KNBR

Nolan’s demotion not enough

I turned on KNBR this morning and heard the tail end of a Michael Silver interview with Murph and Mac. Of course, this was an interview relating to sports, so Brian Murphy was the one asking the questions.

Murphy was congratulating Silver for getting the scoop on Mike Nolan and I figured: he’s fired.

Gotta be fired.

The winds seemed to be blowing in that direction. The Niners looked so uninspired against the Browns. Even the special teams looked crappy, and the whole team looked like their season effectively ended after beating Tampa Bay and carrying Bryant Young off the field. While on some level you couldn’t blame them, Nolan’s hallmark has been that regardless of what silly mistakes the team makes, at least they play hard.

It wasn’t until about ten minutes later when I heard that Nolan would still be the coach, but Scot McCloughan would be the official General Manager now – Nolan’s boss. The only guy to lose his job would be Jim Hostler.

I have to admit, I was kinda tipsy off the Nolan Kool-Aid when the season started. I even made up a stat that led to my friend Matt and I imagining that Nolan was trying to lead the league in “Coach’s Time of (camera) Possession.”

He definitely likes himself quite a bit, and I like that in a head coach.
But what we all liked in Nolan, that he was so much cooler (at least in his own mind) than Dennis Erickson, got old this year.

The suits went from looking stoic and traditional to representing vanity and pretension. His goatee, which last year would have been considered a masterstroke, looked kind of midlife-crisisish this season.

Nolan has been a mystery to the Bay Area. All of his coaching jobs have been on the East Coast, and most had no idea what he looked or sounded like before he was hired.

I believe in one year’s time Nolan has proven to me that he has gone from the charismatic future of the franchise to a coach that should have been fired. Here are a few reasons why:

1. The handling of Alex Smith
I have no idea how good Alex Smith will be. None. But Nolan was at fault for the media-battle between the two of them.

You would think Nolan would better protect a guy he had drafted. Did he really think that he had an adequate insurance policy in Trent Dilfer?

Nolan, unless he planned to cut Smith anytime soon, should never have gone public with anything negative about him. As the coach he should assert his dominance with the players, but doing it in the media is so harmful to a young player’s progress.

The firing of Hostler will hopefully lead to a more progressive offensive coordinator next season, someone who will actually call plays that accentuate Smith’s strengths. However, unless McCloughan not only has the authority to not only hire the correct person but make sure Nolan stays out of that person’s office, next year will feature the same boring offense Niner fans are getting frighteningly accustomed to.

2. Late-game decisions
Whether it was going for a field goal against Baltimore, not going for the field goal against Cincinnati, going for it on fourth down or not, or several curious timeout calls, Nolan seems to be doing a little too much learning on the fly.

Obviously Nolan has had too much responsibility over the past few years, but shouldn’t knowing what to do in important situations be a given for a head coach?

3. Trent Dilfer vs. Shaun Hill
Why start Dilfer? He not only doesn’t give the team any hope for the future, he also gives them no hope for the playoffs. At the latest Dilfer should have been replaced after his second game.

In all, Nolan has made several mistakes this year, and it is getting almost impossible to point out what he does to cause any sort of optimism. Also, just listening to Nolan’s rambling press conferences alone is almost reason enough to let him go.

Whether taking player personnel power away from Nolan will change San Francisco’s fortunes is questionable. McCloughan used to work in Seattle, he had to know what he was getting in Darrell Jackson, and Ashley Lelie was supposedly his idea as well.

McCloughan at least sounds like he isn’t as full of b.s. as Nolan when I hear him speak, it will be interesting to see if his choice of offensive coordinator can give this team some sort of direction.

That hiring and the draft will help show how much the shuffling of Nolan and McCloughan’s roles will change the 49ers’ fortunes. Was the problem really all Hostler? I don’t think so. Of course, I thought I would hear that Nolan was fired today, so what do I know?

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