Former San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Nolan has become a regular on the media circuit since stepping away from the coaching ranks. On Monday, he took some time chat with 95.7 The Game, and had plenty to say about the 49ers current woes. You can listen to the entire interview here.
At one point he was discussing the challenges of playing as a dominant winner vs. playing as a terrible team that loses every week. He talked about people saying they would rather be blown out than lose by one point, and Nolan felt he’d rather at least know his team was close and competitive. He said, “if I’m just getting waylaid every week like some of the teams, whether it’s Cleveland or the 49ers or even Chicago prior to yesterday – those are the hardest teams in my opinion to get up each week, because you’re not really given a whole lot of reason to feel good about things. Because you’re not just losing, you’re losing by large margins.”
That led into a question about what the 49ers should do this offseason. The hosts asked him whether or not they should stay the course, or if change was necessary. Here’s what he had to say in response:
You know what? It’s sad that it’s gone to where it has, where it is, I should say. They’re beginning to look much like when I took the job over in 2005. They were coming off two prior seasons of a two-win and a four-win seasons. There really was not a lot of good personnel on the team.
The difference though that I think is better and will continue to be better is they will be a much better cap situation football team going forward than we ever were back then. As a matter of fact, they’ll be very good because Paraag Marathe does do an excellent job at his position with the 49ers as far as keeping their numbers right with contracts and all that stuff.
But the winning, or the losing I should say is really killing them. And the personnel, I’ll say this, too, the personnel is not as bad as they’re playing. And that’s the thing that really gets under your skin as a coach, because you’re frustrated by what’s going on. But more importantly, as the organization and the brass at the very top, naturally when they’re thinking about, “Do we keep this receiver or move on?”, I think something that enters into the picture here that is not really talked about so much but it definitely has to be on the mind of the ownership and all, and that is they’re paying Tomsula currently. They probably owe Jim at least two more years, if not three more years. If they make a change with Chip Kelly, that’s another three or four years you’re on the books. So you’re going to have two head coaches you’re paying contracts of. So if you go hire another guy, that’s a lot of money, just wasted money that’s out there on coaches.
The thing that I have thought most of the season was, when people were talking about changes when the losses started to mount up, was not to change it. Because I know Trent personally, and Trent does a good job with personnel, and that’s his primary job. But, for a lot of strange reasons, guys retiring, guys quitting a couple years ago, just a lot of weird things that occurred, their roster has kind of fallen off a little bit, but it is still a much better roster than some of these other teams that are not winning have.
And so that part of it, from my point of view is, don’t, at least identify the problem correctly. And if you’re gonna have, it’s about players first, and I think they have the right guy in place to pick the players. But unfortunately for Trent, I think the choice of Tomsula hurt him, and currently right now you know, with Chip Kelly, it’s not helping him either. All of a sudden you say, “Look, we can’t keep him, he’s the one that picked the last two guys,” I guess is maybe what they’re saying. I’m not sure, overall. But nonetheless, that’s a blemish that Trent is going to have to carry here a little bit.
But getting back to players, it’s about players first. They do not have a bad roster. Obviously they need a quarterback. But, they can get back on track, they can be a .500 team in my opinion if they get a quarterback going down there, as near as next year. They’ve got a tough decision to make I think at the end, because you’re right – you don’t want to lose your fans. But yet, they’re going to lose a lot of money in the process, too. Where do you go?
I’ll say this – the team’s are making a hell of a lot of money, so maybe that isn’t a factor.
The interview was a fun one, and is worth a listen if you get a minute. They actually opened with an amusing question about Cam Newton. The Panthers quarterback was benched very briefly to start their Week 13 game in Seattle because he did not wear a tie as part of the dress code. The hosts asked Nolan about this given the former coach’s decision at one point to wear a suit on the sideline. Nolan had the kind of answer you’d expect, although it was amusing to hear him talk about treating everybody fairly, but not necessarily the same. He was asked if he thought Newton’s punishment was a big deal:
Not really. I don’t because it really wasn’t a severe penalty. If he’d been ticked off and there had been repeated offenses, he’d have done much more. He’d have probably sat him for the half. But, naturally, Cam is one of the team leaders, so you do have to be sensitive to that when you’re the head coach, as far as disciplining different players. You want to treat them all fairly, but that does not mean you treat them all the same. And with the case of the tie, he did break code, and it sounded, from the standpoint of the first series, it’s probably an appropriate penalty for what he did, from the standpoint of at least following the rules. If not so much, that it was the tie and that’s a big deal. It’s that, we have rules, follow the rules. And if you don’t, there’s consequences. And I think you have to stay on path with that as a head coach, because if you start bending rules, and saying well, it’s not really a big deal, then nobody’s gonna follow the rules. So you have to stay by what you say.