49ers Blog and Q&A

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

October 18, 2008
Q&A: Nolan's fate debated

Question: Matt, if the 49ers decide that Mike Nolan needs to go, then why not fire him mid season? Statistics show that firing a coach mid season does not produce necessarily positive results. However so far Nolan hasn't provided too many positive results either. I guess what I'm asking is...does it really matter when they let him go? Let him go mid season and it at least shows the fans that the Yorks are trying.
I'm an NFL ticket subscriber just for the Niners games. It's starting to look like I wasted my money. I just want hope.
Jason, Fairbanks, AK

Answer: Jason poses the best rationale for changing coaches midseason. Chances are that a switch won't spark a long winning streak and a run to the playoffs. But it would be a signal from the owners that they are just as fed up with losing as their fans. It would show solidarity. So far we haven't heard a word on the subject from John, Jed or Denise York (and trust me, it's not because the media haven't asked). I didn't understand the silence last year when Nolan's job hung in the balance and I don't understand it now. There is a huge disconnect between 49ers fans and the owners. Talking about big issues can only bridge that gap.
- Matt

Question: Hello Matt, I am a diehard 49ers fan but I am so frustrated with this season. Do you think the Yorks will fire Nolan this season? He just has not got the job done and is full of lame excuses. I say FIRE NOLAN and hire Singletary. I am here in Atlanta and see a less talented team than the Niners get the job done. The difference is coaching. Mike Smith of the Falcons has those boys playing lights out. I say let's make a change now while the division is still up for grabs.
Wayne, Atlanta

Answer: If I had to guess, I'd say the Yorks will not make a change during the season. I haven't spoken with the Yorks, but I have talked to others in the organization. The impression I got was that there's a sense that nothing good would come from a mid-season switch. The Yorks gave Nolan the benefit of the doubt after last season; I'd imagine they'd do the same at the bye this year.
- Matt

Question: Why are the Niners so scared of drafting playmakers? They passed on pretty much every WR in the draft and a lot of good pass rushers too (i.e Groves, Merling etc.) And why didn't they draft a QB to fit Martz system? And why aren't they more aggressive now that the current roster is so obviously overmatched?
Jens, Gothenburg, Sweden

Answer: It's the "Umbrella of Caution" at work, Jens. Playmakers have a risk/reward dynamic and the 49ers' brain trust usually always settles for the safest route. Martz, of course, is the exception, which is why so many people - including me - were surprised when he was hired. There's a growing sense that for the 49ers to be successful they have to be as aggressive on defense as Martz is on offense. So far the two units have been polar opposites.
- Matt

Question: Do you think Mike Martz's play calling in 4th quarter was part of the reason the 49ers lost? Do you know how many turnovers J.T. O'sullivan averages a game?
Ray, Sacramento

Answer: Yes. Roughly two.
- Matt

Question: Matt, Why were they so aggressive with pass plays when they were up 26-17 and even 26-24 in the 4th qtr? Gore already had 90 yards on only 16 carries. Why not sustain a drive? It really got away from them at this point. Thanks.
Steve, Culpepper, Va.

Answer: This is the flip side of being aggressive. It's almost as if Martz has an uncontrollable urge to show off a fancy passing play instead of going with the more rational call. It seems like after every loss, an offensive player will say something like, "If we had just held onto a block a little longer, that play was a touchdown for sure. He was so wide open." That's probably true and Martz probably points that out in the film room. But at some point in the game, you have to forgo the "genius" play and settle for the smart one.
- Matt

Question: Perhaps you can shed light on this? Right before halftime, as Andy Lee was getting ready to punt inside a minute, Nolan was looking at his watch (not the stadium clock) for the longest time (watch the Fox broadcast). Then, there was a delay of game. What does Nolan have on his watch that could be so fascinating?
Mike, Montclair, NJ

Answer: Perhaps he caught sight of his own reflection. "Who is that handsome devil on my watch face?"
- Matt

Question: What are their immediate plans to fix up this over-priced defense?...we give up way too many 3rd down conversions and both run and pass defenses are horrible. Will they be looking to pick up some help before the end of the trading deadline? and don't let me get started about this big sub -d.
Chris, Honolulu

Answer: As you saw in the Eagles game, the 49ers have gotten back to basics on defense, scrapping the Big Sub for their base alignment. This ought to get Manny Lawson and the underrated Parys Haralson on the field more.
- Matt

Question: Hello Matt, Love the blog! Thanks for giving me my 49ers fix over here in Texas. I would like to know if any ex players (Steve Young, Brent Jones, Bryant Young etc...) have wanted to return to the 49ers in a coaching position. Steve Young always talked highly of what it took to be a 49er and how important it was to keep the legacy alive. He also ran the offense with a true understanding of what it took to win the game. Would he been thought of as a possible replacement on offense? Thanks again.
Steve, Austin, Texas

Answer: No one works harder or longer than the coaches - it's a gritty, grinding job that totally consumes a person. Compare photos of Nolan just before he accepted the Niners' gig to how he looks now. The position ages you the same why the Presidency withers those who hold that office. What I'm getting at is that most ex-players - Jones and Steve Young, e.g. - have too cushy a lifestyle to want to get into coaching. Bryant Young, on the other hand, is a grinder by nature and has expressed a desire to get into coaching. I'm not sure where that quest stands at the moment ...
- Matt

Question: Alright Matt its only 5 minutes into (the Eagles) game and I can't take my eyes off of how poorly Franklin is playing, he is pushed so far off the line on every play - the TV announcers have already mentioned it twice. Oh, and don't get me started on Nolan not challenging the first down "catch" by Baskett - which was so clearly a drop! No big deal though, it only led to a touchdown rather than forcing a field goal attempt.
Derek, Sacramento

Answer: Maybe we should have a feature called "Tuesday Tirade." The best rant (or rave) gets posted Tuesday morning. Please, no F bombs ...
- 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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