Mike Nolan, You're Fired!
Mike Nolan, you're fired.
The San Francisco 49ers have played eight football games this season, and they have played well in exactly zero of them.
Your composure, classiness, and ability to develop individual players have been very strong at times. But you have fallen well short of expectations when it comes to developing a cohesive team.
On the bright side, Coach Nolan, people give you credit for overseeing the rise of so many promising stars—and they're correct to do so.
Frank Gore is one of the most talented running backs in the league, and you deserve credit for giving him the opportunity to prove it. Patrick Willis was a fantastic draft pick. Vernon Davis was an obvious selection at the time—and you aren't at fault for his injuries, just as you shouldn't be blamed for Norv Turner's abandonment of Alex Smith.
But your careless mistakes far outnumber the bright spots for which you are praised:
1. Let's begin with the one that is probably most painful for Niner fans today...
In every team sport, in every professional league, there's a golden rule. It's a very obvious and clear rule. It's one that's occasionally ignored, and bites one team after another in the ass:
Never, ever, ever trade next year's first round draft pick.
Trading away future first-rounders turns losing seasons into wasted seasons.
This season is a complete and utter waste, because the unbeatable New England Patriots will enjoy our Top Five draft pick.
This was a combination of carelessness and cockiness. You gambled a big part of your team's future because you thought that you were a shoo-in for the playoffs.
If only you'd been able to accurately assess your team's prospects...
2. You ignored a lot of blind spots on this team, and assumed that last year's good health would carry over to this year.
You were wrong.
Just as the Bleacher Report's own Kevan Lee NFL-San_Francisco_49ers-Not_So_Fast_49ers_Alex_Smith_Primed_to_Disappoint-280707">predicted, the 49ers were forced to learn how to deal with injuries, and they could not have performed worse.
And in this particular instance, the coach could not be more responsible.
You had no contingency plan at QB. For over a year, pundits complimented you for the seemingly-wise decision to put the ever-so-smart Trent Dilfer at backup. They pointed out that he was a good mentor and tutor.
But guess what? He was never able to do his real job: throwing the football.
Dilfer was a lousy quarterback many years ago when he rode the Ravens to a title, and he clearly hasn't aged well.
This was just a matter of time. Anyone could have told you that.
One also has to wonder about your handling of the offensive line. Did you think that Larry Allen and Jonas Jennings were immune to the ravages of age?
Both of these guys were as physically vulnerable as they were talented.
3. When many 49er fans think of you as a coach, they're impressed with your professionalism and composure. That said, your own personal discipline has failed to be imparted to your players.
The 49ers we see this season are careless. No offense in the league has amassed such a shameful ratio of first downs to penalties.
Opportunities are routinely squandered, potential touchdowns are routinely downgraded to field goals, and flags seem to fly at the most inopportune times.
You seem like a man who knows how to keep cool under pressure, but your team is another story. They've converted less than a third of their third downs, and it seems like a huge portion of those failed opportunities can be pinned squarely upon your inept offensive line.
They're old pros, but they sure pick the wrong plays to give up on.
4. You feel entitled to be this team's coach.
There, I said it.
This is your third year as coach, and it's unlikely that this team will end up with a record much better than 4-12.
Heck, at this rate, we may never get to 4-12.
And yet, deep down, you feel like you aren't the reason.
People think that you're classy because you refuse to "throw Jim Hostler under the bus." But, secretly, you know damn well that he'll be made the scapegoat no matter what you say, so what do you really have to worry about?
The public has never perceived him as a genius like you.
That's right, you were the defensive coordinator of the aforementioned Ravens team—probably the finest defense of the last 20 years. If you're fired, everyone will say, "What a controversial decision—Nolan is a genius, how can you ask for more?"
But it wasn't you who built that corps or took it to a Super Bowl victory. And even if you were the type of defensive genius you think you are, did you really think that you'd acquire the sort of luxury talent you enjoyed in Baltimore?
The Niners don't have Ray Lewis. They don't even have Sam Adams or Rod Woodson.
You were responsible for building a complete team, with both an offense and a defense—and you outsourced the former.
An NFL coach needs to be equally passionate about building his offense as he is his defense, and he needs to ensure that both of them are being developed in the best possible manner.
Your defense is underperforming, and your offense isn't there.
And neither should you be come season's end.
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