Question: Do you think it's a foregone conclusion that Hostler will be fired by the end of the season? I think he will go the way of Billy Davis, since somebody has to take the fall for Nolan's neo-conservative offensive game planning, if not Nolan himself. Who do you think is in line to replace Hostler? Will San Diego let Norv Turner go if the Chargers fail to make the playoffs? And will any OC make a difference because the players' talent level just isn't up to par? Keep up the good work, dude!
Answer: I think your instincts are correct, Zeb. Unless the 49ers go 8-0 or 7-1 or 6-2 from here on out, someone has to be the fall guy, and Hostler seems perfectly suited for that whether he deserves it or not. I thought the Falcons game was the best one he's called this season. The 49ers should have put 30 points on the board. Execution, however, failed them in that game. I have no idea what will become of Norv. What I do know, is that Alex Smith and Frank Gore would welcome him back with open arms.
Question: Is Alex Smith the wrong QB for this scheme? When he was drafted, the Niners were a WCO (West Coast Offense) team. With his ability to move and deficiencies as a deep passer, he was well suited to this. Then Nolan changed to Turner's system, best suited to a deep passer who can take a pounding. After a good short-term result in 2006, we have a $49 million player banged up in the wrong system. Maybe he can't do it either way, but this is Nolan's blunder all the way. He is an offensive dunderhead.
Bill, La Canada
Answer: I asked Smith before the season about the two systems he's run. He said he much preferred Turner's to the West Coast because it gave him more freedom. The West Coast, he said, made him feel like a robot. Maybe you're right. Maybe it's like a kid choosing between broccoli and Rocky Road. He'd much prefer the ice cream, but he'd be better off eating the veggies. I think Smith was comfortable with Turner, not so much because of the system, but because Turner was the father figure Smith needed at the time. Turner had had success, he'd mentored a Hall of fame quarterback in Troy Aikman, and he'd been a head coach. In short, Turner was someone a cerebral quarterback like Smith could trust wholeheartedly. I'm not sure that exists with Hostler - not because Hostler is a bad coach - but because he simply doesn't have Turner's experience.
Question: You make a very valid point with time outs and timing. Let's talk about predictability. Is it possible that the offense is so vanilla that they have become predictable? This year's offense lacks imagination. Where does the problem lie? With the Head Coach or with the Offensive Coordinator? Ultimately it's with Coach Nolan but will that be the source or a scapegoat for the inability of the coordinator to be creative in conducting the offense? Excuses such as three coordinators in as many years fall on deaf ears when we are seeing professional players not perform. Who has the problem?
Steve, Round Rock, Texas
Answer: Anyone who reads this space knows that I've been tough on Nolan. I think the franchise has been under an umbrella of caution since he became head coach. However, he's also dealt with some bad luck. Norv Turner was hired by the Chargers late in the season. Nolan didn't have access to top-tier candidates - their teams denied the 49ers interview requests - and he also didn't want to subject Alex Smith and his teammates to their third new offense in as many years. Nolan and co. have eight more games. That's plenty of time for them to climb out of the quicksand they find themselves in.
Question: I have always been a huge Alex Smith fan, as I watched every game of his at Utah. However, I am having difficulty maintaining my fanhood given his NFL performances. One of his many strengths in college was his amazing accuracy. What gives? He has become very inaccurate. Is this thought to be a mechanics issue? Confidence issue? Other? (I suspect it is related to the fact that defenses are much more complicated and aggressive). Lastly, is he allowed to audible or do the coaches rein him in?
Stephen, Portland, Ore.
Answer: He was very accurate all summer long and early in the season. He denied this week that his shoulder was causing accuracy problems in Atlanta, but it's clear that is the cause. The question is whether it's a physical or mental issue. He mentioned that his mental clock went off early on several occasions, causing him to let go of the ball prematurely and miss open receivers. In my opinion, that stems from not trusting the offensive line - and who can blame him? - and trying to avoid another big blow to his shoulder. Smith's biggest hurdle this season will be making that doubt go away.
Question: Matt my friend, now time for the tough question...if you own the 49ers, do you fire Nolan and/or McCloughan? If not, why? If so, who would you look at as a replacement(s)? Also, would you give up, say, a 1st and a 3rd next year to pry Derek Anderson from the Browns to come in and compete with Alex Smith?
Answer: I'm going with the big wimp out, Lebowski. If I own the team, I base my decision on the final eight games of the season. I don't fire McCloughan in any scenario - he's the best personnel man the 49ers have had since Bill Walsh. As for Derek Anderson, his success is largely due to having a great receiver (Edwards) and a great receiving tight end (Winslow, Jr.). I'd hate to give up my No. 1 and No. 3 and have him perform no better than Smith. Also, if I own the team, I really need to draft another outside linebacker, a big, fast receiver, another defensive end and suddenly another o-lineman.
Question: Ok, now that we are going to get to see how the OL does with Snyder & Baas in the starting lineup can we see what a real WR would do? Jackson isn't doing his job and should be replaced, now. If Lelie can't get out of Nolan/Sullivan's dog house at least let the rookie Hill have a shot. While watching the Pats v Colts game I noticed that the majority of snaps were in the shotgun. Any chance Smith will get the same option.
Ken, Salem, Ore.
Answer: Smith's been in the shotgun quite a bit in recent games, especially against the Saints. Hill seems to be creeping closer to the line-up. No indication yet when the gate keeper - Jerry Sullivan - will let him pass.
Question: Matt, what has happened to/with Brandon Moore? Why isn't he utilized more? Have the coaches forgotten his very productive year last year? Has his self-confidence been shaken by the apparent lack of confidence the coaching staff has in him? I'd rather see him on the field more - not the addition of Roderick Green.... Thanks, Paul
Answer: I have no idea why the coaching staff lost confidence in Moore. However, this is a reoccurring theme in Moore's career, no matter the coaching staff and no matter whether it's college or the NFL. So you have to assume that problem is Moore's. After all, he hasn't done much as a third-down rusher.
Question: Hey Matt, Love your blog, man, you always have lots of good info. My question for you is... if the 49ers happen to do bad enough that Nolan either resigns or is relieved of his duties, do you think with the current personnel group that the '9ers are better built for the 3-4 or the 4-3? I keep looking at draft prospects and possible free agents and it always seems so hard to find 3-4 linemen (which the '9ers desperately need).
Answer: Good question, Justin, because it seems as if the roster is in some no man's land between being a 3-4 and 4-3 defense. As it stands now, they don't have enough outside linebackers to be a 3-4. but they don't have enough DE's to be a good 4-3. ... Hence the poor pass rush.
Question: Remember how Tully Banta-Cain took exception to a reference you made about his weight last summer? Perhaps rapid weight loss/fluctuation has something to do with his substandard performance. He has not done anything since we signed him. A major disappointment. He should show up closer to his fighting weight and so he would not have to lose so much in the 11th hours. He should lose the attitude as well.
Justin, Palo Alto.
Answer: Yes, I remember. I believe the offending adjective was "roly poly." What was striking to me was that the adjective was found in an overwhelmingly positive story in which Mike Singletary said he expected a 10-sack minimum from his new outside linebacker. I'm not very good at math but ....
Question: Matt, love your stuff I can never get enough. A questions was asked on Matt Maiocco 49ers blog, do the 49ers have good practices that don't show up on game days? Maiocco's response was they look the same in practice as they do on Sundays. Matt is that really true, and how could Nolan not demand perfection on the practice field? Does not execution equal wins in the NFC West? Or in the NFC for that matter?
Answer: First of all, you are one of the few people to spell "Maiocco" correctly. Excellent job. Now to your question ... I never covered any of the Bill Walsh-led teams, but I'm told that the practice mantra back then was: Never let it (the ball) touch the ground. I can confirm that that is NOT the slogan of the current 49ers. Speaking of TBC, he was on the radio the other day and said he was surprised that the 49ers' offense does not correct its mistakes on the practice field. They simply move on to the next play. I have to agree with him.
Question: Hey Matt, just a quick question about next year as I am not holding out much hope for this team at the time I'm typing this. My question is, who are our restricted, and un-restricted free agents on this team. And, what are we looking at for draft picks (including any extra's for lost players) Thanks
Shannon, Methuen, Mass.
Answer: Because the 49ers were so prolific in free agency this past season, they won't have many compensatories this year. As far as UFA's, the big ones are Bryant Young, Larry Allen, Kwame Harris, Bryant Young, Walt Harris, Marques Douglas and Isaac Sopoaga. The team may offer Sopoaga an extension during the season.