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Article Title: Nolan lays the foundation
Article Date: February 2nd 2005
By Sydney

Still the critics and skeptics depict the San Francisco 49ers as an organization in the middle of a lake without a paddle. Yet now we have an owner that is willing to admit his mistakes and hire a head coach that will have unprecedented powers to do, as he wishes in assembling a staff that will be one of experience and knowledge versus the cronies of his past.

ABC’s John Madden is just one of a handful of critics that depict the San Francisco organization as one that is ignorant to the changes around them and even more so in Dr. John York’s search for a new head coach. Madden lambasted the 49er organization as being inept and the owner surrounding himself with unqualified people to make tough decisions based on the future of the franchise even more ridiculous.

“It doesn’t look like to me that they have a plan,” said Madden, ABC’s “Monday Night Football” analyst and a Super Bowl-winning coach with the Oakland Raiders. “You’re talking about someone coming in and running your team, running your organization and you’re basically going to making the decision based on a six-hour interview and recommendations from people you really don’t know very well? To me, that’s a tough thing.”

Yet now we have Mike Nolan a head coach with broad powers to make decisions and the backing and support of an owner now immersed in turning around a tidal wave of frustration and futility like never before. Nolan has even promised to bring back the West Coast Offense of the Bill Walsh era and expects to turn the franchise back to its winning ways in a relatively short amount of time.

He has spent already a great deal of time analyzing what the team has in strengths and weaknesses and has started an aggressive plan to break those down and analyze them even further under the microscope in detail.

Although a defensive-minded coach he will play a integral part in putting the right people in the right place and will have a say in all matters regarding the team. His picture he wants to frame is to have a three-phased football team where he will place equal emphasis on offense, defense and special teams.

“It won’t be my objective to put a defensive priority on the football team,” he said. “I’m all for defense, but having worked also on offense and having focused on special teams, we will be a three-phased football team and we will try to be No. 1 in all phases.”

The anguish the 49er faithful has been unrelenting especially this past season where we saw multitudes of fans display their anger via posters and Internet messages. At Monster Park we witnessed this anguish in the form of insults tossed in the direction of Dennis Erickson and his staff and fans leaving the park in droves because the game score was so lopsided.

Fans demand a turnaround now. The owner now trying to redeem himself from his mistakes demands a turnaround now. Radio and television broadcasters demand a turnaround now for the sake of revenue. And existing players yearning for championship glory demand a turnaround now.

“It’s been proven time and again in the league that you can turn programs around very fast,” he said, noting that Baltimore cut loose many of its defensive starters three years ago and rebuilt the team into a playoff contender within a season. “It’s reasonable to think we can turn things around very quickly. I feel very confident in that.”

These are words all of us as 49er fans have been yearning to hear with great anticipation. We have been relegated to watching former head coach Dennis Erickson dismantle the organization from its very core and implement schemes that did not fit with the ideology this franchise grew up on and nurtured with under Bill Walsh and George Seifert.

Now Mike Nolan brings promise and promotes the tales of glory of our 49er past in a way only he can after being here with his father former 49er head coach Dick Nolan. Mike remembers what this community grew up on and what it promoted way back then and firmly believes that we can once again relive those memories with some hard work and diligence ahead.

The first things that needed to be done were to lay a foundation. He did that by exercising his rights to hire the best coaching staff money can buy and to have them all buy into a plan that would be aggressive and rewarding at the same time. A foundation is built on a head coach that surrounds his players with knowledgeable minds and character that is fitting of the organization he is trying to promote.

With his first pick Mike went after a wide receivers coach, one that had a proven track record of success and that could come in and work diligently with a group of young receivers that show an abundance of talent but need a mentor that can exercise that talent into ability and supreme productivity.

Jerry Sullivan joins the San Francisco 49ers as its new wide receivers coach a position he held with the Miami Dolphins just last year. Sullivan has spent 13 years as an NFL assistant. He became the Miami Dolphins wide receivers coach in 2004 after serving the previous year as the Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator.

His protégé though has been coaching wide receivers, doing so with the Cardinals (2001-02), the Detroit Lions (1997-2000) and the San Diego Chargers (1992-96). In fact he was the Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator in 2003, when wide receiver Anquan Boldin was named the NFL’s Rookie of the Year.

Sullivan seems to be one of the best in the business when it comes to coaching wide receivers and has a knack for turning talent and ability into instant production. In his first two years with the Arizona Cardinals, Sullivan mentored the team’s wide receivers, where he worked with a special group that included David Boston.

Under his guidance, Boston led the NFL with 1,598 receiving yards and 98 receptions in 2001 and was selected to the very first Pro Bowl of his career. The Arizona Cardinals were so proud of his work that they promoted him to offensive coordinator in 2003, where he worked with rookie wide receiver Anquan Boldin, a second-round draft choice turned star over night.

Anquan Boldin finished third in the league in receptions (101) and receiving yards (1,377) on his way to being named that year as Rookie of the Year and at the same time a starter on the National Football Conference’s Pro Bowl squad. Certainly when you think about great wide receivers these are two names that come to mind for me, for I was always impressed with the way Anquan Boldin played in the spotlight that once was David Boston’s.

David Boston an elite wide receiver in his own back in 2001 was a receiver Sullivan had a great deal of influence on and assisted in becoming an elite force in the NFL. His coaching career sprouted back in 1992 with the San Diego Chargers. After serving there for five years he joined the Detroit Lions from 1997-2000. He served under head coach Bobby Ross in San Diego where he coached wide receiver Tony Martin.

Martin led the NFL with 14 touchdowns and posted his second consecutive 1,000-yard season en route to the first Pro Bowl of his career. Sullivan then followed Ross to Detroit where worked with a receiving corps. That featured Herman Moore, Johnnie Morton and Germane Crowell. All three were in my eyes top-notch receivers that elevated the play of the Detroit Lions big time back in 1997-2000.

Morton and Moore was the league’s top receiving duo in 1997 with a combined 184 receptions. They were second in 1998 with 151 catches and fourth in 1999 with 161 receptions. Germane Crowell caught 81 passes for 1,338 yards and seven touchdowns, which placed him third in the NFL that year in receiving yards only behind Minnesota’s Randy Moss and Chicago’s Marcus Robinson.

Excellent credentials and far-reaching experience when you think of these quality wide receivers that burnt a path of destruction offensively in the NFL during this time period, a period that featured high octane passing attacks. I see Jerry Sullivan as an enormous selection in helping get our young wide receiving unit up off the ground and increasing productivity that leads to elevated scoring.

“This is such a great opportunity,” Sullivan said. “Mike has so much energy and determination and players just jell under him. There is a rich tradition with this organization. I have a real inner desire to help bring it back and build something special. I have always said my work is my weapon and it has been good for a long time. I am looking forward to getting started in San Francisco.”

Mike didn’t just stop here he went after a new secondary coach in the collegiate circuit with Stanford’s defensive coordinator A.J. Christoff. Christoff joins the NFL for the first time after coaching in 11 different universities. He has been a defensive coordinator at six of these universities, which consist of in most recent order: Stanford, Cincinnati, Colorado, Notre Dame, Oregon and Idaho.

He has served as a defensive coordinator for 17 seasons at six different schools many of them PAC-10 schools. His teams have appeared in 11 bowl games in the last 21 seasons. He has been on the coaching staff at five different universities that have advanced to bowl games, including Notre Dame, Alabama, UCLA, Colorado and Cincinnati.

“There aren’t many places that I would leave Stanford for, but joining the San Francisco 49ers is one opportunity that I could not pass up,” Christoff said. “Mike is a great coach and he’s got a great plan to turn things around. I wanted to be a part of that.”

A.J. Christoff brings a wealth of defensive experience to a secondary in distress after this season of course. His insight and energy will be welcomed additions in our confrontations with some of the best passing offenses in our division with the Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams. I believe he will develop well under the tutelage of Mike Nolan and he’ll help our secondary mature and become stronger against receivers that are superior in every facet of the game.

Just when you thought these were instant upgrades to our coaching staff Mike Nolan landed a colleague that made a lasting impression upon him when he was in Baltimore with the Ravens. He hired Mike Singletary as assistant head coach/linebackers coach of the San Francisco 49ers, where he left a very comfortable position coaching some of the best linebackers in the business in Ray Lewis and others.

Mike Singletary has coached under Nolan for the previous two seasons as the Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker’s coach. Players have prospered under his mentorship, with linebacker Ray Lewis earning 2003 NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors. Under his guidance, the inside linebackers have finished first and second in tackles in each of his seasons coaching the position. He also has coached on a Ravens defense that finished third overall in 2003 and sixth in 2004.

“We wanted to build a strong staff and this is the perfect way to start,” Head Coach Mike Nolan said. “He brings instant credibility and intensity to the team. If there is anyone who knows how to win and prepare to win, it is Mike Singletary.”

He comes to work on the strength of the 49er organization. He’ll work with the linebackers that have been the overall strength of our defense, and is probably the deepest unit on the entire roster. With Derek Smith, Jeff Ulbrich, Jamie Winborn and Julian Peterson, Singletary will have an expert group to get started on with.

“I am excited to be here. We need to establish a mindset, an attitude here and Coach Nolan will do that,” Singletary said. “People need to understand Coach Nolan knows what it takes to win. He knows the plan. The biggest reason I’m here is because I know Mike knows exactly what it takes to win. I’m excited about that, the coaching staff will be excited about that, the team will be excited about that and the City should be excited about it. We need to get going and I’m ready to get to work.”

If there ever was a name I would want as an assistant head coach and in charge of our linebackers it would be a Pro Bowl and Hall of Fame star like All-Pro Mike Singletary. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998 after a stellar career with the Chicago Bears from 1981-92.

He boasted 1,488 tackles (885 solo), finishing as the Bear’s first or second leading tackler each of his last 11 seasons. He played in a team-record 10 consecutive Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro a total of eight times. He was drafted in the second round of the 1981 NFL Draft from Baylor University.

Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary will feed off from each other and offer the same vision and itinerary for this franchise and that is to turn a struggling cellar feeding team into a division champion almost over night. Lots of hard work and many hours of training lay ahead but this is a task not for the faint of heart but one for the heavyweight hitters in the league and two of them are Nolan and Singletary.

This is a time to be jubilant and elated as this pick by Nolan cements a foundation for the ages. One I believe will propel us to the top if we draft correctly, land a few promising free agents, revert back to the West Coast Offense, develop the players already under contract and build a layer of depth that will soften the blow of injuries down the road. Here we need to be successful if we are to mirror supreme organizations like the New England Patriots. We now have the foundation to start framing in what we want to do.