Question: Many of us (present company included) have been down on Mike Nolan at one time or another during the season. All in all, I feel like coach Nolan has done a remarkable job as the Niners head coach. One SacBee reader said that coach Nolan sometimes "plays not to lose" as opposed to "playing to win." I did agree with that assessment during the Rams game. If I had to rate coach Nolan on a scale of 1-10 I'd rate him at an '8' and climbing. I'm curious as to what you would rate him at?
- Rick Redding, Sacramento
Answer: Hi, Rick. I think "8" is a pretty good number as well. In my opinion, one of the best things Nolan has done is surround himself with solid people, with offensive coordinator Norv Turner and personnel director Scot McCloughan chief among them. I also like the way he is building his offense around a strong offensive line. This isn't a sexy approach, but it's a smart one. Other struggling teams - the Lions and Cardinals, for example - have concentrated on skill positions and seem to have the same poor record each season. The good teams are anchored by solid and deep lines, and the 49ers presumably will work on building their defensive line this offseason.
Nolan's shortcoming, in my humble opinion, has been game management. As you mentioned, some play calls have been odd and his use of timeouts has been downright atrocious at times. Maybe he's trying to do too much throughout the course of a game. Sometimes I'll look down from the press box when the offense is one the field and Nolan will be in defensive coordinator mode, explaining some alignment or another to the defensive players on the bench. I would imagine it's hard to do that and be in tune with the rhythm of the game.
- Matt Barrows