49ers Blog and Q&A

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

September 3, 2008
McCloughan speaks about the futures of Smith, Nolan, Martz ...

Just got out of a marathon group session with GM Scot McCloughan, who spoke frankly about several topics, including the futures of Alex Smith, Mike Nolan, Mike Martz and J.T. O'Sullivan. Like his head coach, McCloughan is taking a week-by-week approach to the season. But he conceded that there will be some big decisions to make at season's end, even if the team has been successful.

One of them is Martz's future. The 49ers have had six offensive coordinators in six seasons, and Martz has said he wants to become a head coach again. I asked McCloughan if he and Martz have talked about the latter's ambitions and whether he wants to be a head coach again.

"He says he does not want to be a head coach," McCloughan said. "(But) I'd be disappointed if he doesn't want to be a head coach again. Then he's striving to be the best he can be at what he does. And that's call plays. And he's been a successful head coach before in the NFL. Again, that would be a great problem to have at the end of the year. Because it means we've put some stuff up that shows he's worthy of being a head coach.

***** Word just arrived that McCloughan mispoke on this topic. He meant to say that Martz wants to be a head coach. *********

On whether Smith ultimately will find success:
"Don't know. Don't know. I know the one thing about him with his age and what he's been through ... I think it's all going to help him for the future. I still think he's going to be a good quarterback in the NFL. And I hope it's here. But in the NFL you don't know. Especially at that position ..."

On whether Smith was mishandled by the 49ers:
"I know the one thing that first and foremost in my mind is just keeping the one coordinator for him. It would have been great. Who knows where he'd be at right now? Who knows where this offense would be at if we had just one coordinator?"

On whether the team can afford to have Smith around next year if he is not a starter:
"You can't. You can't. That something at any position - the amount of money we're going to invest in him, it would have to be proven that he is the guy going into the offseason; that he is our guy for next year."

On whether there's uncertaintly at the quarterback position no matter what given the fact that O'Sullivan only has a one-year deal:
"Oh Yeah. Certainly. There's no doubt about it. The one thing that would be great about it is if we're still having this discussion at the end of the year about J.T. because that means he's had a heckuva year for us. And that's what we're looking for. That would be a nice problem to have - having to do a new contract with him and keeping him a 49er."

On whether the QB competition was fair?
"I would say it was fair. I would say because they all got snaps on the field, especially with Alex and JT. People want to say, 'Well, JT got the upper hand because he knew the system.' That's fine. Nothing in football is fair. Nothing in the NFL or in life is going to be fair when all is said and done. We've got to go with feel gives us the best chance to win on Sunday."

Is he positive JT is the best option?
"... From a pure talent standpoint, I see something different. But that doesn't matter. You have to go out there with the guy that understands the system and knows how to work the system best."

Is it safe to say that he went in expecting Smith to start?
"I was planning on him being the starter. Most definitely. But I was planning on some other guys starting, too. You can't approach it as who looks best on paper. It's got to be who deserves it, who gets it done on the football field."

How much jeopardy is Mike Nolan in this season?
"I wouldn't say jeopardy. I think we're under fire from the standpoint of we need to win. That's what you get measured by in the NFL. ... I wouldn't pinpoint one guy who's more under pressure than another guy. I think it's important that we all work together and, again, get this thing started in the right direction and get some momentum going."

If the team got off to a bad start -- 1-4, 1-3 -- would Nolan be vulnerable?
"I can't answer that right now. That's all looking out into the future. We're planning on getting off to a 3-1, 4-1 start and going from there. We're living week to week. And that's what you do in the NFL. The bad thing is that you can go out and play a great game on Sunday and lose and still feel like you did if you got beat by 50. It's a tough business to be in. But you're measured week to week. ... Again, we feel positive about the outlook of the season. ... But I don't want to do ifs and buts and all that because it's not worth it right now. Again, we're all in this together and we want to win together."

-- Matt Barrows


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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