To Keep Nolan Or Not To Keep Nolan… That Is The Question

I recently stumbled across a little internet blurb written by a self proclaimed fan of the San Francisco 49ers. Frank Fusco is his name and in this instance he appears to fancy himself a writer.

As an aside, it would be irresponsible for me to not mention before continuing this that I am not in the business of bashing someone who is trying to get their opinions and or point out in via the internet. In fact it is what I do here myself. That being said however, when I see an opinion that is baseless and comes without any real facts, I feel compelled to defend all that is right and just with journalism.

I will attempt to give the readers of this site some background on Mr. Fusco’s article via the He titled this piece “Mike Nolan Should Stay Put: Five Reasons SF 49ers Should Keep Their Head Coach” First and foremost, as many of you know I certainly don’t agree with this summation and feel that at some point this season Nolan should and will be relieved of his duties as head coach of the 49ers.

Again though, this is not the rationale behind what I am writing now. The explanation as to why you are reading this at the current juncture is because the motive behind his reasons appears to be that he is satisfied with losing and wants to give Nolan “a few more years” even if that means not making the playoffs in that time. Again, I could not disagree more.

I will attempt to argue the five points he gave as the basis for why the team should in fact keep Nolan on board no matter how many more losing seasons the team suffers at his hands. His article can be found at,

Reason #1 – They haven’t been that bad…

“(I figured I’d start my argument slow and build it up.)

Yes, the Niners have been disappointing, but when you break it down, they’ve basically won one-third of their games since Nolan took control in ’05. They’re 18-32 and lost eight of those games by six points or less.

So if you take away those close games, they’re a .500 ball club. Granted, that is still not acceptable with the rich history of winning in the Bay Area, but it’s still not Detroit Lions or Arizona Cardinals bad.

I think that the 49ers are just in the midst of the downside of a normal cycle that happens in the NFL. Teams consistently have ups and down over different eras. I think that Mike Nolan can be the right coach to turn it around though, if given enough time to get the correct players for his system.”


They haven’t been that bad? They posted one of the worst statistical offenses in the history of the NFL in 2007… how that can be deemed as “not that bad” escapes me. The line that really perks me up here is where Mr. Fusco argues that if you take away the games that have been close losses since Nolan took over that this team is playing .500 football. That’s all well and good however one cannot simply wipeout those games in an attempt to paint their argument as being correct.

Another issue here, saying that the 49ers are not as appalling as the Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions wins no points here, being that both teams have finished with better records then San Francisco for two of the three seasons that Nolan has been at the helm. Sure the Niners have beaten Arizona four of the last five times the teams have played, they also beat Detroit the last time they faced each other. All that matters however is where a team finishes at the end of the season, not who they beat to get there, unless you’re going for moral victories.

One last statement that I disagree with here is where Mr. Fusco implies that Nolan has just not been granted the proper time in order “to get the correct players for his system.” Once again a comment which eludes me. Nolan has been head coach of this team for four drafts now and the first three he was handily involved in player selection and free agent signings, along with Scot McCloughan.

Some might argue that Nolan had the majority of input into what players were brought in, I would disagree with this in that I believe McCloughan was also much relied on for input and choices in regards to new players, be they rookies or veterans. The point here is that Nolan has had more then enough time to get the right players for his system; this is his last season to make it work, plain and simple.

Reason #2 – Young Talent

“Nolan and the San Francisco front office have done a decent job of drafting young guys that can come in and perform. If you look at players like Patrick Willis, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, and Manny Lawson, you can see that Nolan and his staff have the ability to spot young talent and pull off a successful draft.

Of course you’re going to have years like ’05 where they were basically stuck and had no choice but to use the No. 1 overall pick on Alex Smith. Was it a bust? Of course. I think most fans and analysts knew that almost immediately.

They didn’t have much choice though, as the draft was so terrible no one was offering anything legitimate at all in order for them to trade that pick away.
So now that Alex Smith is probably about due to head down to Gator country and join Urban Meyer’s coaching staff, the red and gold can possibly get back on track and start developing and/or acquiring the next great QB. I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s not going to be O’Sullivan.”


There have been some successful drafts for the current regime no doubt. However of the four players mentioned here only Gore was a supposed reach at the time. Willis, Davis and Lawson were all projected first round draft picks and the team would have had to have their collective heads up their rears to not select those players.

All in all I can see where it would be determined that the front office has the ability to produce good draft results, although there have been quite a few bad choices in there. Some might argue that the 2005 class was the worst of the four. Marshall, Johnson, Holly and Maxwell are not on the team and ended up just not being very good football players. Smith though might have a chance with another team, time will tell.

Also that most fans and analysts knew that Smith was a bust “almost immediately” might be the most inaccurate comment of this article. Smith was touted as the only viable #1 overall pick in 2005, some thought Braylon Edwards could have gone there as well but with the 49ers need for a quarterback, the choice made sense. It’s easy to sit back now and say that you knew Smith was going to fail here, show me proof of anything that you made comments like that at the time he was drafted Mr. Fusco and I’ll call you a genius.

I have to wonder though, the opinion of the writer is that Nolan needs more time to get players for his system, yet he feels that the team (Nolan and McCloughan) know how to spot young talent and have had successful drafts. Is it just me or is this a complete contradiction? If they were so good at drafting then wouldn’t it stand to reason that they would have the players needed to run Nolan’s scheme? I’m just asking.

Reason #3 – Horribly Inept Owners

“John York is quite possibly one of the worst owners in professional sports history. I won’t get into the gory and insipid details here; instead, I’ll just break it down very simply.
The downturn in the 49ers’ fortunes can be traced almost exactly to when the team left the hands of Ed DeBartolo and fell into the very incapable ones of his daughter Denise and her husband Dr. John York.

One of the very few good decisions Mr. York has made is to hire Mike Nolan. He brings a great background of hard-nosed, defensive-minded football.
He has been fighting against the grain for three years though, with the backhanded dealings of an inept owner who has tried anything and everything to put his “stamp” on a team that should never have been his in the first place.

I won’t say that John York doesn’t care about winning, because I honestly think he does want his team to win.

He’s just incompetent as an owner of a professional sports team. Seriously, Mike Martz and $80 million for an undersized cornerback, really? Honestly, you’re still not going to go out and get a decent veteran quarterback?

John York is the reason this team isn’t succeeding, not the coaching. And don’t even get me started on the new stadium fiasco and how we might be calling them the Santa Clara 49ers”


I actually agree with some of this. John York is not a good owner or steward of an NFL franchise and has no place running one. He was thrust into his current position when his wife and sister (not daughter) of Eddie J. DeBartolo took control of team amid her brother’s involvement in a federal indictment on fraud and racketeering charges. Denise DeBartolo, wanting little to do with the families crowned jewel turned over ownership responsibility to York.

I would not say at this time though that the hiring of Nolan can or will be looked at as a good decision from York when all is said and done. Also in what ways has York attempted to put “his stamp” on the team? In all actuality he has stayed completely out of the football side of matters involving the 49ers since Nolan came on board. He gave his coach free reign to do as he saw fit and now has McCloughan in a position to do the same, granting him the authority to fire Nolan if he so chooses.

Also what was wrong with the hiring of Mike Martz, as anyone can see this years offense is eons ahead of anything this team has produced in the last three seasons. And if by “80 Million dollar undersized cornerback” Mr. Frusco is referring to Nate Clements then we have two issues here. First of all Clements’s contract was not a true $80 Million deal. Do some research on it Frank and you’ll see what I mean. Truth be told, that contract which was put together by Parage Marathe was a great move and one that is not at all going to hamstring the club at any point. And Clements is listed at 6’0-205 pounds; I would say that is more then adequate size for an NFL cornerback.

York is the reason the 49ers are losing… hmmm, ok. It has nothing to do with the fact that Nolan has made numerous mistakes over his time here. Starting Derek Smith for far too long, even after it was clear that he should have been benched. Starting Alex Smith last season when it was also clear that he was hurt and should have been shelved for the season. Then throwing Smith under the bus with his teammates by implying that the injury to his throwing shoulder and the pain he was experiencing was something he should have been able to play through. And these are just a few examples from last season.

The stadium “fiasco” as he puts it here is also another illustration of how misinformed Mr. Fusco is. It has been reported over and over again that the team will not change its name from the San Francisco 49ers and at this time there simply isn’t a viable location in the city of S.F. to build a new stadium on, it’s that simple.

Reason #4 – Who else are they going to get?

“I’m not detracting from my faith in Nolan’s ability to turn this around, I’m just wondering who the people who do detract think will come riding over that hill. Bill Cowher? Yeah right, he’s waiting for that Panther’s job like, well, it’s his job.

And besides that, York would never give him the money he’d be looking for. What about someone like Monty Kiffin, you say? Well yeah, he’s been a great defensive coordinator for years and years, and maybe he’d like to coach across the bay from his son in Oakland.

Two problems with that theory though: Lane Kiffin might not even make it until Halloween, and Monty is an old surly bastard who won’t ever leave that damned Tampa Bay team. They’ll either give him the reigns after Gruden or he’ll keep that job until he goes senile and starts blitzing 11 guys every down.

If you or any one even mentions giving Martz the head-coaching job, I will definitely begin to lose faith in everything that is just and right in this world. He’s not the guy, he’s just not, and if I have to explain myself to anyone at all, they’ve officially lost all of their football privileges until further notice.”


I guess in this case Mr. Fusco has already spoken with Bill Cowher and discovered that there is no way he would ever take the head coaching job in San Francisco if such an opportunity arose. He also states that York would never give a Super Bowl winning head coach the money it would take to attain his services but he’s willing to fork over $80 Million for an undersized cornerback? Is that another contradiction? Again Mr. Fusco must have John York on speed dial having called him to make sure of this right before jotting down that line.

Monty Kiffin seems like a good choice, at least better then some but saying that he would only take the job if his son Lane is still coaching across the bridge is just ludicrous. It’s not as if the two haven’t been living far apart for years as it is. To be honest I have not really even heard of Kiffin being mentioned as a potential replacement if Nolan was to be let go. Marty Schottenheimer is a name I have heard quite a bit of or even Mike Singletary, since he is already employed by the team and knows the players and system.

Martz is not the guy? Well there goes that. Football God Frank Fusco has made his decision ladies and gentlemen. Mike Martz is not the guy; we can all lay that option to rest now. Making the statement that Martz is not the man to be head coach of the 49ers is fine, it’s your opinion, but why not provide a reason as to why you believe this to be the case? Maybe back up your claim with some factual evidence at least? It’s probably because you once again have no basis for your opinion other then you seemingly just don’t like the man.

Saying “He’s not the guy, he’s just not, and if I have to explain myself to anyone at all, they’ve officially lost all of their football privileges until further notice” is a complete cop-out and again was said because you have no explanation for saying so. Did you just say it to take up space here? Seriously as a journalist I want to know why you feel this way. I’ll be awaiting your response.

Reason #5 – Just Wait

“That’s my only reason on this one. I’m not saying they’re going to win the Super Bowl, or even make the playoffs this year or next. They’ve gotten better though, and the team is well coached.

They’ve won and lost some tough games over the past three years, and win or lose, you have to admit they have played hard and through the entire game every time. I believe that means a lot in this day and age in the NFL.

Bill Walsh is not walking through that door ladies and gentlemen, and neither is George Siefert. The glory days aren’t just going to reappear. You have to work for them and stick by your team through these tough times.”


This team and its fans have waited long enough Mr. Fusco. If there is not a playoff berth this season or the team goes on a losing streak of more then 3 games, I see Nolan being fired. Having a desire to get rid of a head coach or keep him for that matter does not make one a person who sticks by their team through tough times either, it just means they have an opinion as to who should be coaching this team.

I find it hard to believe how a man who claims to be a lifelong 49er fan would be satisfied with another losing season, not only this year but next as well. Perhaps you are more of a Mike Nolan fan, which would be fine as I am not here to tell you who to root for. Just don’t go online and masquerade as a fan of this great franchise when you make it clear with your comments that you are content with losing and not making the playoffs under Mike Nolan no matter how long that might be.

REAL 49er fans have been sickened and dismayed with losing for the last three seasons… they’re not willing to sit through another two years of it.

  • Adam49

    I like Nolan.Obviously he's a defensive coach.What this boils down to is 1 thing in my opinion of Nolan.Mike Nolan cannot make his offensive coordinators stay.Just that fact alone has hurt our offense enormously.The players have alot of respect for him.I've heard several players say they love playin for him.He has hired 2 offensive coordinators that have went on to become Head Coaches.And he has brought in a slew of talent since he's been here.But di I think he should be our coach after this year.No.And my reason is that we have a very good General Manager in Scot McCloughen to keep talent rolling into San Fran.Greg Manusky seems to have good control of the defense and our offense is finally starting to look somewhat respectable.So I think we should hire Mike Martz as soon as our season ends,fire Nolan,find a respectable O'Line coach and lock up JTO for 3 or 4 years and move on.That's what I think would be best for the future of our team.I think Nolan has done a respectable job but i think it's time to move on after this sseason.

  • Mike

    As comment to the Cowher comment. I would love to have him step in and replace nolan. However, I think that if/when he comes back to coaching I think its more on east coast or not for another 2 years. His daughter goes to Princeton. And he is on campus there seen with her a few times per semester. If he were to come coach us I would think it would be after she graduated or we would have to offer him a boat load of cash but also think other teams will also offer a ton of cash too.

    Again would love to have him as our coach but don't see that happening. I think if nolan is gone by midseason then Martz steps up and takes over. If he does a more then adequate job then I think he steps in as HC next year. If not then I think look around at some of the top OC around who may be ready to step up to HC spot. Singletary will obviously be considered as well. I say OC to HC.. because I think we can all agree that we all like way def looks overall with talent level. So I'd like to see after a full season together when they mold a little bit better how they will be. With OC coming in his focus will be the offense rather then the def. which is where we need the focus.

  • Mike

    Adam fact that our OC left isn't on nolan. We've had 4 OC now if last 4 years. Only 1 you can really pin on Nolan. McCarthy got a HC offer from Green bay.. You can't deny him the chance to go for that job. If it was another OC spot then you could just say no. But for jump to HC if the guy gets job its just out of luck. Turner same thing. Chargers came up and offered him the spot. Hell I mean both got great jobs.. McCarthy got Favre which is a first ballot HOF qb who must have been an honor just to work with. And Turner jumped onto one of the top 5 teams in NFL. Now Hostler sucked ass and that was Nolans pick but also keep in mind that when he picked him it was so late in offseason that no other team would even allow us to interview there coaches for our OC position. Martz was my backup pick this year I wanted cam cameron first.. But am more then pleased with Martz b/c his track record with taking over bad offenses and turning them into gold is great.

    Now with JTO I see alot of people now are saying lock him up long term.. It's only been 2 games keep that in mind. Also keep in mind we resigned hill last year b/c of his 2 games and everyone all offseason talked about how hill was gonna be good and he's backup now with a weak arm for this offense.

    I'd rather wait a few more games and see how he does then. But I'd also like to look at a QB in the draft and get him on roster to take Smiths spot. And hopefully this way Martz can teach him system to take over for JTO. I like Freeman from KState as that guy. He's someone who a lot of people forget about but has a great arm, decent accuracy and just wins games.

    Again thats my views on everything

  • 9nerfan

    bill cowher would be a moajor upgrade. even marty would be nice. anything less than the playoffs, then i would have to say nolan has to go. hopefully he can get the defense clicking again and we be all good. playoffs or your fired nolan. shit get a superbowl then sign an extension. but damn bill cowher would be nice though

  • Billy

    I doubt Bill Cohwer would join the 49ers but Marty or Singletary would be the best canidates as for Martz if he keeps it up sign him to HUGE contract to stay as OC or else JT is going to suck without his style of offense or he might just leave the team and follow Martz he is in 1yr deal after all

    For the record never an Alex Smith fan, thought we should have tooken Braylon Edwards. Vernon Davis is going to be the next bust just watch!!! I said it about Alex and was right trust me Vernon is a BUST and Delanie will start cause he acually utilizes his talent

  • 49erguy

    Although this Mr. Fusco has the worst logic i have read since Nolan's latest presser.

    I supported Nolan through his first two seasons here, it seemed after 2006 the team was going in the right direction, but a very foolish man once said a wise statement: "You don't know what someone is made of until you go through adversity" (Mike Nolan said something to that effect), and last year we got to see Nolan's true colors. With the Mishandling of the Alex Smith injury, and his reluctance to play the better players on the team, we got to see that he is a man that would rather lose everything than admit when he is wrong. Football is a game of adjustments, which are basically times when you admit you are wrong.

    I also hate his approach of not losing a game, you win football games in the NFL, this is not high school. I don't thinnk he cares that he has lost twice as many games as he has won, because he will never admit to his own falures.

    PPl have talked about hiring Marty or the Chin. I personally prefer Singeltary, but i will support who ever the coach is for a reasonable period of time (unless they prove themselves to be a detriment to the team)

    you have a great blog here james, good luck chasing the dream, and GO NINERS

  • This year is make or break for Nolan if we dont do better than 7-9 he will be gone. I dont want any Kiffin here Monty could have had the job after Mooch got fired but he didnt want it and Lane is to young and his offense is a run run run offense boring…

    The two people that would be up for the job would be Martz and Singletary.

    We might just have to hire Martz as the head coach just to keep him from going to another team. Another offensive cordinator would be an awful thought.

  • It might just come down to who is more valuabe Nolan or Martz?

  • James

    Hi, I found your blog on this new directory of WordPress Blogs at I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, i duno. Anyways, I just clicked it and here I am. Your blog looks good. Have a nice day. James.

  • Here is your resping Mr. Jones:

  • ninerfan4life

    f nolan. fire him

  • marksmen

    what if the niners do a 8-8 record this season, do u still keep nolan?

  • cap

    IMHO…This season is a bust if the Niners do not make a playoff appearance so if 8-8 gets them there than great but I dont think it will. They would have to go 10-6 or 11-5 to make a wildcard or win the west. Nolan has had ample time to make a run, he is not head coach material he is a DC at most, I was never an Alex Smith fan but I feel he ruined that poor kid, he was given too much power to run this franchise to start.. he needs to go and I would bet he’s gone this year at some point more than likely after the season. I wouldn’t mind Schottenheimer or Singletary at all. Nice article James well put and right on all points I feel.

  • James Jones

    I don’t believe so Marksmen, I strongly feel that unless the team makes the playoffs that Nolan is gone.

  • gee-ray

    frank fusco that response from you link there was f-n terrible. lack of balls. sounds like you used your mouth for the football teams jock strap instead of your girlfriends vagina.

  • Bleacher Report has some of the worst writers I have ever read on the topic of sports.

    That was simply the worst response to a rebuttal I have ever read anywhere.

    And that's without fact-checking or vaginas.

  • gee-ray

    yeah. i was really expecting a snappy response.. he rolled over like a little whipped puppy. i was gonna post a reply on that site but you have to subscribe… needless to say i did not subscribe.

  • Okay… so James was the rebuttal, and Frank was the re-rebuttal. The rebuttal was terrific, the re-rebuttal was terrible.

    My opinion is that Nolan lost his right to be the Head Coach during the Alex Smith fiasco last season. He became completely self-absorbed, creating an environment where players did not trust him. His veiled comments in the press conferences were no more than immature slaps to the face of grown men. Such as, Trent Dilfer's horrible showing against the Rams being "the best quarterback play I've seen since I've been here." Really?

    His coaching decisions are terrible. His defensive philosophy of playing safe puts us at great risk of losing games such as the one against the Seahawks. His history is one of playing not to lose, and he has never used the players we have in a way that emphasizes their strengths.

    If Mike Martz creates a turnaround with this offense, the Yorks cannot afford to give Nolan an extension and risk losing Martz, and having to find another offensive coordinator. Not to mention that it is likely wherever Martz goes, J.T. O'Sullivan follows. It is becoming clear so far that both men MUST be retained at all costs. If that means bidding farewell to Mike Nolan, then so be it.

    With all thanks due to him for giving us Scot McCloughan and Paraag Marathe.

  • joe gomez

    meant to say conservative

  • joe gomez

    Nolan makes too many mistakes in crucial decisions and is way too conversative. I say fire him and have Martz or Holmgren take over the reigns.

  • AngryMiner21

    I would be stoked if Martz took over as head Coach of the Niners. hmmmm now I know what I want for Christmas! Crazy that the Niners havent had a qb throw for over 300 yds since 04 and what do u know Martz is callin the shots…. Fire Nolan.

  • JJ Calle

    Nolan is a tool, dude needs to go, and quick.

  • joe gomez

    James, whats your take on Bruce’s interview? He doesnt seem to be too happy to be here. Ive seen interviews when he was a Ram, and he never sounded as dull as the interview he gave as a Niner.

  • Niner Pundit

    Joe…I loved Bruce’s interview. It’s actually amusing to see him make the media squirm so to speak. I didn’t get out of it that he doesn’t want to be here. JT is the same way in the interviews.

  • James Jones

    As Niner Pundit, I loved it as well. Bruce has never really been very forthcoming with the media and has always presented more of a standoffish persona when talking to them. I am sure he likes it here, he was just being himself in my opinion Joe.

  • jj sux

    fire james jones and keep nolan

  • THERE is an informed opinion….

  • James Jones

    JJ sux… hmmmm funny how this all of the sudden happens AFTER we have the ever witty Frank Fusco in our midst.

    Pathetic really… but I’ll bite.

    Why exactly do I suck?

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  • 49erguy

    I just wanted to comment abut a cople of football related issues. Although i think Mike Martz is a fantastic offensive coordinator, i don’t feel he would be as effective as a head coach. He is just too offensive minded. The niners are not typically a team that wins a lot of shootouts, over the years the niners have scored the most points when the other teams scored very few (this was before the Nolan era of protecting a 3 pt lead in the second quarter). I don’t feel martz has the personality to get the team ready to play, nor do i feel he has the philosphy to get the team deep into the playoffs. Plus he may be a detriment to the defensive side of the ball.

    What i feel the niners should do is offer him a crap load of money to stay on at Offensive cooridinator, and give the job to a guy like singeltary who understands the defence. Plus Singeltary brings with him an intensity that is matched by very few.

    Another stipulation in the deal would be to let martz control the offence, and give him a high percentage os say on who we should bring in to help out hte offencive side of the ball.