In the 1996 comedy "Mars Attacks," aliens have just destroyed Congress when the President - Jack Nicholson - goes on tv and tells the country, "I want the people to know that they still have two out of three branches of government and that ain't bad!" I was reminded of that scene today when Mike Nolan said Vernon Davis is "good at two out of three" things a tight end needs to do well. It's that third component - catching the football - that needs work.
The last two games have exposed a lot of problems with the 49ers. The fact that Vernon Davis has had a grand total of one catch in the last two weeks probably isn't in the top 5 in terms of issues. But it's symptomatic of a bigger question, and that's whether the 49ers overall are any better this year than their previous reincarnations. Davis had the same issue last year - that he was being used far more as a blocker than a receiver. The belief was that Mike Martz - who utilizes his personnel as well as any offensive coach - would finally find a way to unleash Davis' big-play potential. After all, a team doesn't draft a player sixth overall to help out as a blocker.
Asked whether Martz was using his personnel properly, Nolan said, "I believe in most cases, yes, in some cases ... Mike and I speak regularly about what we're going to do with certain guys. As you also know, he's getting to know some of the guys as we go along ..."
Asked specifically about Davis, Nolan noted that he is a great run and pass blocker, giving him two out of three attributes.
"To utilize your .... speed, it's better with the ball in your hand than it's not, otherwise you're just running fast and it looks good. So the objective is to get the ball in his hand at that time. You can do it with pass routes, you can do it different ways. He has the responsibility to himself to run the correct routes. You get the ball that way better. But by no stretch would I say he's a bust. Like I said, he is good at two out of the three. He will get better at the third part."
Nolan also was adamant about the progress made this season:
"This team is better from a personnel sta ... comparing it? There's no question. ... Were at 2-3 in this (fourth) year. I don't know where we'll end. Alright, we need to do better right now. I would expect us to be at least a game or two better than we are right now from a record standpoint, so we'll see where that takes us. But there's a lot of football left as we all well know between now and the end of the season."
The two-game losing streak - as well as the 49ers' imposing immediate schedule - also is raising questions about whether Nolan will last through the bye week. Asked about his job security today, Nolan said:
"I'm always - every day I'm doing that," Nolan said when asked if he was coaching for his job. "If you're 5-0, you're coaching for your job, so that doesn't change. That's just the nature of the beast so to speak."
The 49ers only injury of note remains Michael Lewis' sprained right elbow. The injury should not prevent him from facing his former team, the Eagles, on Sunday.
-- Matt Barrows