There's no defending it. When the defense is bad...it's bad.
I'm tired of seeing the 49ers lose due to poor defensive play. Chalk it up to bad gameplanning, in-game playcalling or poor execution. It doesn't matter. If you allow an opponent to score 30+ points, you're probably going to lose. The 49ers are suckers. We based Mike Nolan's success on his stint with the Baltimore Ravens. Nolan's defenses were 22nd, 3rd & 6th from 2002 to 2004, respectively. That's a pretty good resume...until you realize that this was an defensive system designed by Marvin Lewis. You have to credit Lewis with molding a defense that was dominant enough to help the Ravens win a Super Bowl after the 2000 season. Nolan was handed the keys and kept it a smooth running machine for the next 3 years. We cannot credit Nolan with building this defense.
Let's take a further look at Nolan's past...
New York Giants - 1993-1996 - 5th, 11th, 17th, 14th.
Washington Redskins - 1997-1999 - 16th, 24th, 30th.
In 1993, Nolan took over much of the personnel from Bill Parcells. Let's look at the dropoff after Nolan's first year with the Giants. His defenses never cracked the top 10. When Nolan was in Washington, his defenses got progressively worse.
In 3 years with the 49ers, Nolans defensive rankings are as follows...
2005 - 32nd, 2006 - 26th, 2007 - 25th.
In it's 4th year, Nolan's defense should've made significant improvement. He's had say in the majority of the personnel decisions. He's been able to bring in the free agents he wants (Nate Clements, Justin Smith). Nolan has infuence in the draft (Patrick Willis). This defense should be in the top 15! Instead, it is in the bottom half of the league. At the rate of current improvement, we'll crack top 15 in 2011. Here are the roster "improvements" on defense over the last 3 years.
2008, pick 29 - DT, Kentwan Balmer
2007, pick 11 - ILB, Patrick Willis
2006, pick 22 - OLB, Manny Lawson
Takeo Spikes, LB - 1998 - 1st round (13th pick) by the Cincinnati Bengals
Players that were not 1st round picks but are starters drafted 2nd or 3rd round.
Ray McDonald, DE - 2007 - 3rd round (34th pick) by the San Francisco 49ers
Mark Roman, S - 2000 - 2nd round (3rd pick) by the Cincinnati Bengals
This list makes up 9 of the 11 starters on defense at the beginning of the season.
Is the talent level that bad? Can we call it underachieving? In recent weeks, I have been blaming the 49ers failures on poor gameplanning and in-game playcalling. I was under the impression that the 49ers were set to run a 3-4 defense. You know, similar to the "Blitz"burg Steelers. I guess I'M the sucker because I haven't seen much of the complex blitzing schemes that are prevalent in a 3-4 defense. The defense looks like a 4-3 most of the time with only 4 down linemen rushing the QB.
I read an article earlier this week by San Jose Mercury News columnist Ann Killion. In that article mentioned Nolan's stint with the Redskins and their owner Daniel Snyder.
Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, the story goes, placed a carton of vanilla ice cream in Nolan's office, where it was allowed to melt into a sticky mess. The mean-spirited prank underscored the owner's criticism of his defensive coordinator's read-and-react philosophy, which Snyder had termed "vanilla."
That story was considered just another in the Snyder-as-meddling-owner file. But it's worth remembering now. Because Nolan's philosophy and his defense's inability to make the big stop and get off the field — all of that is bringing back the images of vanilla ice cream.
Maybe there's more truth to this than most people realize. After all, the reason that Nolan had so much success with the Ravens is that he had top notch personnel on the defensive line. A solid front four can apply pressure without the need for blitzing. The 49ers do not have that. It is up to a good coach to determine this and make adjustments...something I feel Nolan has failed to do.
The rest part of Killion's article reads like this...
When Nolan has been asked this week what's wrong with the defense, he has turned the issue back on his players, using words such as "errors" and "mistakes."
"In the last two weeks, we've made several errors on our own account and have hurt ourselves," Nolan said. "Some have been technique, some have been mental."
None, though, apparently have been scheme or coaching. In another comment Monday, Nolan said it didn't matter how well something was drawn up on the chalkboard, it comes down to execution.
So Nolan is basically blaming his players for poor execution. I'm not buying that for a second. Reason being is that these are the players that Nolan wanted on the team. It's up to him to make them perform.
Nolan has to be on a short leash. At this point in the season, it's pointless to say "it's early in the season". We are 2 games shy of the halfway mark. The 49ers are 2-4. The Cardinals came away with a strong win against the Cowboys. The Seahawks lost again. The Cardinals are clearly the favorite in the NFC West. The 49ers have an opportunity to compete in this division but we are squandering this opportunity on a weekly basis. If we can't perform well enough after 3 years of rebuilding to compete in our division, then it is time for a change.
The time is now Coach Nolan. I hope you can figure a way to stop the bleeding on defense. It's killing the team AND your career.