Monday, January 12, 2009

Rollin' with Nolan

Now that we can almost assuredly welcome back Mike Nolan, ex- of Dan Reeves' staff, it would behoove all of us--even the shoeless slavering Missourians--to know a little bit more about the guy.

After all, he's only responsible for turning the moldy chicken shit pie of the Bronco D into something resembling a fresh-baked cruller by next fall. To succeed he'll require players, support from his head coach and media apologists ready to explain away his every failing. We're ready to step into that breach, so cue the House lights, after the jump!

I was listening, as is my wont, to Sandy Clough this afternoon. He was openly scornful of the idea of Nolan as the head defensive guy, especially in comparison to Dom Capers--who thrills me in the same way that holding my dick in a glass of ice water for 15 minutes might. All I could think was, why? Hasn't Nolan been pretty good, over the course of his career?

Rather than dig up my own evidence, allow me to present an excerpt of a piece by Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette:

"Nolan also has appeal because though he prefers to run a 3-4 defense, he’s also worked in the 4-3 and mixed that in extensively as coach of the 49ers. In his first season with San Francisco, the 49ers ran mostly a 4-3 and gradually evolved into primarily a 3-4 defense over his three-plus seasons with the team. McCarthy also might prefer a slower transition to the 3-4, because the Packers’ roster is built to play a 4-3, and switching to primarily a 3-4 in one offseason could be difficult and require major changes in personnel.

“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.”

Nolan has had some ups and downs as a defensive coordinator in the NFL but became the 49ers’ head coach largely on the strength of his performance as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator from 2002 to 2004. In his first season, he took over a Ravens defense gutted by a roster purge, and it finished only No. 22 in yards allowed and No. 19 in points allowed. But his defense finished No. 3 in yards and No. 6 in points in ’03, and Nos. 6 in both in ’04.

Before that, Nolan had the difficult job of replacing Bill Belichick as the New York Jets’ defensive coordinator in 2000. He essentially ran Belichick’s version of the 3-4 and improved the Jets ranking in yards allowed from the previous season (No. 21 in ’99 to No. 11 in 2000) and dropped slightly in points allowed (from No. 9 in ’99 to No. 13 in ’00). That offseason, though, Jets coach Al Groh left to become head coach at Virginia, and new coach Herm Edwards fired Nolan and most of the rest of the coaching staff.

Nolan’s most controversial stint as defensive coordinator, though, came with Washington from 1997 through 1999, after four generally successful seasons as the Giants’ defensive coordinator pegged him as a future head coach. Nolan’s first two seasons with Washington produced a solid performance in ’97, when his defense ranked No. 16 in yards allowed and No. 8 in points, and a bad year in ’98, when it ranked Nos. 24 and 28 respectively.

Then in 1999, brash neophyte Daniel Snyder purchased the team, and when Nolan’s defense struggled — it finished the season ranked No. 30 in yards and No. 24 in points — Snyder went after his defensive coordinator. The first-year NFL owner considered Nolan’s defenses vanilla, twice had ice cream delivered to Nolan’s office to hammer home the point, and after the 10-6 season, fired Nolan.

Nolan caught on as Baltimore’s receivers coach in ’01 — the only season he’s coached offense — then became defensive coordinator in 2002. The Ravens had won the Super Bowl in the 2000 season with one of the best defenses in NFL history, finished 10-6 in 2001, then had a roster makeover because salary-cap and age issues. Among the players the Ravens lost going into 2002 were defensive tackle duo Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa, linebacker Jamie Sharper, safety Rod Woodson, defensive end Rob Burnett and cornerback Duane Starks. Nolan’s defense finished that season No. 22 in yards allowed and No. 19 in points allowed, before finishing in the top six in both categories the next two years."

Hope you made it all the way through that. Seriously, Snyder had ice cream delivered to his office? What a cartoonish dickface.

The upshot, if you skipped down below, is that Nolan may not have the sexiest coachin' legs of the candidates out there, but he's at least capable of coaching a middle-of-the-pack defense. Which would be a vast improvement.


bankmeister said...

I don't know what's more insulting: having ice cream twice delivered to your office during a 10-6 season, or getting fired by Herman Edwards. Personally, I'll take delivered frozen vanilla beans twice per loss as opposed to dealing with the alternative.