NFC Championship Game 2013: The 49ers and the return of Mike Nolan

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Mike Nolan is with the Falcons now, and we can use this to remember his tenure as head coach of the 49ers.

Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way - Mike Nolan can wear a mean suit. My, oh my, did that guy look good prowling the sidelines suited up NPH-style. I mean, he scowled a lot because his team was always losing, but he looked good scowling.

But on to the good stuff: Mike Nolan is actually a decent coach.

Well, sort of.

First off, he has been a defensive coordinator for just about every team in the NFL, most notably the Baltimore Ravens from 2002-2004. And now, after brief stints with the Denver Broncos and the Miami Dolphins, he has found a home with the Falcons. According to Football Outsiders, the Falcons are just above the middle of the pack on defense. They defend the pass decently and the run not so decently. So, you know middle of the pack. This isn't a criticism. That's pretty much the defense they need with that offense.

And this makes sense with Mike Nolan. What were his detriments as a head coach? For one, he didn't know how to manage a QB at all. His interactions with the media about Alex Smith, particularly over his shoulder injury, were deplorable. It was clear the two never got along, and this was to Nolan's detriment as a coach. With the arrival of Jim Harbaugh, Alex took his game to the next level, with a 13-3 season the result.

In addition, Nolan struggled with creating harmony between himself and the front office. The whole draft "trigger" business is the exact type of nonsense that plagues bad teams. Good teams establish set hierarchies and function within those establishments.

What is weird about this latter problem, though, is that Nolan was always a pretty good talent evaluator. Much of our current roster is in place due to his efforts. While his drafts weren't always as good as the recent Harbaugh-Baalke showings, he did find quite a few gems that are with this team still.

I always thought that Nolan had a knack for disciplined play as well. His defenses in general thrive upon disciplined play, and that seemed to be true of his time with the Niners. I hope, however, that this isn't true about the Falcons. By and large, this is still a young offense. Even after a strong showing against Green Bay, and even given the Falcons' well-documented trouble with "option-style" QBs, the last thing this team needs right now is to run into a disciplined defense that won't budge and keeps getting the ball back into Matt Ryan's hands.

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