Nolan's staff search will see change

Mike Nolan won't waste any time putting together his staff of assistant coaches. Nolan will meet with the holdover assistants from Dennis Erickson's staff Thursday, but most of them will not be retained as Nolan brings in his own crew. Mike Singletary could be on that list, since the 49ers already have asked and received permission from the Baltimore Ravens to interview Singletary, along with one other unnamed Baltimore assistant.

Singletary, who coached Baltimore's linebackers the past two years, is the leading candidate to become Nolan's defensive coordinator. The Hall of Famer was passed over for the defensive coordinator job in Baltimore after Nolan left that post earlier this week to take over the 49ers. Nolan's old job went to former defensive line coach Rex Ryan.

Sources say the offensive assistant is Jedd Fisch, a four-year NFL assistant who held the newly-created position of offensive assistant with the Ravens this past season after spending the previous three years breaking into the league with the Houston Texans. Fisch likely would move up and become a position coach with the 49ers.

Nolan veered away Wednesday from revealing any specific names, but he already has a short list in mind for his first San Francisco staff.

"I do not want to say any of their names, actually," Nolan said, citing that the 49ers still needed to gain permission to talk to some of them. "But I certainly have a list of candidates in my mind. That is part of the thing in an interview process. Usually, you have to have about three-to-five names at each position that you want to fill, and I have that in place."

Considering Nolan's background – 11 of his 18 years as an NFL assistant were as a defensive coordinator – his key hire will be his offensive coordinator, who likely will have a larger role running San Francisco's offense than any other offensive coordinator in recent team history.

"I have about two or three candidates in mind," Nolan said. "We will play a West Coast – or a derivative of the West Coast – offense."

Nolan stressed that he will put a heavy focus on offense in his decisions, indicating that the 49ers won't become a Baltimore West – a team that relies on a dominating defense but struggles on the offensive side of the ball.

When asked if he planned on reshaping the 49ers with a dominant defense akin to the dominant offense that has characterized the team the past two decades, Nolan said flatly, "No, I don't."

"A team needs to not only have its own identity, but the identity of the city and the fans," he continued. "I've always believed that. I know all three phases of our football team will need to be at their very best. When one does slip, the other one will need to pick it up. We'll put an emphasis on all three areas. It won't be my objective to put a defensive priority on the football team because I don't believe that is how you win."

Owner John York already has stated publicly that several assistants from Erickson's staff won't be retained, and several of them will get the word today that the 49ers no longer are interested in their services.

Sources have indicated only a few assistants will be asked back, and it's possible none will be retained. Ted Tollner, who has interviewed with Detroit this week, won't be asked back as offensive coordinator, though it's possible he still could have a future role with the team as an offensive consultant. First-year defensive coordinator Willy Robinson should have his bags packed, if he doesn't already.

"I will meet (Thursday) with the staff that is already here to get a feel for them and see who possibly could stay and who may have to look for another job," Nolan said cryptically. "I'll be communicating with coaches that I want to bring in that will be a part of coaching our players. Those are the things that I have to do in the days to come."

In an aside, Nolan said these chores are something he's been waiting to do for a long, long time. He was a hot head-coaching candidate years ago but has had to bide his time for his first shot at the job.

"It's funny," he said. "I've been putting together a list (of possible assistants) for about 12 years. When I go back and look at the beginning one, it had Jon Gruden on it. It had Brian Billick on it. You can go right down the list. It had all of these Andy Reids on it. It had coach after coach.

"Well, certainly, they've all been head coaches for a number of years, but that list has had to kind of adjust every year, which it has. I'm certain there are some of those guys on our list right now that will be head coaches in the future. For now, I'm going through that list, identifying those people and talking to them."


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