EDITOR'S NOTE 10PM - Whether you're for or against Nolan, this is highly entertaining. Enjoy.
I am BOLD. I am FIERCE. I am Mike Nolan, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, and somehow I still have a job.
I owe it all to my regimen. Every morning I do fifty squints, a hundred brow furls, two hundred glares. I practice my steely gaze in front of the mirror every night so people think I know what I'm doing. Now THAT's a guy with confidence, they say. THAT's a guy who has his team headed in the right direction. The truth is, I don't know what direction we're supposed to go. I don't even know how to read a compass, let alone use it for football.
Most games I'll stand there, find a fixed point on the field, like a patch of dirt or a blade of grass, and just stare. Stare at the color of the blade, focus on the length of its trim. Stare blankly, blindly, my stolid countenance never giving away the fact that I have no freaking clue what's happening around me. That's what it takes to keep your job at this level. Never waver. Never let them see your incompetence. Keep that gaze cold and hard as steel, affixed on a single, undulating blade. Wow that's a fresh cut. I should get the groundskeeper to do my lawn.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm too hard on myself. I'll go to face the media, look in their sallow, cherubic faces, and not see a single man among them. They ask me why I make such poor decisions on 4th down. That must mean I make great decisions on 1st to 3rd. After all, why should I value the opinion of someone who doesn't take the time to look professional, to strengthen the grip of his handshake?
Sometimes I'll stare into the ridge between their eyes and I get the feeling that if I stare long enough, I can see right into their souls. Maybe then I'll figure out what they want to hear. Maybe then they'll stop asking me so many questions about quarterbacks and challenges and fifth downs. Maybe then they'll stop asking me so many questions about football.
Not that I worry. I've worked too hard to be taken down by a few balding nerds with pencils. Too damn hard. So hard that at times I'll find myself doing my routine without thinking. I'll be at the dinner table, peering at the walls, patting chairs on the butt, or scowling at silverware. I'll jump in the jacuzzi and not realize I'm still wearing my suit. My wife says I do fist pumps in my sleep.
She doesn't understand. It's all about image. Perception. That's what it takes to be a coach in the National Football League. My face is what it takes. And I have it.