Hiring a first-time general manager is one route the 49ers are exploring in their search to replace Trent Baalke.

Chris Ballard and Nick Caserio, the respective player personnel directors for the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots, emerged Monday morning as interview candidates, according to multiple reports, including the Sacramento Bee.

Although the next general manager likely will be tasked with hiring the 49ers’ fourth coach in four seasons, the 49ers have a small window to interview assistants who are in the playoffs, so it should be no surprise they’re among three teams linked to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Fox Sports reported that McDaniels will interview with the 49ers, Los Angeles Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars, doing so from the Patriots’ facility in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

The Patriots and Chiefs won their respective divisions. Two hours after finishing a 2-14 season with a home loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers confirmed they had fired Baalke after seven seasons as personnel czar and Chip Kelly after his first season as coach.

McDaniels was the Denver Broncos’ coach from 2009-10. He balked at the 49ers’ overtures two years ago.

Beside Caserio, another possible GM candidate with links to McDaniels and the Patriots is Scott Pioli, who worked in the Patriots’ personnel department from 2000-08. Pioli spent 2009-12 as the Chiefs GM, and he’s been the Atlanta Falcons assistant general manager the past three seasons. Pioli was at Levi’s Stadium on Wednesday scouting the Foster Farms Bowl.

Also, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted that Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is among a group of candidates both the Rams and the Chargers have requested to interview.

BILLS: Owner Terry Pegula has full confidence in General Manager Doug Whaley’s ability to turn around his franchise, and outlined the reasons Coach Rex Ryan was fired in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.

Pegula says he’s disappointed in having to change coaches after only two years, but says he had no other choice to fire Ryan after the Bills’ defense showed few signs of progress during the season.

VIKINGS: Adrian Peterson said he believes he’s fit to play several more seasons in the NFL, even if that’s elsewhere from Minnesota.

The 31-year-old Peterson finished his 10th season with the Vikings with only 72 yards on 37 rushes over three games.

After surgery on the torn meniscus in his right knee, Peterson returned for one game only to be sidelined again for the last two weeks because of an aggravation of the injury.

TEXANS: Coach Bill O’Brien says he doesn’t know who will start at quarterback for Houston in its wild-card playoff game against Oakland on Saturday.

Tom Savage started Houston’s last two games after Brock Osweiler was benched. But Savage’s status for this week is in question after he suffered a concussion in the second quarter of a loss to Tennessee on Sunday.

CARDINALS: In what Coach Bruce Arians called “great news,” running back David Johnson’s knee injury is not serious and will not require surgery.

An MRI showed Johnson has a left MCL sprain that would require 6 to 8 weeks of rest and rehabilitation.

RAIDERS: Oakland signed quarterback Garrett Gilbert to the practice squad ahead of its first playoff game in 14 years.

Gilbert spent time on the Raiders’ practice squad last season and was cut by the team in the offseason.


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