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What a difference a day makes. After another frustrating Mike Nolan postgame presser, the inevitable has occurred. Mike Nolan is no longer the coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Early rumors had Nolan being dismissed after this weekend's contest with the Seahawks, but apparently the idea of a lame-duck coach didn't sit well with 49er brass. Though mid season coaching changes usually amount to disaster on the field...it isn't as though this team wasn't a mess already. That stated let's take account of what we have, and get down to what this move by the 49ers says to the fans.
The Yorks Were Paying Attention
Believe it or not, ownership has actually been paying attention to what's going on in 49erland. Since the Yorks took control of this team, fans across the country have felt the same thing: disinterested ownership. Can the same be said after yesterday's move? Hardly. At the very least, fans should feel that the ownership is interested in helping the team succeed now. Was this the right time to pull the plug on Nolan? Only time will tell. Does ownership suddenly know what they're doing? Probably not. Is this the move that vaults the 49ers back to prominence? Definitely not. This move will probably not generate wins this season, but it can change the conservative culture fostered by Nolan, and may also replace "playing not to lose" with "playing to win". That won't create a dynasty, but it might create a team that isn't out of games before kickoff.
Jed York Is Taking Over
Listening Scot McCloughan during today's press conference, what was once widely speculated became crystal clear: Jed York is now the decision maker for the York clan as it pertains to the 49ers. He may be listed on the team's website as a consultant, but the fact is, Jed has been groomed to be the decision maker since he was brought on board. For good or ill, he is in the driver's seat for the time being. While some may worry about how young Jed is, there is one thing that all fans can take comfort in...and that is his relationship with his Hall of Fame caliber uncle, Eddie DeBartolo. Will Jed leverage his uncle's vast experience while charting the future course of the organization? Fans can only hope so. Will Jed succeed where his father failed? Only time will tell. After listening to him speak today, it is obvious that he watches games, knows the roster, and wants to win.
Mike Nolan Was Losing His Team
While you won't hear anybody say it, everybody knows it. Mike Nolan was losing his team. Any of his post game pressers this season said as much. He was focussed so hard on keeping his job that he forgot to do his job. Whether you want to cite his "miscommunication" with Alex Smith, or his offseason "misunderstanding" with Arnaz Battle, the fact is, Mike Nolan's grip on the reins of the team was slipping...so much so that a change had to be made. His botched handling of Josh Morgan's staph infection, his dogged reliance on a soft zone in the 4th quarter, his refusal to bench a non-motivated Jonas Jennings and his seeming inability to manage a game from start to finish frustrated fans and local media. It would be foolish to assume that such things weren't weighing on the players, too. Sloppy play, emotional outbursts, and the general lack of discipline shown by the team on the field suggest that player confidence was flagging. Such things are a reflection of coaching. While Mike Nolan may have been a fine person, he was not a strong enough leader to keep this team together.
McCloughan's Promotion Was More than Symbolic
After McCloughan was promoted to GM last season, some thought the move was symbolic, and that Mike Nolan still retained some control over player personnel issues. After Nolan's dismissal yesterday, it is obvious that this was not the case. Though Scot was Nolan's underling for his first three years with the team, it has become evident that ownership has faith in his ability to evaluate talent, and wanted to create separation between Nolan and McCloughan in the event that the "Great Nolan Experiment of 2008" was a failure. Will Scot become the kind of GM that can revive an organization that has forgotten how to win? Maybe. But the fact is, ownership believes he can.
Mike Singletary Is a Charismatic Leader
Mike Singletary is passionate about this team. Will that be enough to make him a great head coach? Probably not. Will the players continue to play hard under his leadership? Almost certainly. Is charisma all that Singletary has got going for him? Only time will tell. While his experience is limited, there is something about being one of the best defenders in the history of the game that will command respect from the players. The team may win under Singletary, and it may not. One thing is certain, though...the team will not lose for lack of effort.
Any way you look at it, this change is going to shake the franchise. The team was due for a coaching change. Fans screamed for it. Local media speculated about it. Until yesterday, we thought it could happen. Now we know.