The Best Seat In The House For All Your News On The 5 Time World Champion Niners

The Best Seat In The House For All Your News On The 5 Time World Champion Niners
A review and commentary on the history & lastest events surrounding the 17 time NFC Western Division & 5 -Time World Champion San Francisco 49ers. From 1946 and the All America Football Conference to 2009 and the road to a 6th Super Bowl title - For true fans of the scarlet and gold! Enjoy!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

School Is About To End For Nolan

Mark Purdy, Mercury News

The fun resumed Wednesday at Santa Clara Junior High School, 49er campus. First, naughty Alex stood up and apologized to the class for being too noisy. Everyone then spent a couple of hours on the playground. Afterward, Principal Nolan told open-house visitors that he and naughty Alex were still pals. "We spoke," Nolan said. "Our discussion went well. . . . We've communicated well." Right. Whatever. If the two were actually communicating that well, this week's ridiculous kerfuffle would never have happened. But it did. And when 49ers quarterback Alex Smith reacted to reports of locker-room name-calling by saying he was undermined by Coach Mike Nolan, it pretty much made everybody on the premises look like seventh-graders. It also allowed every commentator in the vicinity, including me, to throw out his or her two cents on the situation. (My take: If Nolan and Smith both don't stay, both must go.) But who are we kidding? Those two cents are worth less than one cent. Because we have no say in the matter.

Principal Nolan acknowledged that Wednesday, pointing out that in the NFL, no job is guaranteed year to year. "John and Jed will be here," Nolan said, "but the rest of us . . ." He meant John and Jed York. The owners. John and his wife, Denise, are the team's principal proprietors who live in Ohio. Their son, Jed, is the family representative on the premises. At Santa Clara Junior High, they are even more powerful than the principal. Today, I'm going to take an educated stab at what will happen come January, using information I've gleaned throughout this nightmare season from knowledgeable voices inside and outside the organization. January will not be pretty. Anyone who believes that the Yorks will be content to gloss over the stink of 2007 and make no significant changes does not know the Yorks. Did you notice? By scheduling coincidence, the 49ers' last game will be in Cleveland, just an 80-mile drive from the Youngstown home of John and Denise. They'll be on hand, along with close friends. If the 49ers lose badly that day, it would surely seal Nolan's fate. But that fate is almost surely sealed, regardless. As of today, I give Nolan a 20 percent chance of returning. It was once much higher. But with each loss, Nolan's chance of coming back probably drops another 5 percent. If the 49ers lose all three remaining games, it will drop to 5 percent. Or almost nothing.
If you are wondering why the Yorks have stayed mostly silent during the team's drastic downhill slide, the answer is easy. The losing slide has stunned them - as it has most of the team's fans. As recently as two months ago, even though the offense had struggled, the 49ers had a 2-2 record with continuing playoff expectations, plus the hope that Smith would recover from his shoulder injury and return as the same guy who led that last-minute winning drive in the season opener against Arizona. Back then, there was no need to think about making big changes. Even as the 49ers' losing ways continued into November, radical housecleaning was unlikely. Keeping Nolan and revamping the offense seemed to be the most practical solution. But not anymore. After all that has happened, how can the 49ers bring back Nolan and believe he'll field a better team that will sell tickets next season? The York family is not Idiot Central. And they aren't selling the franchise.

Yes, I know. In the past, I have been accused of being too easy on the York family, too willing to defend its foibles. John York would probably dispute that notion. I guess if you call someone oddly naive and strangely capable of bad judgment rather than labeling him a menace to football and mankind, it passes as softball commentary. I do strongly defend this: the idea that the Yorks are trying to win. They have stumbled and bumbled. They have yet to prove they can hire a winning executive or head coach. People they trusted have let them down. But it doesn't mean the Yorks blithely don't care. They spent a lot of free-agent money last off-season proving they do. And now, just like their team's fans, the Yorks have to be very angry about what has happened with their team - and this totally unnecessary pie fight between Smith and Nolan. As for January, here is how I see things unspooling: After the final game, Nolan will be given a few days to defend himself and outline his plan for avoiding another 2007. At the very least, the plan would include firing his offensive staff, reviewing why the talent evaluation of offensive personnel was so off-base, and figuring out a plan for Smith (or another quarterback) to be more effective.

The Yorks will politely listen to Nolan, then dismiss him anyway. Decisions will be made about restructuring and which front-office football employees will stay. The idea of hiring a proven major name as a head coach will be seriously examined (the Yorks spent millions on free agents, so why not on a coach?). If that idea is rejected, then a strong general manager will be sought. He will hire the new coach. Jed York, who is young but has the most NFL smarts in the family, will take a significant role in this process.

Could I be wrong? Sure. There remains that 5 percent possibility Nolan will save his job. But as I learned in junior high, 95 percent is always more than 5 percent. Even if he gets straight A's these last three weeks, Principal Nolan had better be ready to clean out his office.

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