So Alex Smith has been placed on injured reserve, ending his season and what will most likely be his career as a San Francisco 49er. I shudder to think of what might have been for this kid had he been placed in a situation that was even somewhat manageable, ala Aaron Rodgers, Phillip Rivers or even Jay Cutler.
Some are going to look back and say that McNolan made the wrong choice in 2005 taking Smith over Rodgers and those people would be dreadfully incorrect in their assessment. It’s not about the player taken with the #1 overall pick in that draft, it never was.
It’s about the head coach. It’s about the revolving door at offensive coordinator that was allowed to be in place without a single agonizing thought about what it might be doing to the franchise player’s career.
It’s about the four different offensive systems that Smith had to learn in four seasons even after his college coach, Urban Meyer made the statement that, “he’s not a guy that you throw the ball out there and tell him, ‘Go play.’ He wants to know what is exactly expected of him and then he becomes a dynamite player.”
Smith sadly, was never given that chance. He was never extended the opportunity and time to learn what was expected of him in the four systems he was forced to learn on the fly.
Looking back at the debacle that has been the Mike Nolan regime in San Francisco it is truly clear that the situation could have and should have been drastically different. It wasn’t however and this is the legacy that Nolan will leave when he is unceremoniously fired either before the season ends or the moment it does.
“Rollin’ with Nolan” once meant that the team, its coaches and fans were standing behind the man who was tasked with righting the ship that was so wronged by the befuddled Terry Donahue and Dennis Erickson.
There were high hopes as Nolan said all the right things, made all the right moves (or so it appeared) and basically pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes. Most notably John York’s. In fact Nolan continued to do so at the end of last season when he, after two days of meetings emerged from the owner’s office to announce that he was retaining his position as head coach of the team. Albeit with reduced responsibility, York at least seeing that the power monger needed to be reeled in just a tad, a move for which he should be commended .
However deciding to hold on to Nolan for one more season was miscalculation in its own right.
The more important aspect of the cataclysmic events which have pushed this franchise ever farther to the deepest depths it has ever seen is that changes need to be made. In fact they need to be made sooner rather then later.
If it is a given (and it almost certainly is) that Nolan will be fired at some point in 2008 then it should be done with haste and with nary a glance in the rearview mirror. There is talent on this team, more so then many pundits would care to admit. It can have a winning season, but only if the move is made to get the appropriate man to lead it into battle.
It’s one thing for the fans of a team to lose their patience and belief in what the head coach is trying to accomplish, it’s another thing entirely when team insiders and players share the same sentiment. At this point I’m not sure if anyone has a clue as to what Nolan is hoping for other then making an effort to save his job which makes him not a man with the team’s best interest at heart but instead one who is hell-bent on his own desires.
If Mike Nolan had a heart and actually cared about the team and its fans then he would simply step aside and allow someone who knows what they’re doing to take over. Someone like Mike Martz for example, a man who is familiar with what it takes to win in this league.
There were two sequences in last weeks game where it was speculated that Nolan overruled Martz on his offensive play calls. The first came at the end of the second quarter when, facing a fourth-and-one the 49ers lined up to attempt the conversion. With the play-clock hitting zero it appeared that J.T. O’Sullivan would be called for a delay of game however the officials ruled that a timeout had been called beforehand.
In typical Mike Nolan fashion, playing not to lose instead of to win, the field goal unit came out and Joe Nedney converted the kick for three points. The second occurrence took place with the team facing a third-and-seven towards the end of the game. DeShaun Foster ran up the middle for six, the drive ended with another Nedney field goal.
The latter play is the more glaring of the two in that on a third down play like this Martz would have undoubtedly called a pass play, which he most likely did only to be overruled by Nolan. This might have something to do with the fact that Martz who almost always makes himself available for post-game questions disappeared from the locker room without speaking to anyone.
If in fact Nolan did pull rank on Martz and disallow him to make the calls in either of those situations that alone (at least in my mind) is reason enough to out an end to his tenure in the city by the bay. Martz is a renowned offensive mind and should be given full autonomy to call the plays as he see’s fit.
Nolan even iterated that this would be the case when training camp opened saying, “Mike [Martz], as I’ve said many times, has a great command of the offense. He’s had a lot of success as a head coach and as an offensive coordinator, and I respect that.”
If this is to be believed then Nolan has to relinquish control of that side of the ball to Martz and allow him to make the decisions at which he is so adept. Nolan should concentrate on defense, which is supposed to be his strength, although some would dispute even that.
If Nolan is intent on keeping his job past this season then he needs to learn when to keep his ego in check. Vetoing Martz’s play-calling on the opening week of the season was nothing more then him thinking that he knew better then someone who has been studying and immersing himself in offense since he came into this league.
Nolan’s actions need to be nipped in the bud immediately and someone near to the team needs to tell him so, which is highly unlikely being that no one else wants to lose their job either.