I know what most of you are thinking: Who is Mike Nolan? And who cares what the 49ers do? Even as a lifelong fan of the 'Niners, I couldn’t really argue with that sentiment.
I realize how irrelevant the once-great dynasty has become, but there is still a huge fanbase out there. One that starts to get restless when they go even one season without seeing the playoffs, but bear with me here as I defend my point. And Mike Nolan’s job.
Trust me, I’m just as sick of watching the San Francisco professional football team lose week after week as the next guy. Or not watching, since they haven’t been on national television since T.O. was still underrated, and they don’t even get their highlights shown anymore.
I miss the heyday of Young, Rice, and Merton Hanks, just like the next guy, but sometimes you just have to be patient and also somehow get the York’s to sell the team and get the hell outta’ dodge!
There are numerous reasons the 49ers have underachieved over the past three seasons, and almost none of them can be attributed to coaching, in my opinion. Of course Nolan isn’t the best coach in the league, but in my opinion, he’s done about as good a job as possible with what he’s been given.
With the following list, I’ll try to breakdown for you why I think the average San Fran fan should back off of Nolan and give him a couple more seasons.
1) They haven’t been that bad...
(I figured I’d start my argument slow and build it up.)
Yes, the 'Niners have been disappointing, but when you break it down, they’ve basically won one-third of their games since Nolan took control in ’05. They’re 18-32 and lost eight of those games by six points or less.
So if you take away those close games, they’re a .500 ballclub. Granted, that is still not acceptable with the rich history of winning in the Bay Area, but it’s still not Detroit Lions or Arizona Cardinals bad.
I think that the 49ers are just in the midst of the downside of a normal cycle that happens in the NFL. Teams consistently have ups and down over different eras. I think that Mike Nolan can be the right coach to turn it around though, if given enough time to get the correct players for his system.
2) Young Talent
Nolan and the San Francisco front office have done a decent job of drafting young guys that can come in and perform. If you look at players like Patrick Willis, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, and Manny Lawson, you can see that Nolan and his staff have the ability to spot young talent and pull off a successful draft.
Of course you’re going to have years like ’05 where they were basically stuck and had no choice but to use the No. 1 overall pick on Alex Smith. Was it a bust? Of course. I think most fans and analysts knew that almost immediately.
They didn’t have much choice though, as the draft was so terrible no one was offering anything legitimate at all in order for them to trade that pick away.
So now that Alex Smith is probably about due to head down to Gator country and join Urban Meyer’s coaching staff, the red and gold can possibly get back on track and start developing and/or acquiring the next great QB. I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s not going to be O’Sullivan.
3) Horribly Inept Owners
John York is quite possibly one of the worst owners in professional sports history. I won’t get into the gory and insipid details here; instead, I’ll just break it down very simply.
The downturn in the 49ers' fortunes can be traced almost exactly to when the team left the hands of Ed DeBartolo and fell into the very incapable ones of his daughter Denise and her husband Dr. John York.
One of the very few good decisions Mr. York has made is to hire Mike Nolan. He brings a great background of hard-nosed, defensive-minded football.
He has been fighting against the grain for three years though, with the backhanded dealings of an inept owner who has tried anything and everything to put his "stamp" on a team that should never have been his in the first place.
I won’t say that John York doesn’t care about winning, because I honestly think he does want his team to win.
He’s just incompetent as an owner of a professional sports team. Seriously, Mike Martz and $80 million for an undersized cornerback, really? Honestly, you’re still not going to go out and get a decent veteran quarterback?
John York is the reason this team isn’t succeeding, not the coaching. And don’t even get me started on the new stadium fiasco and how we might be calling them the Santa Clara 49ers…
4) Who else are they going to get?
I’m not detracting from my faith in Nolan’s ability to turn this around, I’m just wondering who the people who do detract think will come riding over that hill. Bill Cowher? Yeah right, he’s waiting for that Panther’s job like, well, it’s his job.
And besides that, York would never give him the money he’d be looking for. What about someone like Monty Kiffin, you say? Well yeah, he’s been a great defensive coordinator for years and years, and maybe he’d like to coach across the bay from his son in Oakland.
Two problems with that theory though: Lane Kiffin might not even make it until Halloween, and Monty is an old surly bastard who won’t ever leave that damned Tampa Bay team. They’ll either give him the reigns after Gruden or he’ll keep that job until he goes senile and starts blitzing 11 guys every down.
If you or any one even mentions giving Martz the head-coaching job, I will definitely begin to lose faith in everything that is just and right in this world. He’s not the guy, he’s just not, and if I have to explain myself to anyone at all, they’ve officially lost all of their football privileges until further notice.
5) Just Wait
That’s my only reason on this one. I’m not saying they’re going to win the Super Bowl, or even make the playoffs this year or next. They’ve gotten better though, and the team is well coached.
They’ve won and lost some tough games over the past three years, and win or lose, you have to admit they have played hard and through the entire game every time. I believe that means a lot in this day and age in the NFL.
Bill Walsh is not walking through that door ladies and gentlemen, and neither is George Siefert. The glory days aren’t just going to reappear. You have to work for them and stick by your team through these tough times.