Heat rising in Nolan's November of discontent

Mike Nolan came to work Wednesday morning to discover that if he still has a job with the 49ers next season, it may not come with the authority he originally signed up for with the team. Naturally, the embattled Nolan is not in the mood to talk about things like that right now, but since this topic was thrown out there by team owner Denise DeBartolo York, it's going to be a bit difficult to avoid.

Nolan, who is getting testier by the day with the mounting questions regarding both his job proficiency and job security, looked like he had taken a shot to the gut Wednesday when he was asked about the idea of having a general manager come in next year to become, in essence, his boss.

The question resulted from Denise York's comments in an article published in Wednesday's San Francisco Chronicle. In that story, madam York – in a rare interview – said she is "devastated" by the 49ers' slide to a 2-8 standing this season and, while giving Nolan a token display of support, said the team is strongly considering hiring a general manager to oversee the operation next year.

That oversight currently belongs to Nolan in a team structure that has him atop the football side of the business. In the five-year contract Nolan signed with the team in 2005, it says that power will remain with him.

But yesterday's promises don't mean as much today in light of the way San Francisco's season of high expectations has fallen apart like a sand castle at full tide.

Nolan said he had not talked to John York or Denise York about her comments, and in fact did not know of them until he spoke with the Yorks' son, Jed York, at the team facility earlier in the day.

But it certainly isn't the first time this month Nolan has heard or read about somebody suggesting the team needs an experienced general manager to get the 49ers out of the abyss they suddenly have fallen into this season after two years of incremental progress with Nolan in charge.

But Nolan still bristled when asked if he embraces the idea of having a general manager come in over him.

"There will be a time and place to speak of that," he responded. "It will be January. I think that's about the appropriate time. I'm sure we can go to that (then). I'd like to keep my focus on Arizona at this time."

No chance, coach.

When somebody pointed out it was one of the team's owners who broached the subject, Nolan cut off the question before it was finished.

"With respect to your question and to her, then I think you can speak to her about it. I have not. … As far as it pertains to what they do in January, it's about a month and a half away and we'll wait until then. There is a time and place and it comes in January. Right now, it's November."

A November of Nolan's discontent, as it turns out.

Not only does his team own an eight-game losing streak, the second-longest in 49ers history, but Nolan also created some ill will recently with his comments about his recent "miscommunication" with Alex Smith regarding the quarterback's shoulder and forearm injuries and his ability to play with them.

But now that the 49ers are owners of the NFC's worst record – after being beaten last week by the team that previously had the NFC's worst record entering that game – Nolan's way of running the team is coming under close scrutiny.

When asked if he felt he has done a good job as general manager, Nolan responded, "I never had that title, guys."

But Nolan, in fact, has a lot of those responsibilities in a football hierarchy where vice president of player personnel Scot McCloughan and vice president of football operations Lal Heneghan answer to him.

Understandably, Nolan is taking a lot of heat for the offense that group has assembled, which has played poorly since the season opener and is approaching record proportions for futility.

"There's a lot of duties that general managers do that I don't do, because, to be honest with you, it takes away from my football things," Nolan said. "Most of the things I do are football related. If it has to do with personnel, I rely heavily on Scot McCloughan. If it has to do with league matters, I rely heavily on Lal Heneghan. I do have experience in both areas, but it's important to surround yourself with the very best people you can."

Which probably is exactly what the Yorks are thinking right now. That is, surrounding Nolan next year with the best general manager they can find. Ostensibly, that's someone that would have final say along with the power to tell Nolan what to do instead of the other way around.

"When it comes to the final decision that's made on things, yes I have the final say," Nolan said. "But again, it's a role that's important to me that I utilize the people around me. I believe in (this) way to do it, without question. I think the importance, no matter what you do structurally in an organization, is that you utilize the people around you. And that's exactly what I do in the role I have right now. The decisions that I make are team decisions, they are not one-man decisions, and that's important going forward.

"As far as I'm concerned right now, it will remain that way until whatever is brought up."

But now it has been brought up. And perhaps it's a telling sign that the football world could read about it before Nolan even know about it.

If he's not in the loop on this one, it's not much of a stretch to believe ownership will have no problem going over Nolan's head – or bringing in somebody to sit on that perch.

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