It’s kind of funny how earlier in the season (pre-season to be exact), the San Francisco 49ers were looked at as a team on the rise. Well here we are 17 weeks later, and the team is in its customary last-place position. The 2008 season is around the corner, and the Yorks have some hard decisions to make, personnel-wise. But as has been the Yorks’ tendency to do, they tend to wait….and wait….and wait before they make a decision. This will be one of those times where they need to make immediate decisions. One of those decisions involve head coach Mike Nolan; Nolan has already said that he plans to meet with the Yorks next week.
The Yorks need to make some decisions immediately as other equally bad teams have made some noise (or at least attempted to); a good example is where the Miami Dolphins have already hired Bill Parcells to oversee personnel operations, and Atlanta tried – unsuccessfully – to land “retired-for-now” coach Bill Cowher and Parcells (but to be fair, Parcells punked Falcons owner Arthur Blank, but I digress). The Yorks’ history as far as making personnel decisions would make The Turtle And The Hare fable seem more like a track meet. For those of you who follow the 49ers’ history, you probably remember when: the Yorks hemmed and hawed before they finally hired Dennis Erickson as head coach after they fired Steve Mariucci? Remember the length of time it took before they finally hired Nolan? Perhaps now you understand why I say that they need to make some important decisions as soon as possible. And they have some options available to them – assuming they utilize one of them. The 3 options that come to my mind are:
1- Hire a strong general manager and leave Nolan as head coach.
There’s good and bad reasons why this option is favorable. This choice would keep the 49ers from having to eat the balance of Nolan’s contract and would also offer some sorely needed guidance to avoid a repeat of some of the mistakes that Nolan made this season, such as the botching of the Alex Smith situation. Now the downside; it would leave Nolan as head coach. This wouldn’t exactly solve his lame game-day decision making, nor would it fix Nolan’s ignorance and indifference to everything on offense. come to think about it, it wouldn’t exactly help Nolan regain the trust of Smith again. The last thing is this: there would be a power struggle between the new GM and Nolan. It’s common knowledge that Nolan doesn’t have the temperament to answer to someone above him; he likes running the show, so this solution would present this problem is spades.
2- Do absolutely nothing.
This is usually what the Yorks do. Without a doubt it is the easiest course of action in which no good ideas or bold thinking are involved. This year’s a good example of this option. Nolan’s spin on how December is a sign of progress, that things are better in the building, that current San Diego Chargers head coach/ex-49ers offensive coordinator Norv Turner was the root of all of the problems on offense, and that Smith’s rant about his frustrations was the problem and not of anything that Nolan did. Using this choice would make it seem like Nolan is the most qualified to pick an offensive coordinator and develop a quarterback. Power that Nolan isn’t qualified nor deserves to have. This is the worst choice of all; utilizing this option does several things: it alienates the 49ers fans, and it validates the questioning of the 49ers sense of direction by 49ers past and present. As a matter of fact, last Sunday, some former 49ers bemoaned the general direction this version of the 49ers has taken; heck even privately, 2 defensive starters for the team voiced their unhappiness to the local newspaper. But probably most imprtantly, if they choiose this option, you can rest assured there will be a mutiny on the 49ers’ ship.
3- Clear the slate and start fresh.
This is obviously the hardest choice out there. It would be costly, would require some innovative thinking, and it would also – as painful as it would be – be an admission that the past 3 seasons have been a wasted effort. Using this choice would mean a long overdue overhauling of the 49ers’ organization, meaning bringing in fresh eyes and ears to look at the wreck that is the San Francisco 49ers and see what’s salvageable. And it would also – just as importantly – bring in a competent, experienced and innovative coach. Which is something the Yorks have not done since they bought the team.
Option #1 would be good but that would be a power struggle in the making, meaning Nolan is out the door. Option #2? Forget about it. It has proven not to work. Which leaves Option #3; yes starting anew would be painful, but for the long-term health of this team from a personnel standpoint, it is the probably the best choice available to them.