Just watched one of the most frustrating losses in recent history for the 49ers, and there’s been a plethora of frustrating losses to choose from. I really don’t feel like talking about J.T. O’Sullivan and how he alternates between great passes and bonehead plays. Nor do I want to go on about how the only 49ers who can cover anybody are Takeo Spikes and Patrick Willis.
No, I want to talk to Mike Nolan about challenges, and how his use of them should lead to, if not his firing, at least hiring some sort of assistant whose sole responsibility is clock/challenge management. And his name better not be Paraag Marathe.
We saw Nolan challenge a meaningless 6-yard play in New Orleans a couple weeks ago, where if the 49ers even won the challenge (they didn’t), the only thing that would have changed is instead of the Saints having 2nd and 4 at the middle of the field, they would have been at 2nd and 10.
So Nolan, what have we learned? Don’t challenge the ruling of a catch by the other team unless a first down is at stake.
In the first quarter today, the Eagles had a 3rd and 2 at the Niners’ 29. Hank Baskett made a 16-yard catch that obviously hit the ground and would have definitely been overturned. Did Nolan and Marathe challenge it? No, because 6-yard receptions are far more important than 16-yarders in the red zone, I guess. My head hurts. Four plays after the non-challenge, Correll Buckhalter runs for a 1-yard touchdown.
So Nolan, what have we learned? If a challenge could mean the difference between a field goal and a touchdown, it might be a good idea to use it.
Today Nolan did something I had never seen before when he challenged a made field goal by Eagles kicker David Akers midway through the fourth quarter. There’s a reason I’ve never seen a made field goal challenged — the two officials UNDERNEATH THE UPRIGHTS have a better angle on field goals than squinting coaches on the sidelines. Nolan threw the red flag anyway, the kick was good, and the 49ers subsequently lost a challenge and left themselves with only one timeout with 7:46 remaining in the game, a contest they still had a chance to win until J.T.O. started handing the ball over to the Eagles like a drunken Sage Rosenfels.
So Nolan, what have we learned? Don’t challenge made field goals with over 7 minutes remaining.
Listen Mr. Shiny Suit, you’re lucky that across the bay live the Oakland Raiders, who today became sudden favorites to end up with the No. 1 selection in the draft for the second time in three years. And Nolan, if you play your cards right you might be coaching in Oakland next season, where Al Davis will call all your challenges for you! As a certain local right fielder would say, that’s what I call a Winn-Winn situation.