Mike Martz is the 49ers’ offensive coordinator but it’s still Mike Nolan’s team, which is a huge problem.
Nolan was vague when asked about offensive play calls and Martz left the locker room after Sunday’s game before any questions could be asked, but knowing both men, there were two plays on which I believe Nolan overruled Martz.
The first came just after the two-minute warning in the first half. The 49ers had fourth-and-one on the Arizona 22 and lined up to go for a first down. But the ball wasn’t snapped. At first, it seemed the 49ers would be penalized for delay of game, but then the referee announced that the 49ers had called a timeout from the sidelines. That was Nolan, obviously, and when the 49ers lined up again, it was to kick a field goal.
The second time came late in the game when the 49ers, down 10 points, were driving for a touchdown. On third-and-seven from the Arizona 19, DeShaun Foster ran for six. Joe Nedney kicked another field goal on the next play.
That third-down call is totally contrary to Martz’s aggresssive style. It is, though, totally consistent with Nolan’s philosophy, because the run brought the ball to the middle of the field, to make it easier for Nedney. We’ve heard the excuse from Nolan so many times for this kind of call. “We needed two scores so we decided to go for the field goal.” In this case, the Cardinals countered with a field goal of their own to take their lead back to 10 points.
Nolan is one of those coaches who plays not to lose. What happens with those coaches, of course, is that they usually lose. The teams that win in the NFL, including the Rams when Martz was their offensive coordinator, are those which play aggressively, who actually try to win.
Nolan seems obsessed with the idea of looking like a coach and talking like a coach. He is trying to emulate his late father, Dick, with his sideline attire, and he is the only coach I’ve ever known who takes notes at practice so he has talking points in the post-practice sessions with media.
But it is only in his sideline clothes that he resembles his father. Dick Nolan was a straightforward, honest man who knew defense very well, but understood his shortcomings and always let somebody else run the offense.
The son is nothing like the father. Mike Nolan is an arrogant man who lost the respect of his players long ago. When the 49ers fire him, he will fade back into a much-deserved obscurity.
So, why is he still here? Some think it’s because 49ers owner John York didn’t want to pay off the final two years of his contract. That’s no doubt part of it, but I think another reason was that York, who knows he was bamboozled by Nolan’s interview, didn’t want to try another coaching search. So, he promoted Scot McClougan to general manager, to make the decision. McCloughan’s actions when he’s around Nolan have shown there are no warm, fuzzy feelings there. He won’t hesitate to fire Nolan.
But for now, this is still Mike Nolan’s team. Prepare for another dismal season.