Question: Matt, "Does Nolan Need a GM?" was great. As Nolan would say, hiring a GM would be "changing the problem." After reading the Chronicle article, I got the feeling that York is as distressed over the amount of money spent in the off-season as she is over the losses. Do you believe the motive behind hiring a GM, like Paraag Marathe as MM has suggested, is a way for the Yorks to curb spending? Is Marathe even a plausible candidate? I wouldn't mind seeing McCloughan promoted, but Marathe just seems like a corporate (guy) to me. Am I wrong?
Answer: I realize that to a 49ers fan, defending the Yorks is like defending the Sheriff of Nottingham. But since jettisoning Erickson and Donahue in 2005, the Yorks have done everything right. Until Wednesday, they had kept a low profile and let the football people handle the football issues. I'm sure the Yorks are distressed that they spent quite a bit of money in the offseason and that the result is a worse, not better, team than before. But it's hard to call them frugal after the free-agency spending spree.
As far as Marathe - the guy is sharp a tack but still too young to be viewed as a legitimate GM candidate. And I definitely can't see Nolan taking orders from him.
Question: When Nolan says York understands what is going on, what does that mean? Does it mean York understands Nolan stinks as a coach? Does it mean that York understands he made horrible mistake? Can you ask Nolan to clarify?
John, San Francisco
Answer: I think he means that York (and I'm assuming it's John York) understands that Nolan and his staff are trying their best to pull out of their slide. Is that enough to salvage their jobs? I think the Yorks would like to see a few wins before the end of the season before they commit to another year for Nolan.
Question: As the 49ers ship sinks slowly in the west, it seems that Mike Nolan has no clue and no answers for the 49ers problems. Ann Killion of the San Jose Mercury News called for Nolan's ouster in her column on Monday, November 19th. Matt, do you feel that the 49ers need to replace Mike Nolan at the seasons end?
Dennis, Elk Grove
Answer: I think two things: First, that Nolan has done a good job rebuilding a 49ers team that, at the end of the 2004 season, was as talent-starved as any NFL team in recent memory. Two, I think that if they continue down their current path - losing to teams they should beat - the Yorks will have to think long and hard about firing Nolan. If the 49ers finish 2-14 and don't make big changes they will be opening themselves up to that familiar refrain - "The Yorks don't care about winning!" - that they tried to hard to eliminate in recent years. In other words, Nolan needs to win some games in order to make the Yorks decision an easy one.
Question: I couldn't be any unhappier as a first year season ticket holder. It has become clear Nolan is the one to blame. HE SHOULD NEVER HAVE GIVEN TURNER PERMISSION TO SPEAK TO THE CHARGERS. It was crucial for Smith's development as well as Nolan's that the greatest offensive coach either guy has been around stay and build on last year's momentum. Nolan gambled everything by trusting the offense to a first-timer and lost it all. Would you agree? Did we have the right to not allow Turner to interview with S.D.?
Answer: I don't think teams can prevent their coaches from seeking better jobs. That is, if the Chargers wanted to make Turner an offensive coordinator, Nolan could have barred the move. But he was powerless to prevent Turner from seeking a head-coaching job. If there is a criticism, it's that Nolan, knowing that Turner was interested in becoming a head coach again, didn't have a good Plan B.
Question: If Nolan were to be fired at end of season, who would be front runners for head coach and maybe even offensive coordinator
Answer: I think a lot of it will have to do with which other coaches (and their staffs) also get fired. The big name, of course, is Bill Cowher, but I expect him to take an east-coast gig - Carolina (he has a home in that state), New York Giants (huge market) or Washington Redskins (huge salary). If Seattle cuts ties with Mike Holmgren, he might be a great fit in San Francisco because of his ties to Bill Walsh and the West Coast offense. Other names to consider: Mike Martz, Mike Singletary and Dennis Erickson. Just kidding. (I think).
Question: Could you explain Nolan's attitude toward change? Take the offensive line; he won't shift Staley to left tackle even though that appears to be why he was drafted. He won't shift Snyder to left guard and replace Allen, even though he say's Snyder is best suited to guard and Allen isn't in future plans. He won't put Harris back at tackle even though he praised his improvement last year and in pre-season. ...I don't get it.
Answer: Nolan bristles at the suggestion that he's a conservative coach (Hey, look how many times I use the on-side kick!) but he is. Look how long it took him to bring in help on offense. Nolan compared this week's hiring of Ted Tollner to his 1999 stint in Washington when the Redskins brought in Bill Arnsparger to help him with the defense. The big difference: The Redskins hired Arnsparger four games into the season when the Redskins were 3-1. The 49ers finally went to Tollner when it was too late - 10 games into the season when the 49ers were 2-8.
Question: Matt, another question for you. Heard the Mike Silver interview this morning on KNBR. He says even if Smith is 100% healthy this season, he will not start another game. He says the coaching staff is not pleased he went to the media about his injury. He then followed that up by saying he won't be with the team next year. I know Silver from way back when he covered the team so I don't take his words lightly. Do you have any insight on this?
Crab, San Francisco
Answer: Nolan certainly was not happy that Smith went to the media regarding his injury concerns. And yes, there is a good chance that Smith won't play again this season. But concluding that Smith won't be around here next year, in my opinion, is reading the tea leaves a little too closely. People who really know quarterbacks - Mike McCarthy and Norv Turner - believe that Smith will be very good. What he needs is better help - both on the field and on the practice field.
Question: Hi Matt. I love your blog. I'd like to know in your opinion why can't the 49ers get the run game going at all? Please don't say the usual result of defenses "stacking the box". Sometimes Gore has good runs but then nothing Thank you.
Answer: Last year, Gore routinely got to the second level of defenses, made the safety miss, and then was off for a 50-plus-yard run. This year, it's all he can do to push ahead for four yards. Watch tomorrow's game. You'll see that the safeties are more aggressive and they're unblocked as they reach Gore. Which is to say, defenses have adjusted to the 49ers' run game but the 49ers have yet to adjust in turn. The adjustment would be to take advantage of overzealous safeties by throwing downfield. But whether it's poor quarterback play, poor offensive line play or poor receiver play - all of which have cropped up this season - the 49ers can't take advantage.
Question: When a rookie like Jay Moore goes on injured reserve, I know he cannot "practice with the team". But by now Moore (high ankle sprain) probably has recovered sufficiently to begin private (non-team) workouts to improve his pass coverage techniques. Can assistant coaches (or other 49er employees) legally assist Moore re his private workouts? Can those workouts occur at the 49er practice facility? Can Moore sit in on classroom preparations for games (eg, to get the benefit of Mike Singletary's expertise)?
Answer: Moore definitely is a regular at the 49ers facility as he rehabilitates his ankle and he takes part in classroom and film-room sessions. But he can't practice with the team no matter how his ankle feels. As far as private workouts - I'm not sure. That certainly would be hard to monitor, but I don't think there are enough hours in the day for an assistant coach to give Moore private sessions.
Question: Matt, What did the 49ers have to be thankful for on Thanksgiving this year?
Answer: Dunno, but the rest of the nation can be thankful they were spared watching the 49ers on Thanksgiving Day. The 49ers offense + tryptophan = zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Question: Must be difficult to answer questions about the 49ers this season. Absolutely nothing positive, everything negative. I only have to watch, or think about them on Sundays. My question to you is: Are you crazy? Can't you find another job?
Answer: Another job? The market for newspaper journalists isn't exactly bubbling right now.
Question: Hey Matt, I know the season is not over with and I still have faith in the players including Alex Smith to turn this around. But I was curious what you think the 49ers big offseason move will be this next year. Or what free agents might they look at or you think will be a good fit for them?
Ryan, Long Beach
Answer: Well, a lot of potential free agents still might re-sign with their current team. But two guys to keep an eye on Sunday are Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby and receiver Bryant Johnson. Another guy sure to pique Nolan's interest is Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Question: Hi Matt, when you see the Niners practice, do you see life in this team or are they looking the same like Sundays. If they don't execute well in practice it won't happen in the games. Keep up the good coverage, greetings from Austria
Andi, Lunz, Austria.
Answer: I wouldn't call the 49ers' practice sessions "crisp." On offense they look pretty much they way they do in games - nothing like a well-oiled machine.
Question: What is the real story about the Jonas Jennings meltdown? Inquiring minds want to know.
Answer: I only know rumors. And because I won't stoop to being a rumor monger (read: because I don't want to be sued) I won't share them in this forum.
Question: Matt: For some reason I just started to read your blog (which is excellent) and am really learning a lot. I would like to know which sports writers you read? Thanks.
Answer: Well, I grew in the Washington, D.C. area reading Kornheiser and Wilbon. The best pure writer of that Washington Post group is Thomas Boswell. Nowadays, I read all the 49ers writers every day hoping A.) They haven't scooped me and B.) That they may have committed an error/typo that the rest of us can poke fun at all day long.
Question: Matt: Have you noticed a decline in blog traffic since when the 49ers started tanking?
Answer: Funny thing. I've noticed a decline in blog traffic but an increase in Q & A's. After all, this season hasn't raised interest in the 49ers but it certainly raised all sorts of questions.
Question: Matt, keep up the good work. Although I continue to support Mike Nolan, his value and emphasis on consistency seems to too often equate to stubbornness, specifically on offense (e.g. always running behind Larry Allen on short yardage downs). Recently, I came across a quote attributed to Oscar Wilde that gave me pause and I immediately thought of Nolan: "Consistency is the last resort of the unimaginative." Will you share that with Coach Nolan? I'm interested in hearing his take on the quote, as well as your own. Thanks.
Answer: No response here. Just a nice quote.