Question: What's your feeling on the Justin Smiley situation? It seems he is looking for a huge payday with this next contract. And with the number of offensive linemen getting contracts upward of $40 million to $50 million the last couple of years, I can't say I blame him. What are some numbers talked about contract-wise you might be familiar with? Is this a case of the Niners wanting to see one more injury-free year at a bargain salary then sign him? Or if they don't plan on keeping him, is it cause of David Baas or are they just being cheap?
- Jason, Sacramento
Answer: I don't know the exact numbers that were discussed, but I'm sure Smiley wants a deal that is at least as good as the one Eric Steinbach et al got ($18 million guaranteed) this offseason, and I'm sure the 49ers' offer was a fraction of that. Barring a rash of training-camp injuries, I doubt any team will pony up a second-round pick for Smiley simply because he becomes a free agent at the end of the season. And I also doubt the 49ers will try very hard to retain him. I don't think you can call the 49ers cheap anymore, especially after their free-agent spending spree this past March. However, I don't think they want to break the bank on a guard. As you mentioned, Jason, the team has David Baas waiting in the wings, and Scot McCloughan believes that there are plenty of quality guards available in the later rounds of every draft. I personally like Smiley a lot. He's a great guy to interview because he loves to talk. He's athletic, enthusiastic and last year's shoulder injury proved he can play though pain - something that not every member of the team's offensive line can do.
- Matt Barrows
Question: Virtually everyone sounded deflated when Norv Turner was lured away by Dallas. How does the fact that Alex has three different offensive coordinators in as many years affect his progress in 2007? I read that the quarterback coach who is now the offensive coordinator will carry on and not change any of Norv's playbook, which means that Alex will not have to learn again a new terminology and that this will be a plus. But also, he does not have an offensive coordinator's experience in the NFL. What is your evaluation of this situation?
- Vince, Rocklin
Answer: There's no question that the 49ers would have much rather kept Turner, who, after all, has built a fantastic reputation in the league not as a head coach but as a groomer of young quarterbacks. How much his departure will affect Alex Smith is hard to say because Turner's replacement, Jim Hostler, has never been an o-coordinator. What I can say, however, is that Mike Nolan appears to be a very good judge of coaching talent and that he picked Hostler for the job. In other words, one has to defer to Nolan's judgment on this one.
- Matt Barrows
Question: I think Coach Nolan has done an excellent job of turning the team around and was a great hire by Dr. York/the owners. Will the Yorks give Nolan a contract extension or work on a new contract after this season?
- Paul, Roseville
Answer: That's a great question, Paul. Nolan is signed through the 2009 season, but if he makes the playoffs this season, as promised, you certainly could argue that he is outperforming the terms of said contract. My guess is that the Yorks will wait to see if Nolan makes good on his playoff plans this season before talking about a new deal.
- Matt Barrows
Question: Matt, I have a question that may not be appropriate for the 49ers blog, and it would be fine if you just e-mail me instead. Your bio indicates you grew up in Virginia and so you are probably a long time Redskins fan. My best friend is Charles Mann. I have met Art Monk through Charles several times, and we have played golf together. I watched Art and Charles play their entire careers. I think Art should definitely be in the Hall of Fame, but I don't know about Charles. What do you think about Charles and Art?
- Kevin, Sacramento
Answer: I met Charles Mann once - probably in 1984 when I was 10 years old. I grew up across the street from Darrell Green, who was tight with Charles. All the neighborhood kids loved Darrell because a) he was the NFL's fastest man, and to a kid, being the fastest was the most important thing in the world, and b) he would always play pick-up football with us. He also would play pick-up basketball in our driveway, and Charles was once of the guys he brought over for a quick game. But to address your question, I think it's a travesty that Art Monk isn't in the Hall of Fame yet. It's almost as if voters are penalizing him for being a soft-spoken, team-first player - that is, the polar opposite of most receivers nowadays. As far as Charles Mann, my heart says vote him in, but my head says he hasn't done quite enough. Hall-of-Fame voting revolves around stats, which for a defensive end mean sacks. Charles' sack total is fantastic, but probably not Hall-of-Fame caliber. I think Dexter Manley has better numbers.
- Matt Barrows
Question: Since Mike Nolan and his staff have taken over the once-sinking 49ers, the team is beginning to rise. Most of the deadwood is gone, the cap problems have gone away, we now have some decent free-agent help, and the drafts are providing much-needed help. Matt, what are your observations about what Mike Nolan and his staff have done? What areas does Mike Nolan need to improve himself as a coach, if any?
- Dennis, Elk Grove
Answer: At the risk of sounding like a fawning Nolanite, I think Mike Nolan has done a fantastic job at rebuilding this team. I don't think I'm exaggerating (much) when I say that the roster he inherited in 2005 was collegiate in terms of talent. In fact, it was a running debate among the reporters in 2005 as to whether USC was better than San Francisco. His judgment when it comes to picking players, coaches and front-office guys (Scot McCloughan especially) has been excellent, and he seems to have just the right mix of discipline and likeability. The players love him. If he had to improve something, it would be his game-day coaching. Nolan may have tried to take on too much his first two years (he was the de facto D-coordinator, after all). He seems to have realized he should take a step back and concentrate on the team as a whole.
- Matt Barrows