test him with a steady diet of running back Marshawn Lynch coming his way. Lynch has rushed for 1,379 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He gained 103 yards on 19 carries in the 49ers' 13-6 victory at Candlestick Park on Oct. 18.

"I usually get that every game, from the first time I started against Tampa Bay, I know they're going to come at me," Jean Francois said. "Everybody knows Justin Smith is one of the best D-linemen, so they're dealing with a guy who has played or hasn't started. That's the best part about it. They get to come at me."

Jean Francois is scheduled for unrestricted free agency in the offseason, so a strong showing could increase his stock on the open market. But as he prepared this week to start and play every down in place of one of the 49ers' most influential players.

"It would help me, but it's going to help my teammates, too," Jean Francois said. "It's another step closer to having a bye week, winning the division and so on and so on. Free agency? I'm not worried about that. I'm just worried about the season and what I can control right now."

Jim Harbaugh: I deserve a medal for lasting so long under 49ers ownership

Jim Harbaugh: I deserve a medal for lasting so long under 49ers ownership

In Kyle Shanahan’s first breath after being introduced as 49ers head coach on Feb. 9, he mentioned Jim Harbaugh, along with Bill Walsh, George Seifert and Steve Mariucci.

The head coach of Michigan was listening, and he appreciated the gesture.

“It was very flattering that he said nice things about us at his news conference, and I appreciated that,” Harbaugh said on "The TK Show," a podcast from Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group.

“Now, I don’t think I was there long enough to be compared with Bill Walsh or Coach Seifert, etc. But I think did – and correct me if I’m wrong – I think we did set a record for coaching there the longest under the present ownership, if I’m not wrong.”

That is correct.

Since John and Denise York took over control of the 49ers in 2000 from Denise’s brother, Eddie DeBartolo, the 49ers have employed eight head coaches. Mike Nolan was fired after seven games of his fourth season. The two coaches who followed Harbaugh -- Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly -- were fired after 5-11 and 2-14 seasons, respectively.

Harbaugh’s teams advanced to the NFC Championship Game in each of his first three seasons, including a Super Bowl appearance. He and the 49ers “mutually parted ways,” the club announced, immediately after the team finished with an 8-8 record in 2014.

“I take pride in that,” Harbaugh said. “Maybe there should be an endurance medal, a courage medal, for that.”

Shanahan mentioned Harbaugh during his opening remarks at the introductory press conference earlier this month:

“I’ve got to start out thanking Jed and the whole York family. Giving me this opportunity is, it’s a dream come true and it’s not just an opportunity to be a head coach, but to be a head coach at a place like this where you talk about Bill Walsh, you talk about George Seifert, Steve Mariucci, Jim Harbaugh and you can go down the line with the coaches.”

Said Harbaugh, “Just appreciated it. Appreciated it, and not just for me personally, but appreciated that for all the wonderful players we had and the wonderful coaches and the effort that was put in. People poured their hearts and souls into those years. It’s just appreciated that Kyle would make that comment.”

Harbaugh said he has deep respect for Shanahan and new 49ers general manager John Lynch, whom Harbaugh asked to speak to his Stanford teams during his four-year tenure as head coach.

“Yeah, I would’ve loved to have worked for John Lynch,” Harbaugh said. “He reminds me a lot of the athletic director we have here Warde Manuel, who’s also a former player and a teammate of mine. Common sense guys who are team guys, just the way they go about their business always speaks volumes.

“I thought John took note when they were going through the process. e didn’t want his name mentioned and I think that’s . . . I don’t know if a lot of people noticed that, but I think that’s a profound thing. I think that speaks volumes for who he is as a person. He wants to do a good job and it’s for the right reasons. He’s a competitor at the highest level, so I have great respect for that.”

Kawakami also asked Harbaugh about whether he believes quarterback Colin Kaepernick is still capable of being an NFL starter.

“There’s no doubt he can be an NFL starting quarterback,” Harbaugh said.

“I’m sure Kyle, the coaching staff there and John will meet on it, they’ll think about it, they’ll watch, much like we did when we got in there in 2011. And they’ll make the best decision they can for the team and the organization and it’ll play out the way it’s going to play out.”

Lynch's hirings of Peters, Mayhew left no room for Gamble

Lynch's hirings of Peters, Mayhew left no room for Gamble

During the month the 49ers had no general manager or head coach, Tom Gamble was the next-highest-ranking football official and was charge of the personnel department on an interim basis.

But CEO Jed York made it clear from the beginning Gamble, whom Trent Baalke promoted to assistant general manager just prior to the start of training camp last summer, would not be considered for a promotion to general manager.

John Lynch, with no front-office experience, was hired over Arizona’s Terry McDonough and Minnesota’s George Paton. Before Lynch’s introductory press conference, he hired two top lieutenants in the personnel department to usurp Gamble on the organization's power structure.

On Wednesday, the 49ers announced what had become inevitable: Gamble was leaving the organization.

“I must thank Jed, the York family and the entire 49ers organization for the wonderful memories they provided me and my family, but it is time I move on,” Gamble said in a statement. “This past month, I have had the pleasure of working alongside John Lynch and the talented staff he has assembled. The team is in capable hands and I wish them nothing but the best.”

Lynch’s first move as general manager was to hire Adam Peters away from the Denver Broncos to serve as 49ers vice president of player personnel.

Lynch worked alongside Peters when Lynch took part in Broncos meetings and prospect evaluations, which included a trip to the NFL scouting combine, prior to the 2013 draft.

“That month, month-and-a-half, I actually sat next to Adam every day,” Lynch told CSNBayArea.com. “Those are long meetings. I’d listen to him and we’d talk in between about players. I just saw way back then, he’s a guy who’s highly respected in the league. I firmly believe in two, three years, he would’ve been a GM. He was on that track, at least.”

During Lynch’s introductory press conference a week later, he announced the hiring of Martin Mayhew as senior personnel executive. Lynch and Mayhew were teammates in the secondary for Lynch’s first four NFL seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Mayhew spent seven seasons as Detroit Lions general manager. Mayhew should be able to provide Lynch with valuable counsel as learns on the job after spending the past eight seasons as a TV analyst on FOX.

“Martin has sat in the seat as a general manager and his experience will play an integral role in helping us locate the type of football player we want representing this organization both on the field and in the community,” Lynch said.

Gamble recently completed his 29th NFL season and his 10th with the 49ers in two stints. After he was fired as Philadelphia Eagles vice president of personnel late in the 2014 season, and came back to the 49ers in the 2015 offseason.

While with the Eagles, Gamble was one of the few individuals in the front office who worked well with Chip Kelly. Gamble played an important role in speaking up for Kelly and bringing him to the 49ers last offseason.

Kelly and Baalke were fired after the 49ers' 2-14 season, and the 49ers promoted the ability to create a fresh start when a new coach and general manager. While the 49ers were expecting Gamble to remain with the organization through the draft, his spot with the organization was going to be tenuous with a new regime.

“He is a class act who has helped a great deal in this transition, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him,” Lynch said in a statement. “After working together over the last month, Tom and I agreed that it would be in both of our best interests for him to pursue other opportunities.”