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Head Coach Mike Nolan is drawing his line in the sand and assembling a staff that will be accountable for all of its actions both off and on the field. Never since the George Seifert era has there ever been this much seriousness about becoming a champion again. Mike Nolan has made it very clear there will be no rest until that championship flavor is at the tip of our tongues once again.
What is even more astounding to me is the humbling of Mike Nolan at being given the opportunity to manage and coach his boyhood professional football team. Something he certainly doesn't take lightly and is openly thankful for each and every day. All the way back to grade school Mike remembers what it took to make the 49ers one of the best in the business and he's committed to making that a reality again.
His love and devotion for professional football started at a very early stage and he has carried that with him all of his life. Growing up with the team with his father as head coach of the 49ers Dick Nolan and meeting and talking with some of the players made an engraving mark upon his life as a child. People or what drive this business and that is something Mike wholeheartedly endorses and believes in.
In fact he has been very meticulous about his selection and hiring of coaches and has already made individual courtesy calls with many of the players to get a feel of where they are now and what they expect to accomplish in the future.
Everything that makes an organization strong and enduring starts and ends with its personnel and Mike Nolan has gone to great lengths to secure those people he believes are as committed as he is about turning this organization around again.
In order to build a champion he believes there are three very important criteria's and those are, personnel, structure and chemistry. The 49ers must target, recruit and train the right players. They must also hire the right coaches to get the job done and have a competent staff to handle almost any given situation. We must also find and use the abilities of our existing players to help us identify what it is we need to work on.
We must make much better decisions on improving our team through the draft and supplementing the team through free agency as well. Last but not least we need to manage the salary cap a lot better and never ever slide back to where we were in both 1999 and 2004.
Creating structure within the organization will also be paramount to getting the organization back on track. Allowing players to buy into the overall plan and sharing their thoughts freely will be encouraged under Mike Nolan.
He wants players to study and identify weaknesses on the field and to come up with plans of their own to alleviate them. This will promote trust and build a strong work ethic within the organization as a whole.
The team will actually think more of itself as a team rather then a collection of individual identities. Chemistry will start to take place as these relationships and bonds are formed and solidified among the players, which will make each and every player first accountable to himself then to each other. Rather than allowing one player to take the heat for a bad play everyone on the team will share in that pain and be accountable together.
These are all formulas and key ingredients to establishing a championship organization, something Mike Nolan knows will be vital to our existence as a functioning professional football team. Team will be emphasized because this is what the game is now all about at least on the latest football teams that have recently reached and won the Super Bowl that is.
Mike Nolan is all about hard work and realizes the road ahead will be long. But he's confident that he can get it done especially with accommodating owners in Denise DeBartolo and Dr. John York publicly on board and committed to future success.
Resources are already being provided through the owners and cash doesn't seem to be an issue as it was in the past. Investing in the team will and still is a new concept to John York but one he now realizes is essential to cultivating success.
As February came into being the San Francisco 49ers made an investment in a new quarterbacks coach in hiring former New York Jets assistant Jim Hostler. Hostler will be critical to assisting a very youthful group of quarterbacks the 49ers have on its staff. He joins us after spending two seasons with the New York Jets as the wide receivers coach (2004) and quarterbacks coach in (2003).
Jim Hostler has personal ties with our new offensive coordinator in Mike McCarthy who came over from the New Orleans Saints. Before he joined the New York Jets in 2003 he was an offensive assistant/quality control coach and assistant wide receivers coach (2001-02) from the New Orleans Saints. His very first stop in the NFL was back in 2000 as an offensive assistant/quality control coach with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Hostler has had the opportunity to work with great athletes such as the New York Jets quarterback in Chad Pennington and wide receiver Santana Moss. He will be a welcomed addition especially to quarterbacks that suffered one setback after another throughout the 2004 calendar year that saw multiple transitions because of nagging injuries.
"It is a great opportunity and honor to work with two coaches who are as well respected as (head coach) Mike Nolan and (offensive coordinator) Mike McCarthy," said Hostler. "It is an honor to be apart of the great history and the offensive tradition of the San Francisco 49ers."
What happened next was a bit more peculiar in that Mike Nolan announced the hiring of his new defensive coordinator in linebackers coach of the New York Giants Billy Davis. He had been with the New York Giants just one year before being given the enormous opportunity to be an NFL coordinator.
He had spent the previous three seasons as the linebacker's coach for the Atlanta Falcons. In each of his three seasons there as the Atlanta Falcons linebackers coach, Keith Brooking was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons while playing for Billy Davis.
The hidden key to Billy Davis seems to be with his experience at running the 3-4 defense versus the 4-3. Mike Nolan has made many indications that he's committed to running this type of defense within the framework of the abilities of his players. Billy Davis played an enormous part in helping Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Wade Phillips establish the 3-4 defense in which became their primary formation of attack.
Billy Davis comes with pretty impressive credentials when he started his NFL career back in 1992 as a defensive assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers, working with the secondary and then with the linebackers for two more seasons. In 1995, be went to the Carolina Panthers under head coach Dom Capers for a four-year stretch where he had enormous success as a linebacker's coach.
Under him as their coach, Kevin Greene and Lamar Lathon finished first and second in the NFL in sacks, with 14.5 and 13.5 apiece, in 1996 each made the Pro Bowl and the second-year Carolina Panthers made it to a conference championship game.
He went on from here to the Cleveland Browns for one-year in 1999 (as a defensive assistant /linebackers) coach and the Green Bay Packers in 2000 as a (defensive assistant/defensive line) coach.
Mike Nolan came away impressed enough after a six-hour interview over dinner with Billy Davis to hire him and grant him his first shot at being an NFL coordinator. Nolan again can see a lot of himself inside Billy Davis and therefore a mutual respective relationship should ensue over the course of time while they are together.
"He has had very good mentors and an added benefit to the whole thing is we found another football guy," Nolan said. "He has grown up in football and understands what the NFL is about."
"Billy is a great teacher. I have watched Billy for a long time as a position coach; he's been on my list for several years now if I ever had the opportunity to coach," Nolan said. "He has great energy, he has worked with many people that I know. We are fortunate that Billy is coming with us."
Billy's extensive use of coaching linebackers plays right into the hands of the 49ers, because that is where the strength of our defense lies. He will maximize their capabilities and use each player's abilities to our full advantage. Mike Nolan is confident that we will have a super-charged defense that will be a respected one after the new schemes are learned and the playbook is tailored to his liking.
With a 3-4 defense the 49ers will be committing their strength on the field on a regular basis. With three defensive linemen and four linebackers on the field we are adopting a base defense that best suits our needs at the present time.
The defense will not only be more active but will be more athletic as well. He has also determined that the defense under former defensive coordinator Willy Robinson never made the transition to a 3-4 defense like Robinson indicated he would.
Placing a great linebacker like a Julian Peterson inn this particular scheme will fit right into our plans at attacking the oppositions quarterback more effectively. Being as versatile as Peterson is it does nothing but benefit the scheme and the team as a whole in accomplishing success on the field.
"The 3-4 is very versatile and very flexible in using players like him," Nolan said. "It's a great scheme for a linebacker because you don't have to play coverage that exposes your secondary in order to bring (blitz) a linebacker."
"That's kind of the unique thing about the 3-4. You can utilize the strengths of different players, in particular linebackers, much easier and much better than you can in a 4-3 with limiting everyone else or putting everyone else in a situation where it kind of puts them at risk."
The defense is being graphically redesigned with four linebackers being on the field. Of which will feature hopefully Julian Peterson, Jeff Ulbrich, Derek Smith and Jamie Winborn all of who are extremely quick and talented. Rounding out these would be Saleem Rasheed and Richard Seigler both of high caliber quality that would be available in case of injury.
A nose tackle would be a key cog in the defense for the 3-4 to work of which Anthony Adams and Isaac Sapoaga would be under consideration with girth and strength. Both Mike Nolan and Billy Davis would work in tandem in implementing this new scheme of which both have extensive experience and this would be critical to making it work.
More coaches were added in February one of who is Gary Emanuel as the 49es new defensive line coach. Emanuel has been the anchorman at Purdue University spending the past eight seasons there as that of Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Ends Coach (1997-2004).
Before spending time with the Boilermakers, Emanuel spent three seasons at Washington State coaching the defensive line (1994-96) where the Cougars ranked second in the NCAA in total defense.
New Strength and Conditioning Coach Johnny Parker was hired as well who is an 18-year veteran of the NFL. He joins the 49ers after spending the past two-years in the private sector following a year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2002) in which they captured their first Super Bowl title.
New running backs coach Bishop Harris was hired by Mike Nolan to get it back off the ground after a disaster season under Dennis Erickson. He was a very successful coach while with the New York Jets for four seasons by assisting running back Curtis Martin to four 1,000-yard seasons while he was there, including Martin's personal record of 1,697-yards in 2001.
He was running backs coach prior to that with the Buffalo Bills from 1998-99, and assisted fullback Sam Gash to consecutive Pro Bowl appearances and helped guide running back Antowain Smith to his best season as a pro.
He had stops with the same title with the Oakland Raiders from 1995-97 and the Denver Broncos from 1993-94. He comes with a vast amount of experience and like our quarterbacks coach not a moment too soon at that in my opinion.
A new tight ends coach in Pete Hoener was also named, who joins San Francisco after spending the 2004 season with the Chicago Bears as their offensive line coach, which had many transitions on it last season.
Hoener assisted running back Thomas Jones establishes a career high 948-rushing yards and the line featured Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz. Prior to Chicago he spent three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals coaching both the offensive line (2003) and tight ends (2001-02).
Vance Joseph was hired to be a secondary assistant, joining San Francisco after spending (2004) as the defensive backs coach at Bowling Green State University. He joined the Falcons there after serving in the same capacity at his alma mater, the University of Colorado, for two seasons (2002-03).
Ben McAdoo will be an offensive line assistant after a brief time in Stanford University. He will assist George Warhop on the offensive line and handle quality control aspects of the line. He spend the 2004 season as an offensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints under them offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy.
I am really impressed with the coaching staff that Mike Nolan has assembled. I can't say any one coach is really a weak link when you look at the incredible experience that each one has based upon the position they are in charge of.
With the coaching staff in place, the front office has been on an aggressive campaign to scout the NFL Combine and colleges, look at resigning our own free agents to be and have even dabbled in acquiring top quality free agents offensive tackle Jonas Jennings being one of them.
San Francisco is well on its way to preparing for the NFL draft. I believe we have very competent personnel in place to make dramatic decisions that will reshape this franchise. I will continue to talk about these in the next coming weeks.
I want to apologize for my absence due to a sudden illness in my immediate family that I am still dealing with today.
Thank-You for your patience and support as I am always still in tune to what is going on with the team on a daily basis. I hope you will continue to follow my articles as I give you a factual account of what is happening along with a personal opinion of my own.