Listening to Damon Bruce's 49ers postgame show on KNBR following the loss to the Cleveland Browns, I heard an interesting comment. Bruce said that head coach Mike Nolan probably would have coached this year's New England Patriots to a .500 record. After thinking about it for a while, I had a difficult time coming up with enough reasons why this statement would be incorrect. The 2007 49ers were no Patriots squad, but there was enough talent on the team to at least win at least half of their games. Among fans, a 5 win season was unacceptable and seen as a step in the wrong direction.

If fan reaction over the past month or so is any indication, the fallout from Tuesday's breaking news that Nolan will remain the 49ers' head coach in 2008 could be disastrous. A number of fans have threatened to refrain from renewing season tickets. Some have even said that they will not support the team in 2008 should Nolan remain with the team.

However, the decision to keep Nolan did not come without conditions for the coach. Nolan will have to relinquish much of the power that he has possessed over the past three seasons. That final say will now go to the team's new general manager, who many believe will be current vice president of player personnel Scot McCloughan.

Over the past few weeks, there were many theories among the media regarding the fate of Nolan. Some even changed their opinions along the way. A decision to let Nolan go would have been shocking to a few, but the decision to have him remain with the team is shocking to many more. Nolan's eye for talent has not been questioned as much as his ability to coach on Sundays. After all, Nolan did help to bring in talents like Frank Gore, Manny Lawson, Joe Staley and Patrick Willis. All of which will become cornerstones for the team in the years to come. He also brought in big potential guys like Vernon Davis, Ray McDonald...and for those willing to give him another shot, add Alex Smith's name to the list.

It is his on-the-field decisions that frustrate most of the 49ers Faithful. Nolan's bad timeout management, decisions to go for it on 4th down when unnecessary, decisions to not go for it on 4th down when absolutely necessary, and inability to take control away from guys like offensive coordinator Jim Hostler are just a few of the factors that created hatred among much of the fan base. According to the NFL Coach Approval Rating conducted by ESPN, Nolan's fan approval rating has gone from 89% during week 1 to 23% at the end of the season.

Don't forget the rift he placed between himself and his franchise quarterback, Alex Smith. After Smith's injury, Nolan called him out in front of the team and Smith may have a hard time believing in his coach again. The damage may be too much to repair.

With the offseason acquisitions that the team made, it is tough to believe that this team failed to make the playoffs. During his first season, Nolan won 4 games. The following season, the team improved to 7 wins and hopes were high for 2007. Instead, the team regressed and won only 5 games. Shaun Hill, the team's third quarterback on the roster, won both of his starts, completed 68.4% of his passes, threw 5 touchdowns with 1 interception, and had a quarterback rating of 101.3. And he did all of that with a broken finger. In comparison, neither Alex Smith nor Trent Dilfer completed over 52% of their passes, threw more touchdowns than interceptions or had a quarterback rating over 58. Yet it was Shaun Hill, the team's best chance to win games, that sat on the bench for the majority of the season even after Alex Smith's injury. The decision to keep Trent Dilfer as the starter after a number of uninspiring performances left many fans scratching their heads.

Want to see how Nolan has improved the team during his tenure? Below are the 49ers' rankings since he has been the head coach.

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If he wants to prove to fans that he belongs with the team, Nolan has a lot of work ahead of him in 2008. The fans that remain will be critiquing every move he makes.