Personnel chief on the way?

Mike Nolan can't get away from the 49ers' search to find a new personnel director. It's going on right next door to his office at team headquarters. And it's a search Nolan says the 49ers hope to have completed by the beginning of next week.

"We're obviously not trying to drag this thing out," Nolan said Tuesday morning. "It's important to get this guy in place."

But, while Nolan is being particularly meticulous in filling out his coaching staff, he says it's important for the 49ers to proceed in a similar manner to replace deposed general manager Terry Donahue.

The 49ers have interviewed eight individuals for that still-to-be specified position, and are deciding today how they will go forward with the process. The next move may be a second round of interviews with particular candidates in which Nolan will be directly involved.

So far, Nolan said, the interview process has been similar to the organization's head-coaching search that brought Nolan to the 49ers. Owner John York, assistant to general manager Paraag Marathe and assistant director of football administration Terry Tumey have been conducting the interviews.

"Paraag, Terry and John have put together a very thorough format for the interview process," Nolan said. "The discussions going on are not shallow discussions that don't mean anything. As the process is going on, we're evaluating and continue to reevaluate the candidates. They all have a good reason to be on the list."

York spoke with several respected league sources, including former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf and Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian, before building that list of candidates. York came away with eight top candidates that the Niners already have interviewed.

That list includes former Seattle and New Orleans GM Randy Mueller, the Denver Broncos' Rick Smith, the Jacksonville Jaguars' Charlie Bailey, the Seahawks' Scot McCloughan, the Kansas City Chiefs' Bill Kuharich, the 49ers' Brian Gardner, and the Colts' Mike Butler and Chris Polian. Chris Polian, Indianapolis' assistant director of football operations, is Bill Polian's son.

Each of the candidates has extensive experience in personnel, which seems to be the top objective for what the 49ers are looking for in the position.

When asked what the job title of Donahue's replacement will be, Nolan – who also will have a heavy say in the team's personnel decisions – indicated it would be personnel director and not general manager.

"If we have to broaden that title or role to hit the target on the person we want, that's a possibility," Nolan said. "You can describe the job any way you want. We're not going to shortchange ourselves or limit ourselves. If we have to broaden it to get the right guy, we'll do what we have to do. We're not going to get a guy that's one-dimensional. To do that role, you have to be the whole package."

Citing next Monday as the "kickoff day" for NFL personnel chiefs, Nolan said the 49ers hope to have their new man in place by then. That day is the first that NFL teams can designate franchise or transition players, beginning the process of personnel evaluation that continues with the Feb. 23 NFL Combine and the beginning of free agency on March 1.

"The biggest thing for personnel people," Nolan said, "is we're in the brunt of their season. They're right at the beginning of their season, getting ready for free agency and the draft. It's kind of like stealing somebody's quarterback right before the season starts. It's hard to be too patient with where we are. We feel that same pressure to do this."

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