Notebook: Nolan ends year as NFL's top coach
Nolan was honored after guiding the 49ers to a 26-23 come-from-behind road victory against the Denver Broncos in overtime that knocked Denver out of the playoffs. The Niners rallied from a 13-0 deficit late in the second quarter, and Nolan aided the comeback by twice throwing his red challenge hankie, which resulted both times in successful replay challenges that went in the 49ers' favor. Under Nolan, the 49ers doubled their victory total from 2-14 to 4-12 in his first season of 2005, then almost doubled that total again this past season while adding three more victories to their win ledger in 2006. Nolan was selected from among three finalists by voters on NFL.com. The other finalists were head coaches Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants and Herm Edwards of the Kansas City Chiefs, who both directed final-weekend victories that pushed their teams into the playoffs. Nolan also was named NFL Coach of the Week after leading the 49ers to a 20-14 upset of defending NFC champion Seattle on Nov. 19. Nolan is one of five multiple winners of the honor this season. Philadelphia coach Andy Reid was honored three times while Nolan, Chicago's Lovie Smith, New Orleans' Sean Payton and Tennessee's Jeff Fisher each were honored twice. Later this month, voting will be held on NFL.com to determine the Motorola NFL Coach of the Year. ***** ***** ***** Niners' backup quarterback Trent Dilfer will join the NFL Network's GameDay broadcasting team during coverage of the upcoming playoffs. Dilfer will join a crew that includes former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci and former 49ers cornerback Deion Sanders in studio for insight and analysis as part of coverage of the Final Four playoffs in each conference. The 13-year veteran, who plans to return to the 49ers next season and perhaps beyond, will join the GameDay team to break down divisional playoff games on Jan. 13-14 and again on Jan. 21 for the AFC and NFC Championship games. Dilfer said last week that he expects to get a lot of inquiries about the 49ers and their 2006 season while he's "out and about doing the TV stuff" this month. ***** ***** ***** The first players to sign new contracts with the 49ers in 2007 are third-year receiver Marcus Maxwell, first-year receiver C.J. Brewer and first-year offensive tackle Tavares Washington. Each player signed with the 49ers earlier this week. All three players became free agents after the season ended Dec. 31 because they finished the season on San Francisco's practice squad. Though free agency doesn't begin until March 2, the 49ers had a one-week window after the season to sign the players before they became unrestricted free agents who could sign with any team in the league. The 49ers then allocated Brewer, Maxwell, Washington and second-year safety Vickiel Vaughn to play in NFL Europe this spring. Vaughn, San Francisco's seventh-round draft choice in 2006, missed the entire season on injured reserve with a hand injury. Though players allocated to NFL Europe often are castoffs, that's not the case with any of San Francisco's four young players. The team is high on the potential of each player and wants to give them live game experience to improve their chances of making the team once training camp begins in July. Brewer (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) and Maxwell (6-4, 205) - who spent seven games on San Francisco's active roster as a rookie in 2005, playing in four of them - are big, athletic prospects who both will be given an opportunity to make the team in 2007 if they can refine their games. Washington (6-3, 320) will have the same opportunity along the offensive line, and Vaughn (6-1, 204) was making a strong bid at a 2006 roster berth before being injured during the preseason. Though most players would prefer to remain with the 49ers during their offseason team activities, a trip to NFL Europe has benefited several players on the San Francisco roster, three of which stuck with the 49ers after seeing action overseas last spring. The previous NFL Europe players on San Francisco's 2006 season-ending 53-man roster include OT Harvey Dahl (played in NFL Europe in 2006), G/C Tony Wragge (2006), OT Patrick Estes (2006), DE Marques Douglas (1999), WR Bryan Gilmore (2000), RB/KR Maurice Hicks (2003-2004), QB Shaun Hill (2003) and CB B.J. Tucker (2005). Douglas started each of San Francisco's 16 games in 2006, and Gilmore and Wragge both were in the 49ers' starting lineup for their regular-season finale at Denver last week, while Hicks performed as the team's kickoff returner and led San Francisco in special teams tackles in that game. ***** ***** ***** Defensive lineman Bryant Young met with Nolan the day after the season ended but did not tell him whether he plans to return next season. "No decision has been made, but we had a good conversation," Nolan said. "My feeling is he still has gas in his tank - inside of him, not just physically, which is what I can see. But that will be his decision. "As I've said before, there are two reasons I'd like to have him back. One is that I think he's a player. That's what I mean when I say he has gas in his tank. He still has a lot of that left. I also think that as we're building this thing, you need as many people like B.Y. on your football team to reinforce what that player does, not only for your players, but for your community and every aspect of your organization. I would hope that for those two reasons he would remain." Young indicated earlier last month and again after San Francisco's Dec. 24 loss at home to Arizona that he would like to return this year for his 14th season with the 49ers. Nolan said he expects Young to decide by the beginning of March, when free agency begins. Young is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, but he has said he will either play for the 49ers or retire. ***** ***** ***** Young is the biggest name on the 49ers' list of potential free agents. Also set to become unrestricted free agents are TE Eric Johnson and DT Anthony Adams, who have started for the 49ers in the past but settled into reserve roles this past season. The team would like Johnson to return, but it is unclear if Adams fits into San Francisco's plans. The team signed S Mark Roman last week to a three-year extension to prevent him from becoming a free agent. The 49ers will not use their franchise tag on any of their free agents this year. Also scheduled to become unrestricted free agents are S Chad Williams, WR Bryan Gilmore, LB Hannibal Nieves, FB Chris Hetherington, C Jeremy Newberry, LB T.J. Slaughter, LB Jay Foreman and S Deke Cooper. Starting fullback Moran Norris also is scheduled to become a free agent, but he already has agreed to a new contract with the team that can't be finalized until free agency begins on March 2. San Francisco's restricted free agents are S Keith Lewis, P Andy Lee, S Mike Adams and RB/KR Maurice Hicks. The 49ers are working on a new deal for Lewis and the team is expected to tender each of the other three contributors. Each of those players can negotiate with other NFL teams, but if they are tendered offers, the 49ers can retain their services by matching any offer sheet they receive from another NFL team. Offensive linemen Tony Wragge and Harvey Dahl are San Francisco's exclusive rights free agents. If they are tendered qualifying offers, they can negotiate this offseason only with the 49ers. ***** ***** ***** The list of San Francisco's 2007 opponents was set after the season's final games were played last Sunday. The 49ers will play home games next season against the Cardinals, Rams, Seahawks, Saints, Buccaneers, Ravens, Bengals and Vikings. San Francisco will face road games against the Cardinals, Rams, Seahawks, Falcons, Panthers, Browns, Steelers and Giants.
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