We recently put a poll on this site asking fans whether or not they felt San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Nolan should be with the team next season. At the time of this writing, almost 92% of the fans feel that he should not be here anymore. After a 2-1 start, the 49ers entered the meat of their early schedule and have now dropped their last two games to fall to 2-3. They were completely outmatched in New Orleans. However, fans felt a little more confident about the matchup against New England. After all, the team had lost their best player for the season with quarterback Tom Brady's injury and was coming off of an embarrassing loss to the Miami Dolphins. Sure they are the defending AFC Champions, but this is not the same team that went 18-1 last season.
Against the 49ers defense, the Patriots ran their longest play of the season when Matt Cassel completed a 66-yard pass for a touchdown to Randy Moss in the first quarter. Actually, the 49ers offense played pretty well in the first quarter. You throw out J.T. O'Sullivan's interception drive, which was one play long, and the offense scored during two of their first three possessions jumping on top of New England by the score of 14-7. However, good coaches make good adjustments to counter what the opposition is doing and New England definitely has a good coach in Bill Belichick. On the other side of the field, the 49ers' coaching staff seems to be incapable of making adjustments to what the opposition is doing. Or when they do make adjustments, it leaves the fans scratching their heads wondering what they are thinking.
The team moved to more conservative schemes on both sides of the ball after the first quarter. While there are holes on offense and defense, the team should have enough talent to at least compete with a lot of teams in the NFL. That is what makes watching this team so much more frustrating than last year. Last season, fans pretty much knew the team was going to lose. This season, the team offers hope, but never really delivers. For most fans, it is painful to watch this team. One fan even said that it is comical to watch the team on Sundays. While it is sad that it has come to this, that attitude seems to be a bit healthier.
While the talent has improved since Nolan took over, what fans are seeing on the field has not. The team typically looks unprepared and unwilling to do what is necessary to win football games. The coaching staff refuses to utilize the strengths of this team.
One example would be running back Frank Gore. He is the team's best weapon on offense. The 49ers are 10-3 when Gore rushes for over 100 yards in a game. During those 10 wins, the 49ers handed the ball off to Gore an average of 26.4 times per game. This season, the 49ers are handing the ball off to Gore 17.6 times per game. This includes the only game where he carried the ball more than 19 times, a win against Detroit where he rushed 27 times. Last week against New England, he rushed only 12 times. You would think that one of the goals on offense would be to utilize your best weapon. Apparently, the 49ers have a different game plan. This stat is a bit scarier considering the knock on offensive coordinator Mike Martz was the fact that he would often abandon the run in favor of the pass. That certainly seemed to be the case during Sunday's loss.
It is interesting to note that during the television broadcast on Sunday, the commentators talked about Tom Brady so much that if I did not know better, I would have thought he was playing in the game. When J.T. O'Sullivan made a mistake, they were quick to defend him by bringing up the fact that this was only his fifth start. Never did they mention that the quarterback on the other side of the ball, the one completing all the passes and looking like a veteran (our defense tends to do that to a number of quarterbacks), has two fewer NFL starts than O'Sullivan and has been in the league 3 fewer seasons. The difference is that he seems more prepared.
Nolan has already lost the fans. He may only be a couple of losses away from losing the team if players like Frank Gore and Patrick Willis, the team's two biggest stars, do not start winning some games. The bad news is that the two teams next on the schedule are Philadelphia and the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Toward the end of Sunday's game, as New England continued to eat at the clock with first downs, Gore's frustration was obvious as he sat on the sidelines. After the game, Willis refused to speak with the reporters waiting in the locker room.
The 49ers were 2-3 at this point last season, the same record they hold now. You can bring up all the stats and rankings you want to try and prove that this team has improved, but the bottom line is wins and losses. That is all that matters in the NFL. Nolan got schooled by Belichick on Sunday. The only problem is that fans are starting to wonder if he is capable of learning.
By: Joe L
Date: October 12, 2008 at 8:27 PM
Comment: As much as I like Nolan personally and always talks about a QB managing a game, for some reason, Nolan also has to realize that the head coach TOO has to know how to manage a game properly, as well. In today's game, he first blew it by not questioning the Hank Baskett catch in the first quarter. If he did and the call would have been correctly reversed, that would have been 4th down and the Eagles would have had to punt ... Instead, the Eagles score a TD. Then, he calls for an replay review for a FG (which I think that Akers missed!) and questioning another call and did not have anymore time outs left towards the end of the game. Last week, against the Patriots, the Niners' defense played too soft. Why didn't they pressure QB Matt Cassell? Not making the right calls at the right times in that game, too. In previous weeks, the Niners did not incorporate Vernon Davis into the passing game for whatever reason. I don't get it. Today was the first time that they had and guess what ... Go figure. I gotta say that the two legit losses so far have been the Cardinals and Saints. In saying that, the Niners should be 4-2. Not 2-4. Just my opinion.
By: Wake up to reality
Date: October 12, 2008 at 1:01 AM
Comment: hey chuck....whatever it is your smoking I suggest you stay in your home & don't get in your vehicle until you've waken up. Nolan is a LOSER & mediocre HC who CAN NEVER COMPETE against the guy on the other side of the sidelines week in, week out. He's also an average DC at best. I don't know what games you've been watching but our Defense is getting their a** kicked mainly because of scheme, predictability, & laying back playing it safe to try & stop the big play from happening...you know, Nolan's MO.....& thank god he doesn't have his hand on the Offense anymore or this team would be playing like a bunch of little girls afraid of making any type of mistake like last year. In the meantime our Defense gets nickel & dimed to death & while the opposing teams put us on our heels we still get burned for big plays. You need to wake up man.....Nolan is a DISGRACE & FOREVER A LOSER as a HC with ANY team.
Date: October 9, 2008 at 6:15 PM
Comment: I disagree. mainly with PDX Mike. i believe that the 2008 team is far better than the 2007 team. i also believe that nolan is beginning to find a successful way to integrate the talent on defense with the talent on offense. As every week goes by O'Sullivan shows improvement moving the ball down field using issac bruce, opening the play action/run by gore (who has learned to use his hands far more effectively than in the past). I would suggest the critics, as well as fans pay more attention to the positive situations that the 49ers have accomplished this season. I believe (and admit that i may be wrong) that the 49ers will finish the season making the playoffs, and take that experience with them into the 2009 season (with nolan as their coach) thus beginning the long awaited rebirth of the "glory days".
By: PDX Mike
Date: October 7, 2008 at 4:48 PM
Comment: I would suggest that this team is actually far worse than that of 2007. In 2007, there was a horrible OC to lay blame upon; the defense was solid and developing and the players could believe that the year was an aberration. Now the team faces the prospect of losing the belief of the players. If (when) Nolan is fired, a new re-building era will begin. There is no longer a light at the end of the tunnel. There is just a faint glow from around the bend. That bend is now several years away...again. Like many of his predecessors, Nolan has built upon the culture of losing. Ownership is not heavily involved, but they have at least opened the purse strings. A strong GM/coach duo can return this team to the status of contender. Nolan is clearly making the case that he is not one of those guys.
Date: October 6, 2008 at 10:41 PM
Comment: &I'm glad somebody finaly said some thing about this crap I'm seeing on sunday! For 3 years I've been hoping praying that the product on the field would get better and we could compete 4 a playoff spot or at least win our nfc west division. Mike nolan has done nothing but lose and acquire questionable draft picks since he's been here he hasn't produced wins and this 3-4 defense just dosnt stop anybody the way we run it so coach its time 2 go!
Date: October 6, 2008 at 8:48 PM
Comment: The problem is not Nolan. He's just incompetent.(oh they were just lucky they beat the corner blitz, right) The problem is the owners who either dont watch the games or dont know what they are watching. Simple things like blocking has eludes this team (worst OL in NFL going on 4 years) They make crummy qb's look like Tom Brady and the ST are gettng worse and worse. (The better the coach the quicker he leaves it seems) IF you D is bad, o is bad and st is bad what are you watching? REspectfully Mr york you are penny wise pound foolish. Your thought that running a championship franchise was easy was arrogant. (saving money on bottled water, gutting the team of talent ot get under the cap, firing your playoff coach in a temper tantrum) You lost hundreds of millions by dismantling this dynasty. Dont be surprised if the team doesnt get fed up with Nolan BS before you do! They arent all stupid jocks. They are smart enough to know that like Smith, these 49ers may ruin their careers.