Davis in as D.C.

While the big football news Sunday was coming out of Jacksonville, Mike Nolan slipped quietly under the radar by filling the final consequential position on his coaching staff. Billy Davis is in as the 49ers' new defensive coordinator, and he fits the mold and character of the men Nolan is putting around him in the organization, though Davis figures to get a lot of help from his head coach in strategy and scheme as he takes the big step up from coaching linebackers.

The hiring of the 39-year-old Davis might come as something of a surprise to those who thought Nolan was waiting until after the Super Bowl to try and lure somebody such as New England defensive line coach Pepper Johnson or defensive backs coach Eric Mangini to San Francisco to become the Niners' defensive coordinator.

But, in reality, Nolan was working behind the scenes to bring in a young, up-and-comer such as Davis, since he knew coaches such as Johnson and Mangini would be following Romeo Crennel to Cleveand – or staying put in New England to take Crennel's place as the Patriots' defensive coordinator.

Davis fits the accomplished, energetic, and ready-for-more profile of Nolan and the kind of people he's attempting to bring into the team's leadership structure. Davis has been working in the NFL since 1992, but the 49ers already will be his seventh team as he has shown an ability to get the job done in one place and then move on quickly to the next challenge.

Davis has coached defense and/or linebackers at each of his previous stops in Pittsburgh, Carolina, Cleveland, Green Bay, Atlanta and the New York Giants, where he coached in 2004 after spending the previous three seasons with the Falcons.

He has produced huge success at several of his stops. In 1996 at Carolina, outside linebackers Kevin Greene and Lamar Lathon both went to the Pro Bowl after finishing first and second in the NFL in sacks, and the Panthers reached the NFC Championship Game. In his three seasons at Atlanta, Keith Brooking made the Pro Bowl each year. In Davis' last season with the Falcons, the team's top three tacklers all were linebackers.

Davis was instrumental in helping Atlanta's linebackers adjust to a 3-4 scheme that the team implemented in 2002, and his knowledge of that scheme and ability to teach it will come in handy in San Francisco since the 49ers are leaning toward using more 3-4 in their defense now that Nolan is in charge.

Nolan said late last week that defense "obviously is my expertise. Not that I'm going to do that (defensive coordinator) job, because I'm not. I don't want to do that job. I've done that job and it will be someone else's do."

But by hiring Davis for the job, it is assured that Nolan – who has 11 years of experience as a NFL defensive coordinator – will be heavily involved in calling the shots on that side of the ball. Not that Davis won't have input, but this will be Nolan's San Francisco defense run by Nolan's defensive philosophy.

"Obviously, with defense being my expertise, I (was) looking for someone that has got an open mind – as I do – about what we do," Nolan said. "There are a lot of guys out there that want to bring a bag of goods that they've done. It's all they know. In my opinion, that's not the kind of guy I'm looking for. I want a guy to come in here who has an open mind and says, ‘Look at it. Here's the cards I dealt to you. You got a flush in your hand, play the flush. Don't try and go for a straight. Play the flush.' Some guys come in and they want to change the hand. Those guys limit you in the draft, they limit you in the cap and they don't utilize the good players that we already have."

In contrast, Davis comes to the Niners with a clean slate that can be shaped by Nolan's defensive philosophy and without the baggage of pre-conceived ideas and formulas developed elsewhere.

"We are very fortunate Billy is coming with us," Nolan said. "Billy's a great teacher and he has got great energy. It was very important for us to find someone who had extensive experience with the 3-4 and 4-3 defense (because) it is very important to utilize the personnel that you have. The (coaches) that are already in place on defense have a pretty good understanding of where we want to go defensively and so I'm very hopeful I don't have to be too involved in it."

But he will be. And that's why Davis was hired, to reflect Nolan's ideas and put them in motion while adding some touches of his own along the way.


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