New coach a showstopper on 'Mike Nolan Day'
Whether he is or not … nobody can determine that today, tomorrow, or perhaps even until a few years from now. But Day 1 of the Nolan era in franchise history went over absolutely swimmingly for an energetic 45-year-old who faces an upstream battle to turn the struggling 49ers around. Nolan came equipped with the right answer for the masses who expect that turnaround isn't coming any time soon. Without making any promises, Nolan displayed an unwavering belief that the 2-14 season and talent-deprived team that led to his hiring does not doom San Francisco to years of scraping for a grip on the ladder to NFL success. "It's been proven time and again in the league that you can turn programs around very fast," said Nolan, and on that count he could point to several examples. "I think it is reasonable to think that you can turn things around very quickly. I feel very confident about that." Here? With this team? With this wayward organization? Well, yes, Nolan went on to say in about two dozen different ways, and his insightful, rapid-fire responses left everyone – even the cynics – smiling in a hotel ballroom packed with reporters, cameras, city officials, 49ers staff and family and a collection of current and former players, including some of the franchise's legendary Hall-of-Fame faces. It was one big love-fest, like some kind of opening day, an atmosphere that was more akin to the rebirth of spring than the reality of the situation – an afternoon smack in the middle of a cold, hard winter with many difficult, arduous tasks ahead for both Nolan and the Niners. But Nolan certainly looked and sounded like The Guy to dive headfirst into the task. "We are positive that he gives us a huge head start on our fresh start," 49ers owner John York said. "We wanted someone with solid NFL experience and a proven record for winning. We also sought someone with outstanding leadership qualities, extensive football knowledge, integrity in character, exceptional interpersonal skills and a clear sense of discipline. Mike fit that total bill precisely and (excels) in each of these factors. "Do we have the right person? You bet we do. We couldn't be more confident. Mike is the perfect choice to lead the 49ers back to the top." Those are big words, and they are to be expected from York, who is putting his neck on the line by hiring Nolan. If Nolan fails, York fails, and it can't be blamed on Terry Donahue, Dennis Erickson, previous 49ers regimes – or anybody else. But York appeared quite comfortable with that Wednesday, speaking with an ease that hasn't often been evident in his character since he took over as the organization's head honcho in 1999. And that had everything to do with his new coach. "(Hiring Nolan) – that's on my shoulders," York said. "The football team is now on Mike's shoulders." Nolan, for his part, didn't appear to slip-up even once during a wide-ranging 26-question interrogation which followed his opening statement. From philosophy, to personnel decisions, to organizational structure, to finding the right assistant coaches, to finding the right players and recognizing the right schemes to make them successful, to the 49ers unique place in San Francisco culture, Nolan consistently spewed out an ideology that made eyes widen, heads nod and had a lot of people thinking the 49ers are on to something here with this guy. And Nolan, for all his effusiveness and thoughtful decisiveness, made one thing perfectly clear: He's in charge. "I think from a decision-making philosophy, (York) has given me an awful lot of responsibility in that respect," Nolan said. "Obviously, the owner will be involved in all decisions that we do make as an organization. It will be ‘we' decisions. But I think the importance is that there will be one voice coming out of (the organization). And it will be mine." That voice came through loud and clear Wednesday. Of course, talk is cheap at this point, especially after all the 49ers and their fans have been through since the last time the team hired a new head coach. But even bitter pessimists had to wander away from Nolan's introduction day in San Francisco – Mike Nolan Day, that is – believing the 49ers may have got it right this time.
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