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Alas NolanÕs Staff Complete Š At Least For Now - By Bryan Hersh Feb 1 2007

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For the time being, head coach Mike Nolan can take a deep breath and relax. His coaching staff is complete Š well at least complete until after the Super Bowl. In the early hours of Thursday morning, the 49ers finally found a successor to Bill Davis who was fired from his defensive coordinator position at the end of the season. That man is Greg Manusky, formerly the Chargers linebackers coach. Manusky along with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula and special teams coordinator Al Everest are all new additions to NolanÕs staff.

Although NolanÕs staff is currently complete, come Monday or Tuesday he may once again be looking to fill out his coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner is reportedly the leading candidate to take over for Bill Parcells in Dallas. Should Turner depart, he will likely try and take linebackers coach, and assistant head coach Mike Singletary with him to function as defensive coordinator. That would leave Nolan with some very big shoes to fill at those positions Š and with a massive amount of turnover on his staff. Despite not being a contending team in recent years, NolanÕs staff is continually regarded as full of top tier coaches Š leaving the roster exposed to teams looking to upgrade each off-season. Last season the team lost offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy to the Packers where he now serves as head coach. If Turner leaves, Nolan will have to find his third offensive coordinator in as many years Š and Alex Smith may be forced to learn his third offensive system as well. Alternatively, Nolan may simply promote receivers coach Jerry Sullivan to try and bring some consistency to the position.

When Nolan began his search for a defensive coordinator, he listed three traits that he was looking for in particular: 1) skilled in the 3-4 defense 2) good teacher 3) experienced to the point of being able to call plays on their own. Nolan interviewed a number of candidates, but it did not appear that any one of them was able to fit this criteria. Manusky left Nolan with a very positive impression, but even he did not fulfill all the requirements. Manusky has never been a coordinator before, and thus is not experienced in calling plays. His strength in the other areas made up for this loss though.

Manusky was widely regarded as ready to take the steps to the next level. He is an accomplished coach, and has experience in working in a defense. He was believed to be the success to Wade Phillips in San Diego at the defensive coordinator position. These aspects likely gave Nolan the confidence he needed to pull the trigger on Manusky. Even still I expect that Nolan will spend a good portion of the year multi-tasking between playing coach and grooming his defensive coordinator. This will likely mean involvement similar to how Nolan ran the defense towards the end of Billy DavisÕ tenure. The hope being that Manusky will eventually step up, and allow Nolan to focus solely on his head coaching responsibilities. Nolan admitted to filling somewhat lost at times because of the over extension of his leadership in the last half of last season.

Manusky is very familiar with the NolanÕs defensive system, and the two have some common background with Wade Phillips. Still, Nolan believes that Manusky will bring a valuable perspective to the game, and may also be an asset in identifying players who fit the scheme better than his predecessor given that he has worked with some very talented defensive players. There are also those that believe this move will help bring free agent Adalius Thomas to the team Š as it confirms the 3-4 defense will be in place, and Thomas has ties with Nolan. Thomas could be the featured linebacker the 49ers need to take their 3-4 to the next level.

In selecting Manusky Nolan passed over Mike Singletary. Singletary is on the fast track to a coordinator or head coach position but is less experienced than Manusky. Nolan would obviously like to retain Singletary but there is a strong chance that he would move to Dallas if the opportunity presents itself, either as head coach, or defensive coordinator. Manusky will probably provide Nolan with more stability at the position than Singletary would have Š and it is quite possible that the move also signals that Nolan is already aware of the intentions of those associated with the Cowboys coaching search.

 
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