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Article Title: Making the right decisions.
Article Date: April 15th, 2005
By Sydney


If there is any doubt about what is happening in Santa Clara headquarters home of the San Francisco 49ers, I would like to show some analysis to the contrary. Head Coach Mike Nolan has made all the difference in the world for this franchise by implementing a long- term plan that the 49ers are just starting to get their feet wet so to speak.

He has surrounded himself with some great coaching talent, people that are friends and sometimes were stone-cold adversaries to him during his tenure in the NFL. These coaches understand what Mike Nolan’s grand master plan is and have committed to staying the course during the storm to fulfill those promises that hopefully will reap some great rewards for this franchise.

Returning the San Francisco 49ers to glory and stardom inside the NFL is one priority and winning division titles and a sixth-time Super Bowl are the ultimate in his present and future responsibilities. He has been very impressive so far in managing players, talent, the media and salaries all to boot.

He has what some may say a sense for this business and a brain trust he can turn to and seek advice on any given day. Vice President of Personnel Scot McCloughan is a smart and energetic type of front office talent that has assisted Mike in making some tough personnel decisions both in last year’s inauguration as a new NFL head coach and in making yet again some fantastic off-season moves that have preserved the piggy bank and landed us superior talent on this current roster of personnel.

All the way around he has a grand master plan in turning this coveted and beloved franchise around under Dr. John York and Denise DeBartolo and making it a force to be reckoned with on any given Sunday. To once again fill the seats in and around Monster Park and return the club back to the fans that supported and made what this club is today.

His 2005 NFL season was one he’ll never forget and will want to put behind him after a 4-12 finish and having the 49ers picking sixth in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft.

He is paying the price of what happened years ago under bad ownership decisions and management incompetence that immersed the team into salary cap hell and ultimately contributed to the teams demise over these past five years.

“Usually after you have a really successful rookie year,” a smiling Nolan said at an NFC coaches breakfast, “they’re saying, ‘Are you worried about sophomoreitis?’ We don’t have to worry about sophomoreitis.”

Mike Nolan wants to build a champion and to do that he feels the best way is through small steps rather than taking big calculated risks and gambling away everything on a whim. He has a plan to return the 49ers back to glory through being a smart businessman that is bent on making a reasonable profit.

He has refused to overpay players and strap the franchise with unnecessary burdens. In light of that look at the deal linebacker Julian Peterson landed in Seattle with a seven-year $54 million dollar contract and you begin to realize that breaking open the bank on just one player will not be the character of this football team. One that I am proud to think is a true trait that this management team has inherited from bad decisions in the past.

Mike Nolan also sat by and watched defensive end Andre Carter leave for the Washington Redskins for six years and $30 million dollars, knowing that his performance was not up to par for that kind of overpayment for his services.

Instead he held firm to his convictions that the team come together and play as a team and to never focus on just one individual player as being the catalyst to all that is achieved in success for this team.

Rebuilding will be done in several ways according to Mike Nolan. We will not overpay players to remain here if that is their sole intention. With smart business decisions the 49ers have made room for them under the NFL salary cap almost $20 million this year and have been an active member in the free agency period.

“There were times last year,” Nolan said of being cap-strapped, “when we were going through problems, trying to add a guy, and were saying, ‘Hey, we can’t even sign a replacement.’”

One thing that the 49ers won’t do in this up and coming draft is draft a quarterback like they did in 2005. The real speculation is that Nolan, a defensive guru at heart will look for an impact defensive player with the No.#6 pick in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft.

Potential draft picks seem to be a premier outside linebacker or defensive end. North Carolina State’s Mario Williams is the coveted premier defensive end sought in this year’s NFL draft.

The 49ers are also very interested in Ohio State’s A.J. Hawk. Both athletes are considered at the top of their class and would be of immediate assistance to a desperate pass rush that was non-existent last season.

“We’re going to build through the draft and supplement through free agency. If you do all that free-agency stuff, you stay in cap hell a long time,” Nolan explained during a break in Orlando. “The fact that we corrected the problem, the worst thing you can do is go jump back into the problem. And that’s not what we’re going to do.”

The San Francisco 49ers have willingly broken out the checkbook this year when they have deemed it necessary. They re-signed veteran valuable place kicker Joe Nedney, linebacker Derek Smith, third-string type quarterback Jesse Palmer and blocking fullback Chris Hetherington.

All of these signings were done to solidify a certain unit on the team and apply consistency to the roster. Bold moves made to gather veteran leadership in quantity this season and send a signal that productivity and adherence to showing up at voluntary workouts is absolutely necessary.

Veteran Fullback Fred Beasley was one that chose not to attend the voluntary workouts last season under Mike Nolan and paid a heavy price for not doing so. He also had mixed words with running backs coach Bishop Harris that pulled out the stops in sitting him on the bench in favor of Chris Hetherington.

Mike Nolan was also very articulate in making controversial moves while in the season last year in working a trade that sent starting quarterback Tim Rattay to another team to help jump-start Alex Smith’s career and sent a signal to linebacker Jamie Winborn by dumping him for his individualistic views that isolated him from the rest of the team.

Nolan still worked his magic later on when he pretended to like wide receiver Brandon Lloyd to be the starting No.#1 wide receiver for the 49ers yet again by tendering him an offer as a restricted free agent only to reel in a drooling Washington Redskin owner bent on making it to the playoffs by writing a variety of big money checks.

In return for Brandon Lloyd we were the winners in that Mike Nolan came away with not just one extra draft pick in this year’s draft but two, one in the third round this year and one in the fourth round next year.

In my opinion this was a brilliant move highlighted even more with the acquisition of veteran wide receiver Antonio Bryant who by far was a clear upgrade in almost every statistical category and provides instant leadership and productivity based upon his credentials in 2005.

Sure he has character issues that were clearly highlighted from his past experiences as a Dallas Cowboy. But those issues have clearly faded away in almost every aspect as he has rededicated himself to being a premier player on a team willing to allow him the benefit of the doubt like Mike Nolan has.

If there is any doubt about Mike Nolan keeping Antonio Bryant on the right path, then those questions will be soon answered once the regular season begins. There will never be a Terrell Owens allowed on this team ever again not on his watch.

And if you speak ill well towards the team or do not participate in any version of team-oriented athletics of any kind chances are you’ll wind up in Mike Nolan’s “doghouse,” and you will have the hardest time working your way back in.

Gone are the freelancing days of Steve Mariucci and Dennis Erickson, both head coaches that exuded little or no discipline on the team and were player friendly guys that saw instant dissensions materialize within the locker room and even on the practice fields that turned soar and fed the media the gossip and rumors that turned a dynasty into a circus.

Mike Nolan has also been rewarded with an offensive coordinator that can and will make an instant upgrade in our offensive quagmire that was for all to see this past season. He will work exclusively with second-year quarterback Alex Smith in solving some of his techniques and mechanic type problems and teach him a new system designed to simplify and tune in to his strengths already exhibited briefly in his rookie outing this past season.

Then along comes 10-time Pro Bowler offensive lineman Larry Allen. A perfect acquisition to one of the weakest links on the team and an athlete that will bring a nasty terminology to a young line distracted with finding each other’s rightful identity on a line incapable of shielding it’s rookie quarterback’s learning curve.

Larry Allen is the perfect piece of the puzzle to a line that has self-destructed in more ways than one. He will be a beast to a line dying of thirst from an offensive drought. He is happy to be reunited with offensive line coach George Warhop and is eager to teach some of his golden rules to what will be a school of young pupils.

“I’d like to think we’ll make a lot of strides this year, but we’ll be a young team,” he said. “The way we’re doing it, we’re just going to build, build, build. We’ll have our setbacks. But when we get there, whether it’s this year or shortly thereafter, I’m looking to stay strong, as opposed to just a quick fix.”

Mike Nolan’s rookie year as a head coach was a success in many ways. He has the team focused on what is the priority and he has a clear vision of where he wants the team projected to be in the next few years or so. He is surrounding himself with a brain trust that will produce results and he is teaching accountability to each and every player that happens to secure a spot on this roster.

My perception is that we will be in for more success than anticipated. We will be a winner of more than just four games this season and we will mature into a viable contender after this year for a playoff spot within our division.

Keep your eyes and ears open to what is going on in the Bay Area as we speak and I think you will come away impressed with a man hell bent to resurrect a team that dominated all that there was a mere decade and a half ago.