Question: The speculation is killing me. On one hand, you have Denise York hinting at a major organizational shakeup; on the other hand, members of the '9ers front office and coaching staff are highly sought after around the league. Matt, please add some clarity to the situation. Are the futures of Nolan and McCloughan as 49ers independent of each other, or is their fate tied together? Has there been any indication that the Yorks are committed to keeping McCloughan long term?
Answer: The Yorks mostly have been mum on all topics regarding the football side of operations. So, no, there hasn't been any indication that they are committed to keeping McCloughan long-term. I think, however, that they have to at least be toying with the idea of making McCloughan a GM. If another team, say the Dolphins, offers him that position, it might force the 49ers' hand. If I had to guess, I'd say McCloughan is here next season regardless of where Nolan winds up. He's a young up-and-comer and the 49ers would be foolish to let him go.
Question: I have two questions. If Mike Nolan gets fired at the end of the year, who is the best possible coach to replace him? Do you think the 49ers hire a new offensive coordinator, considering that Shaun Hill was able to run the offense better than Smith and Dilfer?
Answer: As far as replacing the head coach, I think it would depend on who else is out there. If Mike Holmgren leaves Seattle, I think he'd be a great candidate because of his ties to the 49ers and because he should be able to whip the offense into shape. He also is familiar with McCloughan. There are also rumblings that Andy Reid could leave Philadelphia after a subpar season on the field and an awful year off it. Another big name is Bill Cowher, although I believe he'll end up in Carolina, New York or Washington. And what about Mike Singletary? As I wrote last week, that would be the easiest fix. As far as offensive coordinator, I think there will be a new one next year no matter who is head coach. Yes, Hill seems to be running the offense more efficiently. But an OC's job is to make sure the offense ticks no matter who is under center.
Question: Why has everyone forgotten that players play the game? We're not loosing because of bad coaching but as a result of poor play. It's very easy to place blame on the coaching staff and ask for Coach Nolan's head. Is it Nolan's fault Trent Dilfer throws Int's and Gore fumbles? Give him a break!!! He's held this team together with his own 2 hands. They play hard and never quit! Why would we cast him aside and not let him finish what he has started?
Answer: Well, that's the in-a-nutshell argument for bringing Nolan back next year. It's what the Yorks will be asking themselves over the next week or so.
Question: Does Jed York or his dad for that matter, know enough about football to determine that Nolan's fourth down calls are from an idiot? Or an individual better suited to be a def. coordinator? He has absolutely no game-day management skills and if he stays, a truly high powered, football sound GM needs to be there to fire him in 2008. Better yet, just hire Pete Carroll and let's move on to '08.
Chris, San Jose
Answer: You didn't ask this question directly, but this is something I've been mulling over in my head lately and it touches on what you're asking. I think it will be very interesting to see how the Jaguars do in the playoffs this year. All the other top-notch playoff teams - New England, Indy, Dallas, Green Bay - are pass-first, quarterback dominated teams. The league very much seems to have evolved this way. The Jaguars, however, are like the 49ers. They're led by a former defensive coordinator and they have a run-first mentality. Can that sort of team thrive in today's NFL? It's something I think the Yorks have to ask themselves as they decide Mike Nolan's fate in the coming weeks.
Question: Why can't we have a Parcells or some other big name gm/head coach? We're definitely in a larger market than Boston or some of the other teams that seem to get all the big name HC's. The Yorks have said they want to get a gm, Parcells just turned down the Falcons job. Why did we not go after him, it makes no sense. The job he's asking for is way more important than GM since he's going to be finding coaches/gm's etc. The 49ers should be offering him whatever he wants.
Answer: While Nero fiddled, Rome burned. That's been a recent criticism of the Yorks, who many believe have been beaten to the punch as far as hiring new coaches. I'm told, however, that they have a plan in place this season and will act quickly and decisively.... But it's also interesting that you picked Boston as the city that seems to attract all the big-name coaches. When Belichick was hired in 2000, many saw him as a mere re-tread. Which just goes to show that that big names don't always make good coaches.
Question: Hey Matt: Can you believe Trent Dilfer is on the NFL Network Pregame show instead of helping his team prepare for the game?
Teddy, Kenner, LA
Answer: Yeah, it's something the Bay Area media - including me - should have hammered Nolan on but didn't. If Dilfer was hired in part to be a mentor, shouldn't he have been mentoring Shaun Hill before his first-ever start instead of basking under television strobe lights? Is that the team-first mentality that Nolan wants from his players?
Question: I noticed in your Thursday report that Michael Robinson was injured. Why was he playing on special teams? Hill is playing with a broken finger, Weinke had only been with the team a few days, and Battle has been limping around with Dilfer and Smith out. Is this another example of poor game-day management by coach Nolan?
Ken, Salem, Or
Answer: Well, if Robinson ever had to enter the game as a QB, I'm not sure he'd be asked to do much more than hand the ball off and throw quick outlet passes. Which is to say that Weinke, even without knowing the offense, and Battle, even though he's not as good a passer, probably would be just as effective under center as Robinson.
Question: If anyone deserves a nickname - or for that matter, more recognition - don't you think it's the 49ers coverage unit? They've been superbad all season long. I wish the Pro Bowl people selected whole coverage units, rather than just punters/kickers.
Answer: I think you just gave the unit its nickname: Superbad.
Question: Matt, I've always thought "brick" was appropriate for Willis' nickname. It's short, and has a visual-kinesthetic connotation: Brick Willis.
Answer: Nice. But it's already taken by Jeff Ulbrich. It would be like two women showing up for a party in the same dress. AWK-WARD!
Question: Patrick Willis = The Bay City Banger
Answer: I think that's more appropo for, say, Wilt Chamberlain or Travis Henry or Tom Brady.
Question: The B-52 is a strategic bomber first used by the USAF in 1955, 10 years after WW II, and is still in use today. The P-52 nickname is also close to the P-51 Mustang which was used in WW II and is a single seat fighter aircraft. Sorry...had to correct your history. Having said that, maybe P-52 is the best name since Willis hits like the bomb payload of a B-52 but is as fast and agile as the P-51!
Patrick, Mission Viejo
Answer: Yes, I broke the man-law code by mixing up my military aircrafts. That's like putting the wrong motor oil in my car or not knowing any lines from The Godfather.
Question: You write about the NFL for a living and don't spring for Sunday Ticket? Really? I bet SacBee would even pay for it. We got Dallas-Philly here in Reno, sucks that my Sac buddies didn't. Just venting, but Brian Westbrook might have cost me a couple thousand in fantasy winnings by laying down at the one. What the eff?
Answer: Why would I spring for Sunday Ticket when I'm stuck in a stadium press box from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every Sunday during the season? It's only this time of year, when games are on Thursdays and Saturdays, that I wish I had it. ... As far as Westbrook - dude, that must have ripped your heart out. You and the other Westbrook owners might have to form support groups after that betrayal. "Hi everyone. My name is Jamie and I, too, am a victim."