Nolan: 'No question, we underachieved'

Coach Mike Nolan gives his takes after the 49ers finished their 2007 season with a 5-11 record after a 20-7 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Q: How much of a challenge was it for the offense to get something going today with Chris Weinke at quarterback?
Nolan:
I thought Chris did a nice job, coming in on short notice and trying perform in this game. He made some good throws, but obviously not enough for us to win. We had to do a better job in the other areas. I thought it was unfortunate or special teams broke down on the long return that's been very uncharacteristic of our special teams the entire season. But it did happen, and it put us back by seven points, and then we gave up an explosive pass that put us down by 14. And those are two things, again, that are uncharacteristic of both our defense and our special teams on the season. But it did happen, and it got us in a hole there a little bit. If you do take that away, then we win 7-6. In the future, we need to match the adversity that we face so that we can get some victories.

Q: You've spent a lot of time during your coaching career with some great defensive players. What has it meant to you to spend the last three seasons with Bryant Young, one of the greatest 49ers defenders of them all who is more than likely to retire after this game?
Nolan:
Well, it has reinforced my appreciation for the game and the players and what they go through, not only on the field but off the field, and how unique it is for certain individuals to stay the course and continue to fight through the adversity that they face. When I came back (to San Francisco), I think B.Y. at that point was kind of actually wondering when he would retire. And with each season, I think this year when he came back, he thought we were going to go to the playoffs and he was looking to make that run with us. We all were. And so it was unfortunate that happened. But just being around B.Y., he's a first-class person, one of the most hard-working guys in practice, and hitting the weights, that I've ever been around. It's unfortunate he has to go out on this note from a record standpoint, but he's had an outstanding career.

Q: Assuming Shaun Hill returns to the team next year, after what he's done in the three games he played this year at quarterback, how much of an impact will he have in the battle for playing time at the position next year?
Nolan:
No question, Shaun will compete. There won't be a set starter at this point. They will compete for that job, and I think rightfully so. Shaun did an outstanding job and showed what he could do when he's in there, and that deserves notice. There's no question that he inspired our football team and he inspired the offense that last 10 quarters that he played. It's unfortunate that he got hurt this week, but at the same time, I do want to say that I thought Chris Weinke gave it everything he had today to try to pull out a victory. I mean, he fought hard and he led the unit, and he did a nice job.

Q: With the way Marques Douglas has played this season, and since he'll become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, how nice would it be to keep him around a few more years?
Nolan:
He has done an outstanding job. This year, I think, has been his best year that he's ever played. The No. 1 thing I appreciate and enjoy the most about Marques, outside of his playing, is that he is a leader. He's got great leadership qualities, and it's very important to him that everybody do the right thing. If there's anybody on our football team that holds people accountable around them, I don't know if anybody does it more than he does. And that says a lot about a teammate. So, I know that's what he's done on the field, but I also know that's what he's given us off the field. And whether he's a starter or the backup, he's a great complement to the guys around him.

Q: Despite the way this season has gone, is it pretty accurate to say the team has played hard every week and remained motivated to get better?
Nolan:
That says a lot about our team, but there's no question, we underachieved this year. That falls on my shoulders as well. I understand that, and I think we can identify those things (that went wrong). I don't think there are a lot of secrets. But at the same time, we didn't get it done. We would have like to have felt with as good of special teams and defense that we had along the way, we could have kind of overcome some of the obstacles that we faced, but we were unable to.

Q: Larry Allen is another accomplished veteran who may be retiring after this season. What has he meant to your offensive line over the past two seasons?
Nolan:
Well, he's meant a lot from the standpoint of leadership. He's also a guy with a lot of pelts on the wall. And the guys respect him, not only because he's the player he still is today, but also because of what he's done in the past. He's another guy that we'll see what his intentions are after the season. I know that last year there was some questions about whether he wanted to come back or not, and then he obviously made the decision to come back and he really played well. When the offense is sputtering, everybody is part of that issue. But at the same time, this last month and even more than that, he has played really well. So we'll see what the future brings for Larry, but it's going to be on his terms. Whatever he decides. But I can tell you he can still play.


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