I get an RSS feed from ProFootballTalk.com more just to see what rumors are flying around. It's not my source for 49ers info, but sometimes an interesting tidbit will pop up about some other time. Obviously you have to take anything from PFT with a grain of salt. Today, though, I saw something today that was a link from a Green Bay newspaper discussing the likelihood of Mike Nolan being hired as the Packers defensive coordinator.
“He’s good now. He’s smart,” said the scout who’s familiar with Nolan. “He can run 3-4, 4-3, he knows it all. It depends on what personnel you have. He’ll do whatever, morph to whatever. He’ll use your players to their strengths. He’s smart that way.”
Use players to their strengths? I think the Big Sub and Manny Lawson would beg to differ. JRPhillips suggested some discussion of Nolan potentially going to the Packers as a front page post and after reading the above quote today, it seems now is as good a time as any. As JRPhillips put it:
Seems the Nolan rumor might be worthy of its own front page post, because I’m curious what you all think. I recall hearing that Nolan basically took over the defense that whats-his-name built, and most of his success is due to Ray Lewis. But at the same time, when he was named HC for the Niners, the hiring was universally applauded. Opinions on the subject?
What's-his-name is Marvin Lewis, who was defensive coordinator from 1996-2001. I thought I'd take a very simplified at defensive DVOA to just get a basic assessment of the situation. The year before Lewis took over, the Ravens defense was ranked 25th. In Lewis's six seasons the defense was ranked (in this order): 29th, 13th, 14th, 2nd, 1st, 4th. Mike Nolan immediately followed him in Baltimore from 2002-2004. In those three seasons, the defense was ranked (in this order): 6th, 1st and 2nd.
One small factor to consider is that, in 2002, Ray Lewis only played five games. Other than that, how much credit can be given to Mike Nolan? I'm not saying he doesn't deserve credit for continuing the defensive domination, but it's tough to give him a ton of credit. That first season happened to be Ed Reed's rookie year, but again I don't know what kind of credit can go to Nolan given Reed's immense talent.
So, what do people think? Assessing Mike Nolan's defensive coordinating prowess is not exactly a black and white argument. His bull-headed ways made for great annoyance with the Big Sub. The 49ers defense improved during his time in SF, but given how bad it previously was, that's not saying much.