Getting things fixed

Mike Nolan covers a variety of subjects regarding how things are going to get fixed for the 49ers and how the team is going to solve its many problems.

RE: Fixing the offense

Nolan: "We're certainly disappointed in the loss. We were still in position to win the game. Just as we did three weeks ago by identifying our problems defensively, we've made a considerable amount of changes there. We still need to make changes on the offensive side of the ball, and that's what we'll do. I have a lot of trust in our offensive staff. We have a tremendous amount of experience in our offensive staff and we have some outstanding coaches. What leads me to believe that we'll get things rectified is that most of these guys have been a part of building things from scratch. That is why we put this thing together from the very beginning. There is only so much you can do in a short time, but nonetheless I have a tremendous amount of faith in them, and our players do as well. It's a matter of us staying the course. It was also important that we play on the road. We have done some things as far as the noise factor and from the standpoint of execution that has helped us play better on the road. We still have had some pre-snap penalties, but I don't think that is directly related to being on the road. I do believe in this football team very much, but we still have a lot of work to do. That is a long term belief, but it's one that is important for our players to know. That's not to say that we don't have a lot of work to do, but it's important for us in going forward that we have that confidence."

RE: Who is going to replace Tony Parrish?

Nolan: "As it was on the other day, Keith Lewis went in, but this week we'll look into it when we get into game plan against Seattle Seahawks. They use several wide receivers in their offense, so it can be anything from a base to a sub pattern. You'll see either Ben Emanuel or you will see Keith Lewis. It might be more of a package thing than who has the starting role."

RE: How do you explain Cody Pickett's lack of productivity through the air and was that a step back for him?

Nolan: "It's hard to say with a young quarterback if it's a step back, because they start at such a low level as it is. I would say, more importantly, that he played OK and he didn't play any better than that. He didn't play as well as he did a week ago. There are a lot of things attributed to that. I know his expectations of himself are higher than his performance in the game. That's important, because if a guy doesn't have that, then he's not looking to get any better. The wind did add something to the game, but that affected all of the balls that were thrown."

RE: Are there any early thoughts on who your starter will be for the game?

Nolan: "The only healthy one that we had was Cody, so that is why Cody got the start. There's a possibility that Ken (Dorsey) will start this week if he's healthy. If Alex (Smith) is healthy, there's a possibility as well. We'll wait and see how it goes. As we started, it was Alex first, Ken second, Cody third, so if they were healthy that is where it will stand. If Ken is healthy, that will change the dynamics of the quarterback position."

RE: When Cody was a junior in college, he was projected to go high in the draft. He had an injury his senior year and that stalled him. Does he have the potential to be a starter in the NFL?

Nolan: "I feel very confident in saying that he has the tools. He will be a starter at some point, but when will that occur I don't know. At quarterback you always rely on the cast around you. He has to depend on everything from the linemen to the running backs, and in a case like yesterday, I guess the weather too. Nonetheless, I have confidence that all three of our guys will be quarterbacks in this league. I don't know enough about Jesse Palmer at this point. It's difficult because they don't have a great mentor that's sitting in and showing them the way. That's an area that I said that we were trying to fill. Whether they're on the field or not, that can give those young guys assurance in what they're doing. We get that from our coaching staff, but there's always better when you have a guy that's under center who has actually done it. I think the situation that we've created for the quarterbacks is one where they can develop and do a good job."

RE: When you were pursuing a quarterback to help them, what were you looking for?

Nolan: "You can't just bring in someone who has played, because that's a bad match. It's like saying that I just want a date and then all of a sudden you're saying, ‘I wish I didn't go to the dance.' That quarterback situation is the same kind of thing."

RE: When you say that you have a lot of confidence in your offense, what does that mean?

Nolan: "Everybody has heard me say that I have a lot of confidence in our offense in general. When I visualize that, I see a very strong offensive staff that has a lot of experience and they've built something before. I really haven't been clear about that statement, so I'm bringing some clarity to it today. When you're a coach, that's busting your tail to get something right that isn't, it's nice to hear your head coach talk about the players, but as an assistant coach, it's good for them to know that I have belief in them as well. It's just a matter of time."

RE: The offense is not doing well right now, so what do you say to paying customers who are waiting for it to get better and what are your signs that it will get better?

Nolan: "During the draft we realized that we identified that we wanted to boost our offense. Offensive line and quarterback were two spots that we needed to do a better job in. We drafted a quarterback, and it will take time to develop that quarterback to do that job. In his rookie year he's not going to go from A to Z. The offensive line is probably the most difficult - outside of quarterback - to get a guy on the field. Right now we're in the process where you might see both David Baas and Adam Snyder on the field early. I believe Snyder did a good job on his start. In looking forward, we are going to draft and implement people to do what we're looking for. In free agency, we're going to add guys who will bolster that, but we're not going to lose our mind in free agency. In building it the right way you want to bring in your own people. There is a reason that people are on the market. Every now and then you can bring somebody in that fits what you're trying to target. Every year there's about half a dozen guys out there that everyone identifies. If you get one or two of those guys, then you've done a pretty good job. I trust that we will do that this offseason to help our offense. That will complement certain guys that are already here and it will give others time to mature. I have a tremendous amount of respect and confidence in Scot McCloughan. I think that we had an outstanding draft this past year and time will show that. When you draft defensive players you can typically get them on the field real quick. If you draft a cornerback or a linebacker high, you'll see that guy on the field right away, because defense is a little different than offense. Defense is a lot of reaction and if a guy is a very good football player he'll find the ball because of his ability. Offense is a more complex job, in particular the quarterback and the line position. Sometimes you can put a wide receiver or a running back like Frank Gore on the field early, because of his innate ability and instincts.That's what you look for in some of those guys. When I look forward, those are things that I have a tremendous amount of confidence in. I don't want to say that you have to weather the storm, but when you're building it the right way, you're going to go through a process. There's a reason that we were 2-14 last year, so now you have to build it up right. As we all know there are a lot of things that play into that. At some point I want the goals and the purpose to come together and be one. Right now they're separate."

RE: Has the fact that David Baas hasn't been able to get on the field disappointed you?

Nolan: "Training camp disappointed it for me with Baas. He pulled that hamstring and he couldn't go, but at this point he's right on the cusp of coming in. He'll begin to play. It's evident in watching Baas and Snyder that they will make us better. Again I'm very optimistic about that. To a fan's eye it's hard to see if a lineman is good unless he really gores somebody. That is why I feel good about it. There is a time to do things and there is a time you can't."

RE: What are your offensive coaches doing in practice to improve your young players?

Nolan: "I'll start with someone like Jerry Sullivan, our wide receiver coach. This was a wide receiving corps that, in the offseason, I never saw one of our receivers listed in the top 60. It's evident to me that Brandon Lloyd and Arnaz Battle are clearly above that when they're healthy. Brandon has obviously been playing, but there are other things. When you take away Arnaz, we don't have both sides of the field covered, so it's a little bit different there. Both those players, I believe, are coached the very best in the league. There's no one better than Jerry Sullivan. Players who have been coached by him will tell you that around the league. It's clearly evident in the way these guys perform, more so in practice than in the game, because in the game they're not getting a lot of opportunities. The game has its own course that we just have to deal with. That's evident to me. With the quarterback play, I think we've got an outstanding quarterback coach in Jim Hostler. I think Mike McCarthy has a great system for it. Again, it's just a developmental thing. You go to practice; you watch them; they work extremely hard. That's one of the things that impresses me the most, too. We go out to practice every day, and the guys work extremely hard. They finish things; they put in the extra time; they're here early; they stay late. All the things that lead me to believe the future looks bright. We're doing all of those things now, and those (things) are important to continue. One of the most difficult things that you do when you're 2-7 like we are, is keeping guys on that pace. The good thing about it is, when it's young guys, you typically have a better chance of the young guys doing that because they're new. They realize that they are young and they have their future ahead of them, as far as football goes. An older guy is sometimes more difficult because they might say to you, ‘I've been through this before.' You can fall into that, but that's not the case that we have because we have so many young guys. I think Bishop Harris has done an outstanding job with Kevan Barlow. Kevan is twice the back he was last year, if not more than that, and he's getting better all the time. It's unfortunate that Kevan really hasn't reached his potential as a player, even three years ago when he had one of his better seasons. He's a better back than that. I think George (Warhop) does a great job with the offensive line. It's a transition for the line, because we're weeding out some of the old, or did most of that during the offseason. George does an outstanding job with the line and coaching them. Most of the things are unseen on Sunday, whether the guys are on the field or not. We're developing a lot of the young guys, and that's critical to us because I would like to think that the young guys we're developing will be our solid players in the future. Whether they're backups or starters, I believe they'll be solid. The other guys, like I said about the two linemen, or Frank Gore, or Alex Smith, I would expect them to be above solid players as we go forward. They will be with experience, and I'm confident in that. It's easy to see in practice, but when you get in the game – I hate to say it – in some cases it's men among boys. That's what happens to you when you don't have experience, but they do compete and do play it out."

RE: Coaches are supposed to be optimistic, reporters are supposed to be skeptical. Were you trying to persuade these guys that they were better than they really are?

Nolan: "First off, I would not change one thing that I said at all. I thought long and hard about it. I have a plan in place for everything that I do. I even have a plan for this coming offseason, wherever we finish, but I also take into consideration that we could finish in one place or another. As I've said before, and I'll say it again, it's imperative with players on any team, they don't want to hear about competing. I don't want to talk about competing. I want to be competitive, but I want to talk about winning. When you're trying to motivate people to not only be a good team, but to also get better individually before collectively, you want to talk to them about what's out there. Is there a carrot, or am I just chasing something dangling on an empty string? I think that players on your team will tell you, ‘We want to win the division. Once we get in the hunt, anything can happen.' That's important in motivating people. That's important in giving people something to see down the road. It will be the same target for some time. Even down the road, that will be the target. What's more important than the goal for this football team and building something is: what's your purpose? What are you trying to accomplish? If you're building something, you're not trying to build the division winner. You're talking about the end product rather than how you're going to get there. You can't put the roof on before you've got everything in place. The purpose is: what's the most important thing for us in the process of hitting our goal. Everyday, we're trying to improve our personnel, which we're doing. I feel extremely confident in the job our personnel department will do in adding players. I feel confident that our cap situation will be better. It will be good enough that we will be able to add a player or two in the future. The structure overall is something that I am constantly aware of. Everything from schedules to the way the building is run. When you get the best of people working for your company or playing in this business, if they walk in and feel like, ‘I love what it's like here. I like the way it feels. I feel like I can do my job and don't have to look over my shoulder,' they'll perform at their very best. It's one thing to get the very best people, but you don't want to handcuff them when they get in the building. You want them to use their imagination and be as creative as they can on the field. All of those things need to be put together. They were not in place and are not in place totally at this point. They're getting there, but there is a time and a place to do certain things. That's why I have the belief and the confidence that those things will happen. They're not going to happen on my timetable. If they happened on my timetable, I'd be ahead of you guys, so you wouldn't be able to be as critical. That's the way it's going to be, and I recognize your job as well as mine, but what you say and do doesn't change my target. Being in this long enough, I recognize what you have to do, but you have to recognize what I have to do in the process. Whether it sounds a little lofty to say, ‘Here's our goal,' it's realistic to a team of young men. That's what they're aiming for."

RE: When will you take down the "Win the West" banner?

Nolan: "It will never come down. Unless they change the division, it will be the same helmets. We will still be shooting for our purpose and that goal will come into play. If you go out there, it doesn't say 2005, does it?"

RE: Winning the NFC West:

Nolan: "When I said it, I'll be honest, I didn't say, ‘Think 2006.' I'm thinking 2005. That's where I have to be, too. Every day, I have to get up and do the same thing. That's important."

RE: Telling the players and media that you will win the NFC West:

Nolan: "I look at it this way: If you were going into battle, and you jumped in front of everybody and said, ‘Come on everybody, about three-quarters of you are going to die, but let's go get them.' I'd be back here (behind the lines). That's what you'd see. When you go forward, there is no choice in the leadership role. You have one choice, and that's to lead. You don't lead from a loser's perspective; you lead from a winner's perspective. We know in coaching that there's a time for change and there's a time not (to change). I'm not afraid of the consequences of coaching with the fear of what could happen if I put the expectations too high. You could put them down low and pull the Lou Holtz, who I think is a great coach. Lou, even when he had the best team in the country, said, ‘I don't know if we're going to beat Army this week,' or ‘I don't know if we'll beat Rice. That's going to be a tough battle.' I don't go there. I don't go there. I'm realistic and I want out team to be confident in what they're doing. As they go forward and they look back, I want them to look back and say, ‘I remember when we were there. I remember what you did then, and I want to go with you now.' You do it for that reason."

RE: Is there reason to believe that this team will actually improve this year?

Nolan: "I know what you're saying, but I disagree. That's not the message I want to send. Look at the defense over the last three or four weeks. They're playing great defense, if you take the statistics over the last three weeks. It's night and day compared to the first six weeks. The first six weeks were awful, but the last three weeks, they've done an outstanding job. For different reasons, I have confidence in our offense. They can make that turn. Our special teams have continued to be good. When you're developing your young guys that will be our solid players of the future or maybe the backups, and they've been through what we've been through, those are the guys that will get you over the hump. When you're sitting there looking for a backup, we're not going on the street looking to bring in a Jesse Palmer. He's done a good job, don't get me wrong, but you're not looking for those guys. In the past, we never brought in guys off the street, even for the practice squad. Even when we did, I never paid that much attention to it because it never entered the team. As we know here, we bring them on, and they start next week. That shouldn't be the process. When you put it together right, your backups become those guys. I know what it looks like when it's right, but it takes time to get it right. Did I anticipate all of the injuries that we've had? No, but again, it's at least an experience where I know that this is why it has to be the way it has to be."


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