49ers Football 101

Mike Nolan covered a wide gamut of topics during his Monday news conference, describing where the 2-11 49ers are at this point of the season by saying, "We're in 101 and some teams are playing at 401 level."

RE: Opening Statements:

"The first thing that comes to mind in reflecting against yesterday's game is not us, but it's really Seattle. They're 11-2 and that alone is what you want it to look like. From a players' standpoint, an offensive continuity standpoint and a coaching staff standpoint they've done an outstanding job. That reflects on the field for them. I believe that our losses are not due to a lack of playing hard or a failure to believe in the things we do. It's evident with every day that we're here that they continue to work hard. I believe our losses are due to a lack of consistency and maturity in handling adverse situations. It's immaturity from a football playing stand point and not from a personality standpoint.

"I think that yesterday's lost was due to a lack of that experience more than anything else. Behind the scenes there are many things that are going good, but we don't see those after a 41-3 lost. Practices are good. Our meetings are going well. Our tempo is very good. The weight room continues to be a plus for us in getting our younger players stronger all the time. We've had some personal bests each week in different positions. Our individual efforts in preparing each week have been very good, and at 2-11 that's not an easy thing to say. That seems to be the bright side for things right now."

"When it all started it was the direction we wanted to go in and those things continue to go in the right direction. In building it and getting it right those are the most positive things at this point. We'll certainly always be measured by our losses and right now the losses are excessively high, I guess you can say."

RE: Do you take a different approach in dissecting a game like this versus one like Philadelphia?

"The Eagles continued to have explosive play after explosive play. Going back to that game every play was such a crushing blow. Yesterday against the defense they kept dinking and dunking, which is not in a critical way that's in a good way. You want to sustain long drives and they were able to do that. That third touchdown that they got was on that explosive play. Nonetheless I felt that we were in the game early. I thought we were outmatched and outmanned early in the Philadelphia game. When I compare the two there are differences. Certainly 41-3 is not an uplifting experience."

RE: Didn't you approach the Philadelphia lost by identifying the problem and if so do you still do that.

"We still do. The consistency or lack of was evident on the defensive side of the ball. The inability to handle adversity was part of the problem, too. I think those were all a result of having a lack of maturity from a playing stand point."

RE: You cited in the past that your secondary had played pretty good in a few contests, but with these past couple of 300-yard passing games would you still say that?

"That would not be a silver lining in yesterday performance. Certainly we all understand what I mean when I say that. When I say that, it's looking at the bright spots of how far they've come and what they can do in helping us. They've played some decent games along the way, but we do give some explosive plays along the way. I don't want to say its acceptable, but when you get out manned that's a little easier to swallow than when you bust. All of those players are fully confident and capable of not making mental errors in this system. Right now their playing hard and the expectations for us are realistic with those guys."

RE: Would you say that the lack of experience is actually the same thing as the lack of talent?

"It's my job to lead these guys and instill confidence in what they do. I'm not going to say that when someone's hurt and the backups are in that they can't win for us. I'm not going to say that the new guy that we have is off the street and he's not good enough to get it done for us. That would not be sufficient from a leadership standpoint for me to do. It's our job as coaches to get those guys to perform at the best level we can. It is maybe a reach to say just because you put on that uniform that you're suppose to play at a level that the Super Bowl teams of the 49ers did. I think it's unrealistic, but it is our goal to teach whoever we put in a uniform to perform at the best level that we can. The excuses are not for me to make and my job is to lead that group. I guess some people say that there are differences from reasons and excuses, but from my standpoint it's best that I stay away from the route that you pointed out."

RE: Who are some young guys that you see being here and having a significant role on this team when you get it to where you want it to be?

"I think we'll build this team three ways, whether that's starters or back-ups. I believe that at least half of our drafted class will be starters. I will say at least five of those guys will be starters at some point. Some of them already are. The other areas will be through free agency. Last year we added Jonas Jennings, Marques Douglas and a couple of other players as well. The two guys that I mention should continue to be starters for us. It's unfortunate that Jonas hadn't played that much. The other area is for some of these young guys that we are developing. I don't believe that all of them will be starters as we go forward. I do believe that a number of them will be solid back-ups. These guys that I talk about in the secondary that have two years experience amongst the five starting defensive backs will be very solid back-ups. When you have a solid secondary those guys are great special team players. The good football teams have a fourth or fifth year player that they can go to when a starter gets injured. You also may be putting on a high draft pick that's waiting to get on the field. But when your back-up player is someone who didn't even go through training camp with you then you have a different story. That's what we're building for. That is what I feel good about from a standpoint that we have guys that will go through the next few training camps and get better. Some of them will get beat out, but that makes it better. What makes it all the better is when a guy that has played a full season for us turns into our back-up for the future, then there is know drop off. That's the real plus in playing the guys that we're playing right now. That is what needs to get done around here, because it hasn't been done. Walking in this situation the way it started this year it is what it is. The things that we're going through are a part of the process. It's unfortunate, but it's part of the process. In a long run it leaves optimism for me, but in the short term getting beat 41-3 is not an exciting deal."

RE: Can you discuss why Alex Smith couldn't hold on to the ball?

"Brand new balls are kind of slick and in cold weather they are all the more slick and in warm weather the balls are a little tacky. Aside from that, the reason why he dropped them I don't know. I know at one point he asked the official to change the ball, but he did not. They just put it back on the ground and said play with it. He felt that the ball was a little slicker than usual. It wasn't a case of being wet. The brand new balls have a wax film on it and no one is allowed to touch the balls. They come out of a secure little bag with a lock and key on it."

RE: When quarterbacks enter the league they measure hands, how did his measure up?

"I would say that his hands are just above the medium. I always look at that, because it has a lot to do with velocity and spin on the ball. He does not have small hands, there just normal size."

RE: How much preparation is being done for the upcoming draft by you?

"None, other than watching some Saturday games, because I'm not allowed to comment on any of those guys. You are well aware that we have a scouting department that is on the road. We have seven scouts. Scot McCloughan has been on the road a couple of times this year. I hear names as you all do, but it just is to past the time on Saturday's."

RE: Is it an on going process for you to debate on what veterans you want to bring back for next season?

"It's on going. I look at a lot of different areas and you do utilize the season to do that. Some players are developing all the time and getting better and better. A great example would be an Adam Snyder or David Baas. Gore is continuing to do well, but he's had his bumps and bruises along the way that have taken him out of the lineup. I continue to look at the veterans on the ball club. Some of them have contracts and some of them don't. After the season there will be some decisions made not only by us, but by the players. Some of them will want to return and some of them will want to move on. The time will happen for that after the season."

RE: Does Chris Hetherington remain as a starter since Fred Beasley's back now?

"Right now he has. Last week Fred was back in practice, but we didn't know where he was from a game standpoint. We were waiting for Thursday's practice, so that he could have the pads on him to see where his neck and shoulder were. We made the determining factor that Hetherington would be the starter rather than missing two days. It's like what we did with Arnaz Battle. Early on we learned that you don't want to assume that Arnaz would be back in, then he didn't show up on Sunday. We tried to correct that."

RE: How did Keith Lewis do in his first start?

"He did okay. As a secondary as a whole we didn't do real good. He didn't have any big plays that were against him, but there are little things. It's like the offensive line. It's difficult to say that one offensive linemen cost you so many things, because they work together as a unit. The two groups on the field that are the most critical to success would be the offensive line and the secondary. I only say that, because as good as your front seven might be on defense, if you're giving up big passing plays and explosives then they can be doing all they want up front. If a run breaks through you need good defensive backs to minimize the gain. Your secondary in most cases is what keeps your opponents from scoring touchdowns. They may not minimize the yardage like the front seven, but when it comes to points your secondary is critical. You can't run it if you don't have linemen and you can't pass it if you don't have linemen. When the secondary doesn't play well as a whole then it's hard to say that any one player played outstanding."

RE: How did Alex Smith play yesterday?

"I don't think that he played particularly well and I think Alex will say that also. I do think that you gain things through that. There are not a lot of positives about to game in particular, but when you take the things that you learned through experiences that is a positive. I've had experiences coaching wise that were not great, but I learned from them. There's something to gain. I'm sure that Alex learned a lot from a game like yesterday, so I wouldn't call it a step back because of that. That's just reality. I will say that it's a step backward when you learn nothing from it. If you learn from it then in the long run you gain something from that experience. Knowing Alex and the way that he's hard on himself I believe that he will learn from that experience. Somewhere down the road the benefits of that experience will help him out."

RE: What kind of things can he learn from that?

"He'll learn ball-handling. He'll learn how to find an open receiver. He'll learn how to get rid of a ball in certain situations rather than holding on to it. He'll learn where to escape as opposed to where not to escape. He'll learn to stay with his read a little longer. Anytime you're minus on a play you can learn something from that play. That's what that meeting today is all about. Right now I think that he's learned about half from that game than what he'll learn after viewing it with his teammates."

RE: Alex did pretty well earlier, but is it a factor of defenses changing things up and getting to him in the rest of the quarters?

"No. It would be nice to put the blame on some one else, but it really isn't. There's not a lot of game planning or adjustments by the opponents against our offense. They're doing the same things. They load the box and on pass downs they try to take Brandon Lloyd away. Other than that it's really not any innovative things going on which is unfortunate, but that's where we are. We're in 101 and some teams are playing at 401 level."

RE: How do you account for things earlier in the game?

"Early in the game everybody is trying to get a feel for one another. The real dominant teams shut you down three and out and you're out. The reverse of that would be the strength of an offense taking it down and getting a touchdown. Whereas our offense at least got three points, but their offense is the dominant part of their football team. I think that their defense is much improved, but the dominance that comes from Seattle's attack is clearly on the offensive side of the ball. They'll run into some opponents along the way where the other side would have to carry the load. But right now the timing, continuity and maturity that they have on the offensive side of the ball are reflective in statistics and everything that they do."

RE: With the offense hovering around 200 yards a game, what reason for optimism do you have that you guys can even turn that around next year?

"It's all a matter of experience, maturity, playing together and continuity. It's clear to me, because if you look at any offense that started they had their rough go. Look at Seattle when they started it with Matt Hasselbeck. Look at all the quarterbacks that were young, they had their rough go. I don't know if you can look at a really good quarterback that started out hot and stayed hot forever. I don't care who it is, there's growing pains that you go through. College and NFL are two different experiences for a quarterback. We not only have that, but the offensive line is being put together at the same time. That makes it tough. If you got an experience line in front of you at least you can sit in there and go where you want to. As of late the offensive line is getting better and better. It's very evident and a lot of that is being that they've played together the past few weeks. Adam Snyder has been a real plus and Justin Smiley's getting better. David Baas has had his mistakes lately, but he's moving in the right direction."

RE: Will you say that they played well even after yesterday?

"I think they played alright. They didn't play good enough to win, but you can say that about every position on offense. To answer your question of what leads me to be optimistic about the future is that I know what maturity, experience and continuity brings, but you can't get it overnight. It's like all of us, I want maturity and I want it now, but you have to go through the process to get it. Just the fact that we lost and only scored three points, there's things to be learned from that experience that should make our offensive players better as we go forward. I guess you can say that that's the silver lining in a bad deal."

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