A wise man once said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results." Anyone who has watched the first 6 games of the 49ers' 2008 campaign with the aforementioned in mind must wonder, "Are the 49ers crazy?" Looking at the organization from top to bottom these days, it isn't difficult to justify the assumption. For the most part, the 49ers are doing exactly what they've done for the past 3 years, all the while expecting a winning season. As any hardened fan will tell you, it isn't working. That stated, let's look at the key pieces of the 2008 49ers, and what each has contributed to the team's dismal record thus far.
In the years since he took the reins of the 49ers organization, Dr. John York has attempted to run the team like a business, carefully managing the bottom line while churning out a product just good enough to sell. Though he has scraped together some cash for free agency in the offseason for the past two years, the disastrous decisions made on his watch in the 2002 and 2003 off-seasons set the stage for the last five nightmarish years of 49er football. The unceremonious dumping of Steve Mariucci at the behest of Terry Donahue, the subsequent hiring of Dennis Erickson, the roster purge of Jeff Garcia and Garrison Hearst, and some of the worst re-signings in NFL history (remember Ahmed Plummer?) landed the 49ers under a mountain of "dead money", and left the roster utterly devoid of talent. While all the blame cannot be placed squarely at the feet of Dr. York, his failure to accept responsibility for the poor decisions made early in his tenure as owner reflect poorly on his ability to lead this franchise.
Talk to any Niner fan long enough, and eventually you'll hear the same thing...Mike Nolan should be fired. Since his decision to draft Alex Smith in the first round of the 2005 draft, it seems that Coach Nolan's ability to carry out the everyday duties of an NFL Head Coach has gotten worse and is limited, at best. His grasp on football reality seems to slip a little more each week. For proof, all one needs to do is listen to a post game presser. Following each of the Niners' last three losses, Coach Nolan has placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of his players, saying, "We need to play better", or "play calling is fine, but execution is lacking". In and of itself, this is a poor reflection of leadership. Nolan's blatant refusal to accept the blame for foolish use of the clock, ill-advised challenges, questionable use of personnel (why are we running a 3-4 defense?), failure to make necessary adjustments at halftime, inability to communicate with his team, and seeming inability to manage a game through four consecutive quarters are an indictment of his ability to coach in the NFL. Great coaches find ways to win...Nolan seems better at finding ways to lose.
Though ownership is sketchy, and the coaching pedestrian, some of what's wrong with this team can be tied to the roster itself. Before delivering criticism, it should be noted that this team is light years ahead of where it was last year. Even so, the team's ability to move the ball hasn't translated to better results on the field. Why? The answer is fairly simple: what ails the team on the field can be traced directly to both the offensive and defensive lines. The offensive line has given up more sacks than any unit in the NFL. Specific weak points have been reserve tackle Barry Sims, guard Adam Snyder and guard Tony Wragge. Simply stated, these men have been unable to play consistently. While some may say blame lies with the quarterback for the team's offensive struggles, the truth is undeniable: our offensive line is incapable of providing consistent pass protection, even with the help of a tight end and a blocking back. Without protection, a solid starter might struggle...a first time starter is guaranteed to struggle. The defensive line has not fared much better. Even with the impressive play of Ray McDonald and Justin Smith (at every position in the front 7), the fact remains that players like Aubrayo Franklin, Ron Fields and Isaac Sopoaga are too slow to pursue in space, and too weak to anchor the defense in a 3-4 alignment. Without the help of additional rushers on a regular basis, this group is not good enough to generate the kind of pressure necessary to allow the secondary any kind of success. Until both the offensive and defensive lines find ways to succeed with the talent they have, or find players capable of delivering at a high level for four straight quarters, the team will struggle to score, and fail to generate stops in the clutch.
So...are the 49ers' crazy? If the organization expects to win with sketchy leadership from a questionable owner, subpar coaching and uninspiring line play (the same formula that the team has come up with for the past 5 seasons), the answer is "yes". Fortunately, this brand of insanity is curable. The first step to recovery for this team is to address what is correctable. Since Dr. York can't be traded for a seventh rounder, and the likelihood of finding 3 solid offensive or defensive linemen in the middle of the season is near-nigh impossible, the first step should be the immediate replacement of Mike Nolan. Many NFL pundits state that replacing a coach in mid season usually spells doom for a team's chance of winning. They say that switching coaches at this point will cause confusion, and translate negatively on the field. Evidently, none of these pundits have seen the 49ers play a game this year.
Date: October 20, 2008 at 3:06 PM
Comment: that move was long over due and tell nolan to take alex smith with him
Date: October 19, 2008 at 6:33 PM
Comment: Simple post: can think of many reasons to fire Nolan and put in Martz (only til season's end). Can't think of any reason to keep Nolan.
Date: October 18, 2008 at 11:43 AM
Comment: AJ: excellent points. here are my thoughts. from my vantage point, it appears that dr. york has made a commitment to winning based on the team's currently high payroll. the problem though is that the 9ers are basically the worst team money can buy. they have overpaid for players that are just not good or at least is not a match for the type of offense and defense that the coaches want to play. regarding coaching, i want nolan fired, plain and simple. not merely because he is challenged (no pun intended) from an x's and o's standpoint, but primarily because he choses not to directly respond to questions and problem areas. we need a coach who is upfront with the media and public and can explain how problem areas will be addressed and resolved. your thoughts?
Date: October 18, 2008 at 11:22 AM
Comment: Well said, you pretty much hit the nail....well, I'd actually say you obliterated the damn nail on the head. :P
By: JERRY ROMAN
Date: October 18, 2008 at 8:58 AM
Comment: THERE IS A SAYING SH*T FLOWS DOWN HILL.WELL NO DOUBT THIS SAYING APPLIES TO THE 49ERS.BECAUSE THOSE ON TOP, IM TALKING ABOUT YORK AND NOLAN ARE THE REASON WHY THIS TEAM STINKS TO HIGH HEAVEN .THEIR LACK OF ABILITY TO RUN AND COACH A TEAM HAS FLOWED DOWN INTO THE PLAYERS. JUST LISTEN TO THE CRAP NOLAN SPEWS AFTER EVREY LOSS.ITS NEVER HIS FAULT, ITS ALWAYS THE TEAM DIDNT EXECUTE LIKE THEY SHOULD HAVE.WELL MAYBE THEY COULD IF THEY HAD A REAL COACH WHO KNOWS HOW TO LEAD
By: Mike in MD
Date: October 17, 2008 at 3:47 PM
Comment: For GM's what do you think of Mike Lombardi (Bill Walsh disciple) or Floyd Reese ?? (Yeah I believe he drafted PacMan but your entitled to get some misses.) I'm impressed with Lombardi when he gives his advice & insight on NFL shows & blogs but I don't know much about any of the players he's drafted while with Oakland or Cleveland. On a side note do you know if Mike Mayock/NFLN has personnel experience in the NFL? He's impressive when it comes to breaking down the Draft prospects.
By: Mike in MD
Date: October 17, 2008 at 3:32 PM
Comment: OK AJ so if we already have good enough players for a 1 GAP 4-3 why the hell don't we do it since our D is getting torn apart in both the run & pass?? That's damning solid evidence for Nolan to be fired if he "stays the course" which this clueless moron already stated he's gonna do. Personally I like the 3-4 because of the versatility & deception with more LB's vs DL for ST's. In the next Draft my dream is to land Oher at OT, then get our QB 2nd or 3rd Rd. If we go 3rd with the QB there's only 2 legit NT's in this Draft..BJ Raji/Boston, Al Woods/LSU. Raji looks the most promising, Woods has been quiet this year. I don't think either will last past the 2nd Rd. So if we can wait for the QB until the 3rd we could land our NT, at this point preferably Raji. Now if Sam Bradford comes out early (out of this world stats, is smart, & ACCURATE) & NFL QB Scouts say he's for real we would have a tough decision for the 1st pick. I want as close to a guaranteed starter as possible with that #1. We should get someone with Star potential..if we miss on Oher, or a Bradford, IMO take a look at Maualuga who I think could be a superstar..6'1/260 lbs/FAST TED next to PW, WE'D OWN THE MIDDLE!!
Date: October 17, 2008 at 3:20 PM
Comment: Does anyone really think that York cares what the fans, the Bay area, or the team thinks?
Date: October 17, 2008 at 1:35 PM
Comment: How can you have a doctorate and not know that success leaves footsteps and failure leaves skid marks. Dr.York needs to change everything he does and doesn't do TODAY. The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is successful people realize whether or not their actions are taking them towards their goals or against, then they have the foresight to change what they're doing if they're not going in the right direction. 4 STEP PLAN TO TURNING THE NINERS AROUND. #1 FIRE NO-WIN. #2 SEE WHAT MARTZ (the only coach with HC experience on our staff) CAN DO. #3 DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET A PROVEN COACH WITH A TRACK RECORD OF SUCCESS IF MARTZ ISN'T THE GUY BY SEASON'S END (I.E. COWHER, SCHOTTENHEIMER, ETC) IN THERE, NOT ANOTHER UNPROVEN ASSISTANT. #4.GET SOMEBODY WHO IS BETTER AT EVALUATING TALENT THAN OUR CURRENT GUYS INSTEAD OF WASTING MILLIONS ON POOR DRAFT CHOICES.
By: Mike from Michigan
Date: October 17, 2008 at 1:35 PM
Comment: I see the point here and I think it is a valid one. I have been a fan for 20 years and I agree this team is much better than it was when Nolan took over. But, many of you bloggers who are fans focus too much on wanting to win as opposed to looking at the facts objectively. First, I agree the ownership probably knows little about football. But you have to give Nolan at least partial credit for one thing, the team is light years ahead of where we were when Nolan took over in terms of talent. We have a team that can compete with nearly every team in the NFC this year. Talent-wise. Managing a game is and his players are Nolan bad points. Justin Smith has also not been that great this season. Opposing teams average their longest runs on his side. Our offense is more productive this season, but we are not light years ahead of anything last season. We still fail on third down and we still can't score in the red zone. Thirty yard passes are pretty, but a field goal is still three points. The talent on defense also doesn't scream for a blitz. The secondary gets toasted on blitzes regularly. However, we can't blame everything on Nolan. If you think so, wait until next year.
By: Mike in MD
Date: October 17, 2008 at 11:53 AM
Comment: Isn't that why Manusky was brought in, to run the 3-4?? It's McNolan's failure getting backup players they "thought" could be starter material. Franklin & TBC are total failures (& Sopoaga s/b a backup. WE NEED TO GET ALBERT HAYNESWORTH IN FA...break the bank for this guy!! He would change our D INSTANTLY.) You just can't make that mistake on your KEY PLAYERS in the 3-4..the NT & pass rushing OLB. They should have never brought in a 3-4 specialist without having completed their DLine & pass rushers. Just a bonehead move. Now you've got 1 main moron in Nolan who also isn't a 4-3 guy BOTH learning & adlibing on the job & we don't have the personnel for BOTH SCHEMES. On the 4-3 we don't have the DL to hold the middle & JSmith is a solid player but not a natural true pass rusher. Nolan failed miserably in not getting those 2 critical pieces first before converting the D. We're only 2 KEY pieces away from having a solid possible dominating D..that NT & real stud OLB pass rusher (Haralson's developed nicely as one & is pushing Manny ) if we continue to go after the 3-4...here's where Manusky would shine WITH NOLAN GONE. I totally agree with your response to BigRon's comment.
Date: October 17, 2008 at 8:36 AM
Comment: Nice first attempt AJ. This team is light years ahead of where it was when Nolan inherited it. It is NOT light years ahead of where it was last year. In my opinion it has taken steps backwards. JTO over Alex is a step back. Not a very large step but backwards none the less. There are two areas where Alex was better than JTO. First the deep throw. I know he wasn't always on target but he could make teams respect his arm. JTO is Ken Dorsey in that respect. Alex would also find a way to win in the fourth quarter as JTO has shown himself to be Tim Rattay in the fourth. Secondly, I think the defense, for whatever reason you want to put to it, (Willis not being chosen a captain at the beginning of the season, The retirement of BY, the ageing of the Lewis's,) has shown a lack of focus and an attack of the line of scrimmage. This could be laid at Nolan's feet and maybe it should be but it should be put squarely on the shoulders of Manusky and Singletary for the lack of motivation and inspiration that our overpaid millionaires seem to require. We need to find a way to fire this defense up. It should be better than it is.
Date: October 17, 2008 at 8:23 AM
Comment: YES! I have been asking "Why are we still trying to run a 3-4?" since forever. It is so frustrating. We simply do not have the personnel to get it done yet Nolan has been trying to stick with it since he came here. Just another instance where Nolan's stubbornness has hurt this team.
Date: October 16, 2008 at 6:06 PM
Comment: This is an excellent article. I totally agree Nolan should be replaced now. There is no upside to waiting until year end. Nolan has always been too stubborn and resistant to adjustments even when it's clear his way isn't working. I think this is because he is more obsessed with looking like a good head coach than actually being one, and making adjustments he thinks would make him look like less of a leader. The mark of a good leader is having the confidence to admit when he's wrong and make changes. Nolan will never learn that and consequently, he will always be an empty suit. Although many people disagree, Martz should be named interim head coach because of his experience. If he can get something out of this team, then it's an option to give him a permanent deal. If he can't, let him go. I would love to see what Manusky can do with the defence without the dead hand of Nolan on his back. The current ineffective defence stinks of Nolan's handiwork.
Date: October 16, 2008 at 5:35 PM
Comment: That sh*t was wack son. You needa learn how to think on your own my n*gga. You basically repeated what every other zoner already said. Sh*t was garbage.