The disastrous season was enough to convince team York to clean house. He fired coach Dennis Erickson and general manager Terry Donahue, putting himself on the hook for approximately $10 million in severance pay. On Wednesday, York made the formal announcement that a legacy would be in charge of the 49ers. Mike Nolan, whose father, Dick, introduced the idea of the playoffs to 49ers fans in 1970, became the 15th head coach in franchise history. "We are handing him the San Francisco 49ers and we expect him to win," York said. Nolan, 45, signed a five-year contract that is believed to pay him just under $2 million a season, and there is no doubt where he stands on the totem pole. After all, Nolan will help York identify and hire the new general manager. "What we need is to have a coach and a head of personnel on the same page so we can bring the best talent in here and then take that best talent and put that into the hands of a head coach who can put them in the best position to win," York said. Included in Nolan's contract is contractual control over the makeup of the team's 53-man roster, his agent, Bob LaMonte said. Nolan will also be a central figure in the draft and other personnel matters. "From a decision-making philosophy, he has given me an awful lot of responsibility in that respect," said Nolan, formerly defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens. "There will be one voice coming out of there, and it will be mine." Although he has barely had a chance to watch the team he inherits, Nolan will make the major decision when it comes to the first overall pick in the draft. Will the 49ers use it or trade it? Although he said things could change, his preference is to pick a player, he said. "When you have the opportunity to get the very best player in the country and help turn around a 2-14 team, I would like to think that we would use it," Nolan said. Nolan's father was head coach of the 49ers from 1968 to '75. The Nolans become the first father-son tandem to be named coaches of the same team. In 1985, Wade Phillips took over on an interim basis for his father, Bum Phillips, as head coach of the New Orleans Saints for the final four games of the season. Nolan, who has been an NFL assistant coach for 18 seasons, said he will hire an offensive coordinator to keep the West Coast system alive in San Francisco. Bill Walsh brought the ball-control passing game to the 49ers in 1979, and the organization won five Super Bowls with it. Nolan will also be heavily involved in the search to find a general manager to replace Donahue, who was fired on Jan. 5. Since York took over in the day-to-day control of the team in January 1999, he has witnessed friction between his coach and general manager. Steve Mariucci and Bill Walsh did not work well together, and there was mutual distrust between Mariucci and Donahue. Also, Erickson and Donahue never clicked, and neither party had any confidence in the other. Now, that the 49ers have their head coach, they can find a compatible match at general manager. York said Nolan was the clear choice for the team's top position because of two distinguishing factors. "No. 1, he had an overall vision of what it took to be a head coach, particularly of the San Francisco 49ers above and beyond the playing field," York said. "He's got the field covered and the locker room covered and it goes out beyond that to the community. "The second thing ... he clearly understood that the importance of being the head coach of the 49ers is different than any other team. He understood the importance of what it means to the Bay Area."
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