SANTA CLARA – You need to know about the 49ers' offensive line coach, Mike Solari.
You may not even have heard of him or seen his face – the 49ers' position coaches don't get much pub under Jim Harbaugh, rarely talk to the media. But if you've studied the sideline during a game and seen a coach with a thick, full gray beard, a coach who looks like the Dos Equis man – the world's most interesting man – that's Solari.
Solari may be the best offensive line coach in the NFL, may even be the best coach on the 49ers' staff, an exceptional staff. Solari's track record is beyond belief:
From 1987 to '88, Solari was the Cowboys' assistant offensive line coach and assistant special teams coach under Hall-of-Fame head coach Tom Landry. From '90 to '91, Solari was an assistant coach for Hall of Fame college coach Gene Stallings at the University of Alabama. And from '92 to '96, Solari worked with legendary 49ers offensive line coach, Bobb McKittrick. Remember McKittrick because I'm coming back to him.
Solari is a Bay Area guy – he grew up in Daly City – and a normal guy, like offensive linemen tend to be. Here's what I mean.
I meet Solari outside the 49ers' locker room at 4:30 on Tuesday after the 49ers finish a walk-through. I walk over to him to introduce myself, but he beats me to it, extends his arm and asks me what my name is.
He suggests an empty office for the interview. He even asks the first question: “How long have you been in the Bay Area?”
I tell him I've lived here my whole life, except the four years I spent at UCLA. Solari gets excited.
“I went to El Camino High School, then I went to the College of San Mateo,” he says, “then San Diego State. I went down to Southern California like you.”