Former San Francisco 49ers head coach and current NFL Network analyst Mike Nolan joined "Murph & Mac" on KNBR to discuss the hiring process for head coach and general manager. It was an interesting conversation because he touched on a number of topics.
Nolan was asked about the interview process and gave his inside look at what the process is like. "I think a lot of teams miss the mark on what it takes to do the job," Nolan said. "Therefore, there's a lot of questions in it that I don't think, personally, have a whole lot to do with whether you'll be good at the job and whether you'll fit the situations there. Although they are questions that you have to answer and believe me, if they are concerns of the person asking the question then obviously it is important to them so you have to ask it.
"The disappointment sometimes is that you kind of think, 'You know, if you guys were hitting the mark, I'd be more excited about this job. But if you're asking questions about things that won't really pertain to me being successful or not.' So yeah, they'll hit everything from -- When you start every interview, it's typically about family and what you do as hobbies and blah, blah, blah. Kind of the small stuff.
"And then you get into the job and those are the questions I'm kind of talking about. When you get into the job, you need to talk about staffs, you need to talk about your relationship with the personnel guy and many more things than that. One of the biggest eye opening things is when you go from a coordinator to a head coach, you go from big brother to dad. Any of us that have children know that's a huge change. To have no responsibility -- basically just walk around the house and do what you want and maybe scream at your brothers and sisters as opposed to going around the house and have to lay down the law, it's just entirely different.
"Some guys make great big brothers but they're not very good dads and that really is the best way I can kind of at least give a visual picture to the everyday fan on what kind of difference it is. Just because you're a coordinator -- and you may have been the greatest coordinator to ever step foot on this Earth -- you may be the worst head coach to ever step foot on the Earth too because the jobs are entirely different.
"So when there's a lot of coordinator questions in the process, sometimes I was actually disappointed in the few processes that I went through because I'm thinking, 'You know guys, this is not a coordinator's job I'm interviewing for. We need to ask head coaching questions.' My confidence would lay in that they are asking the right questions. Then it gets down to do you have the ability to pick the right guy?"
Nolan went on to say that he had some confidence in New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels becoming a head coach again.
Nolan also discussed the decision to hire Scot McCloughan after he became head coach of the 49ers. The decision was based on the person that he felt could make the best decisions at identifying and acquiring players. Nolan said that the pair worked well together the first three years, but the final year was different. "I thought it worked very effectively for three years," Nolan said. "Most of those players that were on that Super Bowl team or championship run teams were all players that we brought in those first few years when I was at the Niners. So I thought we did a pretty good job in that regard."
Regarding the hiring process that the 49ers are in right now, Nolan points out that the team is looking for a head coach and general manager combination that get along. "Personally, that's good, but Scot [McCloughan] and I didn't even know each other when we got together," Nolan said. He went on to say that choosing candidates that have already proven that they have people skills are more important.
Despite the fact that the 49ers hired Nolan before McCloughan, he feels that it is important to hire the general manager first. "It's always players first," Nolan said. "Always. It might even be first through ten. Players first because great players will make a coach look like a hero but it's not the other way around."
Of course, what would a Mike Nolan interview be without bringing up the topic of the 49ers choosing Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers in 2005? By the way, 22 other teams passed on Rodgers before the Green Bay Packers selected him at number 24 overall.
"At the time, we thought in the long term, Alex was going to be the better quarterback," Nolan said. "Obviously, we were wrong. One of them, Aaron Rodgers, is going to the Hall of Fame and Alex Smith is a very solid, capable, good quarterback. We didn't have a bad choice, but there's always one better than the other. We missed the mark. We should have taken Aaron, no question. But like I said, they both turned out to be capable quarterbacks -- one much more than the other."
Nolan went on to say that it would have helped the team had they used Smith's entire skill set – like zone-read in the offense to utilize his legs. "I think early on, Alex would have been thought of as a much better quarterback because that's what he would have been doing plus we would have been innovative in the fact that we would have done it," Nolan said.
"Had we used him as he's being used today, I think we could have masked a lot of that and still had a winning program and who knows who'd be the head coach at this time if we had done a better job with that situation," Nolan continued.
There has been a lot of talk that the thing that turned the 49ers off about Rodgers was the quarterback's arrogance. Nolan says that is not true. "The thing that was most impressive about Aaron was his cockiness, was his arrogance because that's what you look for in a great quarterback," Nolan said.
To end the interview, Nolan was asked if he would take a general manager job with the 49ers. "I would take it in a heartbeat," he answered.
You can listen to the entire interview, which is a great listen, on KNBR.