49ers add Ken Norton Jr. as assistant head coach for defense

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan had to rush to build his coaching staff after being hired in February of last year. By the time Shanahan took the job, most of the available known quantities had already been hired elsewhere.

But Shanahan had no such disadvantages this offseason as he heads into his second season as the Niners coach. On Monday, Shanahan added some more experience to his staff in hiring Ken Norton Jr. as assistant head coach/defense and inside linebackers coach.

Norton won't have to travel far to join the Niners staff after spending the past two and a half seasons as the Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator. He also should feel right at home given that he spent seven seasons as a star linebacker for the 49ers, helping them to a win in Super Bowl XXIX.

“Ken brings a great deal of knowledge and experience to our team, having spent more than two decades as a NFL player and coach,” Shanahan said. “Throughout his coaching career, Ken has developed a tremendous understanding of our defensive system, making him a perfect fit for our staff. With four Super Bowl titles on his resume, including one as a 49er, Ken knows firsthand what it takes to become a championship-caliber team.”

As Shanahan mentioned, Norton should have no issue fitting in with the Niners' defensive philosophy. Before working for the Raiders, Norton spent five years as linebackers coach with the Seattle Seahawks. There, he worked with current 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. Saleh and Norton both believe in and have implemented a similar defensive scheme and will continue to do so with San Francisco.

In addition to adding Norton, the Niners also moved Johnny Holland from linebackers coach to run game specialist/outside linebackers coach and Michael Clay from a strength and conditioning assistant to special teams assistant.

At Shanahan's end-of-season press conference last week, he said he didn't expect any changes to the coaching staff unless some of his assistants chose to leave for other opportunities. Shanahan indicated that some members of the staff had already received interest from various colleges. Monday's move didn't seem to have any correlation to that so much as a chance to add another experienced voice to the staff.

Still, it's possible there will be a few more minor changes as other teams and colleges round out their coaching staffs.