49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

January 5, 2008
What went on behind closed doors?

Question: How did Nolan keep his job? Were the '9ers unable to find suitable, willing candidates, or did the ownership think that Nolan actually has a shot to fix this mess?

Justin, Manteca

Answer: I don't know what went on during those meetings. But here's what I would term "educated speculation": Dr. York, a man who is famous for his inability to make decisions, met with Mike Nolan, who is one of the most confident and decisive men in the NFL. Nolan has been working on his argument (It's the offense, stupid) for more than a month and he simply made a case that York bought. I believe that Scot McCloughan made the same case. Why did the decision take so long? It wasn't because York was looking at other candidates and weighing his options. It's because John York is an extremely methodical man who takes his time with any decision.

- Matt

Question: Hey Matt! I was hoping that you could clear something up for those of us who follow the 49ers closely, but may not understand the complexities of what certain titles mean. Nolan is the head coach, but he is having his GM duties revoked. What does this mean? McCloughan will supposedly be promoted to the official GM; how is this role different from his current VP of player personnel?

Ryan, Minneapolis

Answer: Well, that's sort of the rub. McCloughan's role as GM will not differ greatly from his previous role as VP of player personnel. If Nolan and McCloughan got into a tiff over a player, McCloughan would have final say whereas Nolan had it in the past. McCloughan now has the power to fire Nolan but will only do so at York's behest. One change that might come of this: Fewer former Baltimore Ravens added to the roster.

- Matt

Question: Hey Matthew. If Nolan is really coming back as head coach, do you think there will be much changes in terms of game planning, how practices are run and play calling? I kind of predicted before that Hostler would be the scapegoat for the complete and utter failure of Nolan's style of coaching. Do you think the season ticket holders will voice their feelings toward the Yorks' dumb decision to bring Nolan back by not paying to see this train wreck repeat itself again in 2008?

Zeb, Sacramento

Answer: Well, Nolan is still the head coach. He still runs practices, so I don't expect to see much change there. If Nolan brings in a strong OC, maybe he'll have less influence on game planning and play calling (I have two words for the new OC: coaches' booth) but, again, this is Nolan's team. As for whether the season ticket holders voice their concerns, that's up to you guys.

- Matt

Question: Hey Matt, thanks again for keeping me updated on what's going on out there on the west coast. My question is with the hiring of the new OC. Do we have any chance of getting Cam Cameron? But if not and we end up with Chan Gailey, does he have any knowledge in the system we currently have been running or does he have his own and thus making everyone learn another one again. Thanks

Shannon, Methuen, Ma.

Answer: Sure, there's a good chance of getting Cameron. But if I were him, I might wait and see what other opportunities arise before signing on the dotted line in SF. As for Gailey, the guy's been out of the NFL for six years. I don't know what kind of offense he'd bring in (I'm sure that was the first question out of Nolan's mouth Friday) but it probably would be a new offense for Smith et al.

- Matt

Question: Do you think that the recently fired Mike Martz could fill in as Hostler's replacement? Martz faltered in his season with the Lions, but he was tremendous when he was the O coordinator and head coach of the Rams. Does his style of play fit in with the players the 49ers have?

Chris, El Cerrito

Answer: No, I think Martz would be a bad fit for a number of reasons. Martz prefers personnel designed for quick-strike offenses. The 49ers have been built for slow, lumbering, win-the-game-in-the-4th quarter drives. I also think that Nolan and Martz would feud the first time Martz's offense went three and out on three straight incompletions, forcing the defense back out on the field. And Alex Smith and the Qbs should balk, too. Sure, they might put up gaudy numbers. But Martz's quarterbacks absorb a lot of hits. The 49ers set a franchise record by allowing 55 sacks this year. The Lions were right behind with 54.

- Matt

Question: Any news on Alex Smith in all of this? If I were him I'd ask for a trade, even if it meant restructuring his contract. With the 49ers, he will have his 4th OC this year, and possibly a 5th OC next year (when Nolan's fired). Add his feud with Nolan to the mix and I'd get the hell out if it were me. I'm guessing he cares more about being a productive pro than he cares about a few extra $ guaranteed but becoming infamous as another bust. Any way to know what he is thinking or planning?

W Rivers, Denver

Answer: No way to know what he's thinking or planning. He felt a little burned by the media late in the season and has been tight-lipped the last few weeks. But your point is well taken. The loser in all this is Smith, who very likely could be forced to learn a third offense in four seasons. They could make him feel better by drafting a receiver this April or bringing one in this March.

- Matt Barrows

Question: Matt - is Jim Hostler getting any nibbles for employment elsewhere? Regarding your conversation with Cam's agent - why the cloak-and-dagger with these organizations and agents? These guys are unemployed so who gives a crap if we know they are interviewing for a job? Makes no sense.

Lebowski, L.A.

Answer: I have no clue why Cam's agent was so hush hush. From what I've read, he's spoken to reporters plenty of times in the past. Like I wrote, I think he was expecting someone else and I may have startled him. Nothing on Hostler, who, by the way, I think is a good coach who got caught in a bad situation. I do know that QB coach Frank Cignetti, who is very close to Hostler, is interviewing for a job with the Vols.

- Matt

Question: Do you watch The Office? Your comment about Nolan using the same dumb, nonsensical joke on you begs the question: Is it just me, or is Nolan a real-life, football coach version of Michael Scott, the character played by Steve Carell on The Office?

Erik, SF

Answer: Love The Office. My favorite is the episode where Dwight has to pick a health care plan and they trip him up with mythical ailments like spontaneous dental hydroplosion. Is Nolan like Michael Scott? No, Nolan is a supremely confident and very decisive man who doesn't care if he pisses people off or makes enemies. (See: Barlow, Kevan). I think he's a good judge of character and I think he's tough as hell. If I had to compare him to someone - and I know this will sound simplistic - it would be George W. Bush. There really are a lot of similarities between the two men, both good and bad, beginning with the fact that neither of them are really from Texas but both seem to have adopted a Texas twang and a sense that they are modern-day buckeroos. Maybe this is the basis for a future story ...

- Matt

Question: Happy New Year, Matt! Your latest Q&As suggested the starting LB's will be Lawson, Willis, BRIGGS, and SUGGS. Are the chances high of getting those two LBs? The Niners would have one of the best defenses with those guys! Do you think Colt Brennan would be a good draft pick if he falls to say, the 2nd round?

Glen, Sacramento

Answer: I think Briggs will be tougher to get now that he's about to hit free agency. I know he wants to be closer to his home town of Elk Grove, but will a guy tired of playing second fiddle to Brian Urlacher want to play second fiddle to Patrick Willis? Dunno. I do know that the 49ers have plenty of cap space and could land both players if they really wanted to. As for Brennan - I haven't seen a guy get tossed around like that (against Georgia) since Sonny went after Carlo in The Godfather.

- Matt

Question: Hi Matt, I really enjoy your sense of humor in your column along with the inside info you give. Regarding Mike Nolan's "inside joke", do you think it is possibly because you and Matt Maiocco very often run nearly identical blogs at times, title and all, with similar wording, but slightly different? I'm not suggesting plagiarism or anything just my opinion on his twisted sense of humor. By the way do you and Maiocco ever discuss your upcoming blogs or just try to scoop each other?

Randy, Morgan Hill

Answer: I think Nolan targeted us because we happened to be sitting in the front row ... On most days, Maiocco and I get the same info from the same sources and then race back to the media trailer to try to get it up (the information, that is) first. AP writer Greg Beacham, who sits between us, calls it "dueling blogs." Why are the blogs oftentimes so similar? If the news of the day is that Shaun Hill broke his finger in practice, it's hard to have any other headline than "Shaun Hill breaks finger in practice."

- Matt

Question: Matt, has interest in Mike Singletary as a head coach waned? Although I would love to see him back with the Niners, I'm surprised Singletary hasn't been asked to interview in either Baltimore or Atlanta. Is the fact that he has never been a coordinator hurting his candidacy? By the way, I got a good chuckle from your conversation with Cam Cameron's agent. Thanks for the candor.

Terry, Davis

Answer: Yes, I'm surprised, too. But I'm more convinced than ever that Singletary would make a great coach. He genuinely cares about his players and is an excellent communicator, which I've come to realize is vastly more important than Xs and Os. (See: Petrino, Bobby). I think Singletary, with a strong OC and DC, will make some owner very happy.

- Matt

Question: Matt, what about the biggest problem with the defense, the D-line. With B.Y retiring and no real player an opposing offense has to game plan for, what will the 9ers do?

Jose, Rancho Cordova

Answer: Great point. I think Patrick Willis should etch the initials "BY" on his defensive rookie of the year award because a lot of his tackles were made possible by Young and his line mates. I believe the team also will lose Marques Douglas this spring, meaning they probably will bring in two new linemen by the start of the season.

- Matt

Question: Hey Matt, Seriously what goons voted for Beason over Willis? Were they Carolina homers?

David, Athol

Answer: One can only assume. Even if you never watched a single game and looked only at the stats, there's no other conclusion to reach other than that Willis had a better year than Beason. That's the problem with democracy - there are a lot of idiots out there.

- Matt

Question: Any truth to this rumor? "And Tedford has hired former pupil Trent Dilfer as his offensive coordinator and also doubling as the new QB coach."

John, Sacramento

Answer: Trent Dilfer has said on several occasions that he wants to come back next season. The 49ers will try to convince him otherwise.

- Matt

Question: I had a bet with a friend. I bet him that Joe Montana beat every team in the NFL? Who's right him or me?

Scott, Plantation, Fla.

Answer: Him. Ravens. Who's buried in Grant's tomb?

- Matt

Question: How much do the 9ers have to spend this season on free agents? What free agent would WR would you like to see with the 9ers next season?

Jeremy, Balad, Irag

Answer: A lot. Close to $20 million. But there are a lot of teams with space this year. I would like to see the 49ers pursue Bernard Berrian if he becomes available. They should have taken him in 2004. Signing him would be like revising history.

- Matt


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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