*Barrows' note: After writing about former kicker Owen Pochman last week, I asked for nominations for the worst player ever to suit up in a 49ers' uniform. Here are some of the contenders:
Question: Worst ever Niner??? That's easy. OJ Simpson. Heard of him?? Cost the Niners two first round picks that turned out to be very early picks. And for what?? Had maybe three decent games, nothing more, then got hurt. Talk about lost years. In 1978, I couldn't give my tickets away, even if I bought them beer at the game. Would rather clean the garage, they would say.
Answer: Sure, but O.J.'s made up for it in his post-football quest to find the real killers, who apparently are hiding out on a golf course somewhere in the greater Orlando area.
Question: Worst Niner ever. For me that is an easy one. He was a GM. I think his name was Joe Thomas. He was just before Walsh. Donahue is right behind him. The difference is Donahue was just inept, Thomas was destructive. And he threw out most of our history. Lucky for us, a worker pulled most of the memorabilia out of the trash and returned it when Thomas left. A note on Pochman, we also had a terrible punter. His biggest problem was holding the ball on kicks. His name was Bill LaFleur.
Answer: La Fleur means 'the flower' in French. Bill LaFleur's punts certainly had "pansy" written all over them.
Question: Hey Matt-- great work as always. I have to agree with Spencer about Lawrence Phillips being worse than Pochman. After all, he is a KICKER. You can't trust a kicker. All of them will let you down sooner or later. How about a fumble that cost us a three peat? Could one play destroy a lifetime of on field achievements? NFC Championship game in the Meadowlands 1990 ROGER COUGHS IT UP. Matt Barr hits a long field goal. Giants win. I'm still bitter. If Craig is not the worst then he's the worst of the GREAT Niners.
Answer: Roger Craig starring in "The Unforgiven."
Question: Matt - do us all a favor and ask Nolan if he is worried about his job. This team (after 3 years of rebuilding) is worse than the Erickson era. No pass rush, big gaping holes in the "3-4" Nolan thinks he knows how to run, no pass protection, no offense (the Rattay pack of college all-stars in '04 looked better) to even speak of. Nolan looks pretty, dresses pretty, talks big, but sucks as a head coach. Let him know the fans (a lot of us) want him fired. Sorry you have to cover this piece of dog doo-doo team every day.
Lebowski, Los Angeles
Answer: With 10 games to go, it's hard to predict what will happen with Nolan. If the 49ers don't win another game, for instance, it will be the end of the Nolan regime. If the 49ers somehow make the playoffs, they'll be minting his image on coins. My guess is that the end result will be somewhere in the middle, 7-9 perhaps, and that Nolan keeps his job. I remember a conversation I had with Jed York this summer in which he seemed to have a very realistic view of the 49ers. He said in many respects the 2006 squad had overachieved and that it was possible that the 2007 version would be better but finish with a similar record. Let's see if Nolan can pull off another mid-season resurrection before we steel-toe him out of town.
Question: Hey Matt, first and foremost, great blog and columns as being on the east coast they are just what I need to keep with my team. Question with my quote, unquote team is that are we falling apart at the seams from Nolan to the players and does this team have enough to make the run like they made last year and maybe build on it rather than blow it away like they again, did last year. Just curious as I hope this isn't going to be another re-building year.
Shannon, Methuen, Mass.
Answer: They should make a run considering that they are more talented than last season and have a favorable second-half schedule. And that run should begin tomorrow against the Saints.
Question: With all of the talk about play-calling this year, I am very interested in Nolan's role in the process. I didn't get to see the recent "mic'ed up" feature on NFL.com. Could you explain in more detail how Nolan was influencing Hostler's play calls on the sidelines?
Tom, Santa Rosa
Answer: The mic'd up segment was only 12 or so minutes long. I'd love to get my hands on what ended up on the cutting-room floor because I think it would be a great look into Nolan's influence/interaction with his coordinators. The snippet that had everyone buzzing last week involved the final drive of the Ravens game. Nolan approached Hostler - and I'm paraphrasing here - and told him that a field goal would win the game. Almost as an aside, he said that Hostler could keep passing the ball if he wanted to. As we all remember, the 49ers' ran the ball on third down to set up a very long field goal that Joe Nedney missed.
Question: I have come around from blaming Hostler for everything to blaming Nolan for what he allows Hostler to call. The half dozen fairly long passes last week seemed to open up the run, especially wide right behind Staley. But Nolan's overcautiousness seems to be intruding on other areas, like playing rookies. Clayton showed explosiveness in the pre-season, but now that Gore may be out they've got two relative slowpokes. Does Nolan always eat the same thing for breakfast?
Answer: I have to agree. I call it the "Umbrella of Caution." And it explains everything from why Alex Smith seems to be lagging behind his contemporaries at quarterback to why Ashley Lelie and Jason Hill have seen scant playing time thus far.
Question: Come back, Kwame! All is forgiven! Did you see Jay Cutler on Sunday night? While Alex Smith is "making progress" as an NFL quarterback, Cutler has arrived...in his second year.
Answer: I like Cutler. Anyone who could stand up behind that string-bean Vandy offensive line a few years ago has to have guts. But it also should be noted that Cutler has far more license to operate in Denver than Smith has had in San Francisco.
Question: It appeared that the OL performed better with Baas & Snyder. What are the chances that they take over at RG & LT?
Ken, Salem, Ore.
Answer: I think the chances are good, or at least better than they've been in years. Snyder will start for an injured Jennings tomorrow while Baas will rotate with Smiley.
Question: Is Kwame Harris getting any time learning the guard position? He's a fine run blocker, fast enough to pull, and his pass blocking inconsistency would be minimized at guard. Robert Gallery is one of several people who've successfully made the switch. Seems like a smart thing to try - but Nolan doesn't seem to do anything the least bit unconventional. Could you ask? Thanks.
Craig, Ben Lomond
Answer: Harris has been seeing time at left tackle, but not guard. That's mostly because the 49ers feel they have very good back-ups at guard in Baas, Snyder and Wragge. They are not as deep at tackle. In fact, Harris will be the No. 1 back-up at both tackle positions against the Saints.
Question: Hi, Matt. I am wondering why Nolan doesn't use his younger backup quarterback, Shaun Hill. He is more mobile than Dilfer. Defenses know they can key on Differ and catch him. A faster quarterback can give receivers more time to get downfield. I have had this question ever since watching Dilfer in his first game. Win or lose they would be more entertaining to watch.
Answer: The answer is that Nolan feels that Dilfer gives the team a better chance to win than Hill. You're right, the 49ers would be more entertaining with Hill under center since Hill is an excellent scrambler. At this point Nolan has more trust in a 14-year player than one who has never thrown an NFL pass. Is he right? Who knows - Hill is an unknown quantity.