Blog Entry

In Defense Of Bad Defense...Mike Nolan.

Posted on: October 12, 2008 11:35 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2008 3:40 pm

There's no defending it. When the defense is'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.

1st rounders

2008, pick 29 - DT, Kentwan Balmer

2007, pick 11 - ILB, Patrick Willis

 2006, pick 22 - OLB, Manny Lawson

 Free agents...

Nate Clements, CB - 2001 - 1st round (21st pick) by the Buffalo Bills

Walt Harris, CB - 1996 - 1st round (13th pick) by the Chicago Bears

Justin Smith, DE - 2001 - 1st round (4th pick) by the Cincinnati Bengals

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

Michael Lewis, S - 2002 - 2nd round (26th pick) by the Philadelphia Eagles

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.


Category: NFL
Tags: 49ers, Mike Nolan

Since: Aug 12, 2008
Posted on: October 15, 2008 5:29 pm

In Defense Of Bad Defense - I say its Offensive!

As a 49er fan - actually a fan of the Bay Area - I am embarrased to say I root for my team right now. It's okay cause Mike Nolan and company feed us with the same crap week in and week out.

"We are doing a great job," coach says. "We just need to execute better." Damn straight they do! For the sake of the Hall Of Fame players - please turn this around! 

I agree that this has all begun when we got a new change in ownership.  So poor now that the once Champion and storied franchise in the 49ers has fallen to such low levels.

Look at how bad the NFC West is right now. Even with Alex Smith, two years ago at 7-9 might actually have kept the 49ers in the playoff race! Unbelivable, I know! But sad, and true.

Each year there seems to be a shift in power in the NFL. The 49ers are shifting between a bottom feeder and pretender. Its embarrasing, but at least we have won a few games this year...

Since: Nov 16, 2006
Posted on: October 15, 2008 2:44 pm

In Defense Of Bad Defense...Mike Nolan.

Thanks Newstew. I think most of us Niner fans have the same concerns. It's just getting upper management on the same page and doing something about it.

Since: Sep 16, 2008
Posted on: October 15, 2008 2:34 pm

In Defense Of Bad Defense...Mike Nolan.

Nice job, you seem to read my mind with your words.  I enjoy your writing.

Since: Jul 22, 2008
Posted on: October 14, 2008 9:41 pm

In Defense Of Bad Defense...Mike Nolan.

The hole organization doesn't  need to go just Nolan.  We have a new GM.  He didn't want to draft Alex Smith and nether did Mike McCarthy.  They both wanted Aaron Rodgers or Braylon Edwards.  Nolan wanted Smith.  Get rid of him and give the job to Mike Singletary.  Keep the rest of the staff for now and let Singletary inject some of his energy into the defense.  Then make a decision on the rest of the staff a the end of the year.  Then beg the NFL to let Eddie buy the team back.  Wouldn't that be great.

Since: Aug 4, 2008
Posted on: October 14, 2008 11:41 am

In Defense Of Bad Defense...Mike Nolan.

Honestly, It's incredibly simple. The 49ers organization has been infected with cancer the day that Denise DeBartolo took ownership of the team over Eddie.

Her husband John York is a douchebag whose cheap and cares more about operating profit and revenue than winning.

Outside of Patrick Willis & Frank Gore, i dont think we've made the most of our drafts, we need a new GM, Alex Smith has cost the 49ers tons of time and $ for nothing along with the long list of awful WRs drafted in the 1st round.

Solution: Hire a GM who knows what the hell he's doing, and Fire Nolan, hell, fire Martz too, that pompous windbag hasn't done anything since Vermeil led the Rams.

I love having Singletary as our LB's coach though, part of the reason Willis is such a beast.

It's going to be a long time before we see any progress, the problem stems from the top of the organization down. I think we have some decent talent, no leadership.

Since: Nov 16, 2006
Posted on: October 13, 2008 9:58 pm

In Defense Of Bad Defense...Mike Nolan.

Hey Boozers. I always welcome your input. The purpose of this blog was not to discount the problems on offense. JTO has made his share of mistakes since week 1. Martz is also stubborn on his playcalling. What I wanted to point out is the lack of development in the defense. Nolan is supposed to to be a defensive specialist, yet his defenses rank near the bottom 3rd of the league. It's a tough pill to swallow because we hired him to turn this team into a smashmouth, physical style football team. The assumption would that this team would be modeled after the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. We have the run blocking line, we have the stud RB, we also spent countless $'s and high draft picks on defense. The expectations on this defense is high. It should remind us of a defense that only allows 15 PPG. Our defense hasn't established it's identity. For Nolan, that's a problem. Ultimately, this was his project. He picked the majority of his players and all his coaches. Nolan is the root of the problem. If he doesn't turn it around quickly, he'll be gone.

Since: Aug 24, 2008
Posted on: October 13, 2008 8:45 pm

In Defense Of Bad Defense...Mike Nolan.

Thrashard.  I’m not a 49’ers expert by any means and the game was not shown in my area.  I did see the highlights on the NFL network and reviewed the game center results.  I don’t have an opinion on Nolan and leave that to the SF fans.  However, the last quote from Killion’s article does say “we’ve made mistakes”.  I’m not sure if this has been taken out of context or not, but I read it as “we” meaning team to include the coaching staff.  That said you were pretty hard on the defense.  What I saw is they had a nice goal line stand in the first half resulting in a field goal and a field goal blocked.  The 49’ers were leading the game at the end of the third, but the offense gave the game away in the last quarter.  The fumble deep in the 49’ers end only lead to a field goal.  But the interception run back for the touch down was a killer.  That’s not the defense’s fault.  One interception and no sacks, now that’s on the defense.  As your blog states with all the number one picks and free agents, that’s hard to explain. 

Since: Aug 17, 2008
Posted on: October 13, 2008 12:21 pm

In Defense Of Bad Defense...Mike Nolan.

Breaking News after the cowboys lost on Sunday Romo will be out for 4 weeks with a broke finger!

I don't know do you think after the game he was so upset that he broke it to keep from having to get a chewing out?

Sorry I'm not a Cowboy fan. Sorry Romo about your injury.

Since: Aug 17, 2008
Posted on: October 13, 2008 11:32 am

In Defense Of Bad Defense...Mike Nolan.

I can tell you in a few words what the problem is and it starts with NO and end with LAN the problem is Nolan not the team the players are doing their job just by being on the field and playing Football, Nolan is on the field in a suit but his mind is some where else maybe in a boardroom pushing paper or maybe it's floating around in outer space and it's high time the 49er's get rid of the trash you never ever put down your players to the press that's why you Mr.Suit needs to push your paper work across the desk resign now. Before they have to shot this broken dead horse Nolan! In 6 games and you still can't figure it out that you not the players is at fault, No one believe in you and you are killing us slowly and Bill is turning over in his grave with the shame of your game.

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