The pitter patter of "Nolan Must Go" complaints has grown to a deluge in recent weeks as the 49ers have dropped three straight and face a very tough contest Sunday against a ticked off New York Giants team. But if you ask me, the flood of anti-Nolan sentiment won't be enough to wash the head coach away. Maybe a blowout loss in the Meadowlands and a meager showing - by both the team and its fans - the following week against Seattle will change things. But for now, I think Nolan's safe. And here's why ...
1. There's a sense in the organization that nothing good will come from making a mid-season switch. Teams who change coaches rarely improve and mostly grow worse. As my colleague Paul Gutierrez pointed out recently, a midseason coaching change usually is tantamount to waving a white flag, and the 49ers still feel they have a shot at a division title in a weak NFC West.
2. The players still seem to be on board. It would be one thing if the locker room had lost faith in Nolan - like it did Jim Hostler last season - and would be buoyed by a change at the top. At least publicly, the 49ers are still behind Nolan. Frank Gore was peppered with questions by the NY media this week about Nolan's tenure. "Coach Nolan is a great head coach and a great guy and I like him a whole lot," Gore said in giving Nolan his full support.
3. Going into the season, expectations for the first eight games weren't all that high. The 49ers had New England, the Giants, Philadelphia and Seattle - twice - in the first eight games. How many of those were circled as wins? The 49ers also were learning a new offense and breaking in a quarterback who until Sept. 7 had never started a game. All of which lends to a wait-and-see attitude as far as what Nolan and the team can do over the second half of the season.
Quarterback Alex Smith had an image taken of his fractured right shoulder today at Stanford Hospital. Team officials say the shoulder appears to be healing on its own and will not require a screw as initially feared. Smith is scheduled to have a comprehensive examination of the shoulder, perhaps by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., prior to the 49ers' Nov. 2 bye week. That examination will determine the course of action on the quarterback's shoulder.
Tackle Jonas Jennings has been ruled out for Sunday's game. Manny Lawson, Mark Roman and Donald Strickland are probable. Lawson is expected to play perhaps his biggest role of the season Sunday as the 49ers counter the Giants smash-mouth offense with their base defense:
"I won't say I'm like the golden child or anything," Lawson said. "All I can say is that I'll bring my A game and whatever is necessary and whatever I need to do, I'll do it. Hopefully over the weeks that we've had and the feelings that we've felt with these losses -- that in itself will carry us to a win."
-- Matt Barrows