Even though training camp has not begun yet, I figure now is as good a time as any to stick my toe in the pool of previews. So consider this a tepid preview of the 49ers coaching staff. There has been a sizable amount of transition on the staff, primarily in the big name positions of offensive and defensive coordinator.
I'm curious to see the transition on both sides of the ball with these maneuvers, especially as it appears Mike Nolan is hoping to delegate more authority to these positions. Personally, I think Nolan's willingness to delegate would be important in his own improvement as head coach. It always seemed like things were happening a little haphazardly during key situations. Timeouts that should not have been necessary, too many men or too few men on the field and general clock management. Obviously Alex Smith is also partially to blame, but this is the one area I thought Nolan needed to improve. Allowing his coordinators to take more control, particularly on defense would be quite beneficial.
There was certainly plenty of acrimony here and among other fans when Norv Turner took off for San Diego. I understand how a person's ego could push them towards a bigger position, but I think this is a big mistake by Turner. He's never been a good head coach and was with a team on the rise. However, what's done is done and it's time to move on.
Needless to say, I'm relatively pleased the team went with Jim Hostler. I think going with the guy who's been tutoring Alex Smith for the last two years is the safest move to make. I think this ensures a relatively stable transition. Whenever a quarterback goes through 3 or 4 OCs in a short time span, it seems like his development is stunted. In this case, I'm hoping that this kind of internal hire will negate that.
I have been trying to figure out more about Frank Cignetti since he was hired as the quarterbacks coach. Aside from his time as the 2-year quarterbacks coach in New Orleans, Cignetti spent 2002-2005 as the QB coach at Fresno State and a season as QB coach in North Carolina. His four years in Fresno State saw him working with Paul Pinegar. Statistically, Pinegar showed solid improvement each year increasing his yards per attempt, TD/INT ratio, sack total, yards and QB rating. This clearly has to be taken with a bit of a grain of salt because we're not seeing how the recruiting classes improved the talent around him. However, I'll take it as at least a good sign that Pinegar improved each year. Between now and the beginning of the season I'm hoping to get a better feel for Cignetti.
The defensive side of the ball sees the addition of Greg Manusky. In his six years as a paid coach, Manusky has coached linebackers the entire time. With all the offseason additions, he's definitely coming to a team with a solid player nucleus, which should ease his transition. Nolan has been very hands on with the defense in the past. However, in introducing Manusky he said Manusky would be making all the calls on defense. Considering his forte has been linebackers, he's definitely coming to a team where that is becoming a big-time strength. The future of this team will see Willis and Moore in the middle, Lawson and Banta-Cain outside with some solid depth behind them. Manusky has worked with the likes of Shawne Merriman, Donnie Edwards, Junior Seau and Lavar Arrington. While these are all guys who were already excellent LBs or would have become stars without him, it's certainly a good sign that he's worked with greatness. And of course, he's got Mike Singletary to lean on when it comes to linebacker help.
With all of the additions, a big part of his job will be getting everybody gelling and on the same page going into the season. While I'm not worried about any team chemistry issues, I still think it always requires a bit more work when you're dealing with so many new teammates. Furthermore, with the full time switch to the 3-4, even the players who've been here a while will have their work cut out for them in learning the new scheme. Hopefully Coach Nolan is patient with Manusky and let's the squad develop. I see them taking some lumps early on as they develop into a cohesive unit so patience from the coaching staff and the fans will be necessary. I was a little hesitant about Manusky early on, but of course that was also before the many defensive additions. It's not so surprising to see my confidence improve with all the talent out there now. We'll see how Manusky brings them together.