McCloughan and Nolan Incorporated

Feb 20, 2005 at 12:00 AM

As the month of February came into light so did the San Francisco 49er front office in making a final decision in its hunt for a replacement of former General Manager Terry Donahue. The purge that took place with the San Francisco 49er franchise had not been complete as of yet as owner Dr. John York made clear that Head Coach Mike Nolan would have a direct say in the hiring of a new general manager/director of player personnel.

Former General Manager Terry Donahue served five years in office before being dismissed Jan. 5th, 2005. He was a crafty statesman in that he often ran interference between the owner and the head coach on many an occasion. He often had many differences with the head coaches under his direction among them being Steve Mariucci and Dennis Erickson.

The rifts became more of a problem as time passed on. Player personnel decisions came under scrutiny as well as players chosen in the draft with his blessings turned out to be rather liabilities instead most of the time. Former General Manager Bill Walsh who handpicked Terry Donahue soon realized and later admitted that Terry Donahue was a different bird when encompassed with power.

It became glaringly clear as Bill Walsh relinquished more and more power to prepare Terry Donahue for his rightful place and to have him gain insight into the dealings on the NFL level so to speak. All of his collegiate expertise was soon to be questioned as his draft choices fluttered and his inability to make Dennis Erickson successful apparent.

I must admit I was excited at first when Terry Donahue was hired. I was positive that Bill Walsh was the right choice in choosing his own successor. I was certain he had made the right choice as many of all of you believed as well. But he blundered on this one and only through the course of five years were we able to fully understand it.

Soon Dr. John York came to realize that fans were right in calling for someone's head after a devastating (2-14) season. He soon realized that the only way to properly restore faith and credibility of himself within the organization was to fire and eat the contracts of both his head coach and general manager. And that was the leap of faith he took and succeeded at when push came to shove.

"I'm not here to put any blame," York said when announcing his decision. "But things have just not gone forward the way we had discussed during the summer and we are sitting here at 2-14. That is just unacceptable. I think everyone is disappointed and it's time for us to make a fresh start. We are going to do that by moving towards a new head coach and general manager that will rebuild the 49ers and get us back to winning."

As a team Donahue and Erickson had a 9-23 mark for a collective record with the 49ers. Erickson a laughing stock from the very beginning in my mind left the franchise with the worst record (by winning percentage) of any coach that lasted more than one year with our team.

Donahue was forced to leave after just signing a four -year contract with owner Dr. John York as little as four months ago. He ate the salary of Dennis Erickson as well after he signed a five-year contract back in 2003. When Donahue was brought on in 1999 as player personnel director under Bill Walsh there were high hopes he could assist Walsh in overcoming our salary cap problems, and our lack of player talent.

In six seasons since joining our team as player personnel director in 1999, the last four as our team's general manager he was responsible for drafting only one player who reached the Pro Bowl. He made many bad decisions on contract extensions with certain players as well, including overpaying to retain the services of cornerback Ahmed Plummer and even running back Kevan Barlow as indicated this past off-season.

There were even indications that Donahue did not put enough quality time in with the organization spending too much time in his Southern California home rather than spending time in the San Francisco Bay Area. He even had side business dealings that seemed to have a higher priority then what he had in managing the San Francisco 49ers.

The time for change was ripe and when Mike Nolan was introduced as our new head coach with a say in anything and everything it was a dream come true for this organization. Finding a man to compliment Nolan was the next task and hiring the right coaches to get the team up and running was also a critical need that he instantly went about addressing.

After a month of firing his former colleagues and extensive interviewing on the same scale as he implemented in finding head coach Mike Nolan, Dr. John York selected Scot McCloughan with the selected title of Vice President of Player Personnel. Scot leaves a job with the Seattle Seahawks as their director of college scouting since 2000. Before that he worked hand in hand with then General Manager of the Green Bay Packers Ron Wolf for five years as a member of their scouting department.

He comes from a background of football experience in that his brother, Dave, played safety for the Seattle Seahawks in 1993-94. And his father, Kent, played six years with the Oakland Raiders, and has been a member of their scouting department for the last 29 years.

Scot McCloughan comes with excellent credentials and again Dr. John York made all the right moves in choosing the right individual for this position. McCloughan has been widely successful while with the Seattle Seahawks in of the 28 players that were drafted since he took charge there in 2000. 25 of them remain on the team.

Among these stars are wide receiver Koren Robinson, guard Steve Hutchinson, cornerback Ken Lucas, linebacker Orlando Huff, tackle Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack and tight end Jerramy Stevens. In my opinion this alone says a lot about outstanding personnel decisions as all of these players are proven athletes with successful contributions to their team.

What is even more intriguing in this hiring is the fact that Scot McCloughan and Mike Nolan share the same vision and have adopted the same formula for success for this franchise. After learning from observations and conversations as an owner Dr. John York now can see what it takes for a franchise to succeed.

He has adopted the similar philosophies and infrastructure that has been created and is working on championship caliber teams like the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. He wants to make his own prototype football organization and back it up with successful hiring's, acquisitions and development of a new stadium to generate more revenue.

Mike Nolan took part in the hiring of Scot McCloughan at Dr. John York's beckoning and this in itself will help generate a solid working relationship. Scot comes from a family rich in football tradition and has scouted for some of the very best in football has to offer.

Working with the likes of Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren really sets him apart from the others that were competing against him for this job. I am convinced that he'll serve our team in a valued capacity and will assist Mike in every way imaginable in turning this club around.

"It will be very important that we get a very talented person to handle the personnel because that is just critical because everybody overlaps another in that area," Nolan said. "The evaluation part of it for the director is critical. He needs to be a great administrator, but he also needs to be very good in the talent evaluation itself."

Many an owner and general manager across the NFL has already communicated with Dr. John York in congratulating him on a fine choice in Scot McCloughan. He is being counted on heavily to erase six seasons of heartache and depression in which Terry Donahue failed miserably to land key players that could anchor the franchise for years to come.

Instead we have suffered with one setback after another and have been forced to take a backseat to many franchises rich in talent and areas of expertise in comparison to our own.

"The whole idea is to win games and bring in quality players to help you win games," McCloughan said at his introductory press conference. "That's my job and that's what I'm going to do."

McCloughan, 33, and the former Seattle Seahawks director of college scouting will have a big task ahead of him. All teams must decide by Feb 22nd rather to designate someone with the franchise tag or not.

McCloughan has a tough one in linebacker Julian Peterson to make. The pre-draft NFL Combine begins a day after that. Free agency and the trading period start March 2nd. And then last but not least you have the NFL draft where we own the very first pick on April 23-24.

"In less than a month, we have seen the departure of our prior head coach and general manager," owner John York said. "We've had the hiring of our new head coach, Mike Nolan, and with Scot, we've taken another major step toward bringing the San Francisco 49ers back to a position of dominance. This looks like a winning combination to me."

Some wonder what McCloughan will actually be in charge of? Well the answers are fairly simple. He will have responsibility over all the player personnel, including the draft, free agency and trades, but Mike Nolan will actually have the final say on any player or even a roster related issue.

This is a stark contrast to what we are all accustomed to but one that needed to happen a long time ago. For now the head coach has full control and he'll make the decisions necessary to move the team forward but Scot's recommendations will play an important part in that decision.

"By the time this draft comes around with all of us being together and working toward the right goal, we're going to be ready to go," McCloughan said of the April 23 draft. "It's not going to be any Saturday morning panic here and there. Now, some trade stuff might evolve, who knows? But we're going to be ready to go and we'll take the best player," said Nolan, "When it comes to personnel, Scot is a first-rounder. It takes one to choose one."

When you think of a brand name in the NFL that knows how to identify great talent the ones that come to mind for me are Bill Walsh and Ron Wolf. Ron Wolf over his years developed an eye for evaluating talent during his legendary career with the Green Bay Packers and building a Super Bowl Championship team, as it's general manager.

When he was put in control of the Green Bay Packers there was one person that stood out in the area of player evaluation and that was Scot McCloughan. He served with Wolf and learned from him over the course of four years before moving on to the Seattle Seahawks.

"Number one, he's very good at what he does. He has a tremendous desire to improve. He knows he's not going to be perfect in what he does, but he understands what this whole process is about. He was brought up the right way," Wolf said.

"He learned from his father then he got into the business on his own. He has an exceptional eye for talent. e learns very quickly. I'm sure that he won't have any problem adjusting to the nuances of the NFL and the rules and regulations that are involved there because he is very bright and confident."

This is what we have in McCloughan and Nolan Incorporated. A bright new future with experience and proven dedication behind the wheel of a franchise thirsty for nourishment after a very long drought. I am so thankful for what has been done here and from an owner that has learned some humility and is willing to go to any length to restore what is rightfully ours again.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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