Fullback Fred Beasley and Kevan Barlow are professionals. Both want to lead the team, and have spoken out about ‘slacking’ teammates. But both men do not really get along. They are civil to each other sure, but they are not chummy the way former running back Garrison Hearst and Beasley were. This feudal relationship will make the running backs coach more challenging and at the same time makes it a crucial hire. If Nolan brings in the wrong guy, either of these men are bound to walk all over them.
Mike Nolan has a challenge then. He must find a strong coach who can not only motivate Beasley and Barlow to work together, and possibly even mend their relations, he must find a coach that these men will respect. A coach that has something to offer these two veterans, one of whom Beasley, is among the best at his position in the league.
I was a huge fan of Tom Rathman when he was the running backs coach for the 49ers. I know that permission was denied to Nolan to bring Rathman back in the same capacity, but he is the prototype running back coach I would be looking for. He has extensive playing experience and knowledge of the position. He thus can speak from a position of authority when coaching the teams starting backs, and youngsters. Rathman is also a very intense coach. He demanded excellence and challenges his players to work harder and achieve more. He is the prototype running backs coach that Nolan should be looking for.
The sooner Nolan can fill the running back coach position the better off this team will be. The starting backs need to know they will have direction, and the rapport they need to have with their coach should come as soon as possible in order to maximize it. Nolan should be sifting through NFL coaching rosters, College coaching rosters and everywhere else he can imagine to find this man. It will be a key hire for a team that will once again need to depend on the running game as their young quarterback (whoever that might be) grows into their position.