San Francisco's ownership is thrilled with the early returns and high potential of their new coach/general manager combo of Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, but they came closer than most realize to hiring another dynamic duo.

The 49ers intently pursued Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and esteemed player personnel director Nick Caserio in January and nearly completed contracts with both highly-sought candidates. While much media attention revolved around a potential coupling of McDaniels and former NFL exec and current ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, sources said that never was a pairing, but McDaniels and Caserio very much were a potential package deal for the 49ers.

Both men have been sought for years by other franchises, and while they love working in New England and are discerning about pursuing outside opportunities, the 49ers job was intriguing enough for both to heavily consider. Contrary to the perception that neither would leave as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are there, it's very conceivable one or both could depart in 2018, depending on which jobs are open.

49ers owner Jed York has long been intrigued by McDaniels and Caserio as young, rising stars in this league in their disciplines, and the duo they ended up going with in San Francisco fits that model as well. York has also long been high on Shanahan's brilliant offensive mind and coaching chops, and while Lynch had no prior front office experience at any level, his analytical approach and football beliefs were very much in line with the owner's vision for his rebuilding franchise.