While most fans are not yet convinced that Mike Nolan is the second coming they are ready to give him a chance, and believe he can make a difference. This is in stark contrast to the hiring of Dennis Erickson two years ago, when some fans were happy with the dismissal of Coach Steve Mariucci but very few were convinced that the team had a plan and was moving in a better direction.
Mike Nolan has been working feverishly to assemble a coaching staff that can truly improve this team. Unlike the assembly of Erickson’s staff, Nolan is interviewing candidates that he views are the best in the business, not just ones that he has worked with in the past. The result has been a calculated coach search that has been very well respected by the league. Many coaches have even been willing to move laterally just to be a part of Nolan’s staff.
Mike McCarthy has been named to the 49ers offensive coordinator position. McCarthy comes from the same position working with the Saints. He is a true west coast offense coach and has worked closely with Joe Montana in the past. McCarthy would be well served to take a trip to Stanford to chat with Bill Walsh to help prepare him for his position with the 49ers. McCarthy will have almost complete autonomy working with the offense. He is also quite well known for his work with quarterbacks, holding quarterback camps that are intense. However; during his time in New Orleans McCarthy was unable to take a quarterback to the star level. In my opinion the biggest question mark surrounding McCarthy is indeed his ability to develop the 49ers young quarterbacks.
It is my questions about McCarthy that makes me very interested in who the 49ers will sign to coach their quarterbacks. I firmly believe that the 49ers need a top notch quarterback coach, someone like Greg Knapp. Knapp was not well regarded as the 49ers offensive coordinator but was very highly regarded for his work as a quarterback coach. The 49ers really need an accomplished quarterback’s coach, who is experienced in the west coast offense and who can work closely with McCarthy to develop one of the 49ers young quarterbacks.
One signing I am very encouraged by is receivers coach Jerry Sullivan who comes from the same position in Miami. Sullivan has also had experience as an offensive coordinator and is regarded as ‘the receivers coach’ in the NFL. Sullivan has a very young group of receivers to mold, and his experience working with the likes of Dave Boston and Anquan Boldin in Arizona is certainly encouraging.
George Warshop the new 49ers offensive line coach fits McCarthy’s offense quite well. He is known for big offensive line that really do protect the quarterback. Warshop has been known to cut oppositions sack statistics by about half when coming to a team. The 49ers are in desperate need of an offensive line that is capable of protecting the quarterback. Warshop should bring schemes and knowledge to the team that has been lacking since the 49ers lost the late Bobb McKittrick.
Jasont Tarver will remain with the team as offensive assistant, and Jerry Attaway will remain on as an athletic trainer. The 49ers are still in need of a running backs coach (having been denied permission to speak with former 49er runningback, 49ers runningback’s coach, and current Lions runningback coach Tom Rathman) and a tight ends coach.
On the defensive side Nolan is yet to hire a defensive coordinator. There are some question as to what exactly the role will be of the defensive coordinator he hires, or if he hires one at all. He may simply opt to have a defensive assistant who can be his ‘eyes in the sky’ on game day.
Mike Singletary is in my opinion the most exciting defensive coach that Nolan has brought to the team. Singletary will coach linebackers and serves as the assistant head coach, and comes from the Ravens where he was a linebackers coach. Singletary is known for his impressive work in helping to create a tenacious linebacking core in Baltimore. With the 49ers, Singletary will have quite a bit to work with especially if star Julian Peterson returns to one hundred percent from injury.
AJ Christoff joins the 49ers to coach the defensive backs. Christoff is known for developing a hard hitting defensive backfield. He has experience as a defensive coordinator and is regarded quite well at both the college and NFL level. The 49ers are hoping that Christoff can take the 49ers young defensive backfield and mold them into a top notch personnel group.
The 49ers still need to add a defensive line coach to their defensive coaching staff. This staff member will have their work cut out for them in returning some dignity to a defensive line that has been inconsequential for far too long.
Returning to coach the 49ers special teams are Larry Mac Duff and Jeff Rodgers. The two coaches did a respectable job in turning the 49ers special teams into a legitimate component of the team. They are still a little shy of talent in this area, but the team will likely remain stable in this area.
Finally the team continues its search for a general manager. So far Mike Nolan has not been in on the interviews, but it is expected that he will play a large role in the decision making process. Among those being interviewed for the position so far are Rick Smith – Denver, Charles Bailey – Jacksonville, Chris Polian – Indianapolis, Mike Butler - Indianapolis, Scott McCloughan – Seattle, Brian Gardner – San Francisco. This role will be interesting to fill as the team has stated that Mike Nolan will play a large role in personnel decisions thus making the position somewhat less appealing to the ‘big name’ general managers. The chemistry between Nolan and whoever is hired to head up the personnel department is crucial to the team’s ability to provide stability and a united front to this organization. Over the coming week, it is expected that the 49ers finish assembling their staff.