No news (conference) not good news for Nolan

In the NFL, one thing usually leads to another. So what does it mean when Mike Nolan's season-wrap Monday news conference gets pushed back to late afternoon, then gets canceled altogether half an hour before it was rescheduled to begin? It means there's a good chance that news conference might never happen at all, because Nolan no longer will be employed by the 49ers to conduct it.

The word came down from the team Monday morning that Nolan's news conference, originally scheduled for a 2 p.m. start at 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara, was being delayed until 4 p.m., with the obvious reason being that would give Nolan more time to chat with team owner John York and his son Jed about the direction of the franchise, and if he's still the right guy to lead the team forward.

Nolan no doubt believes he's still that guy, despite his poor performance as head coach/operational chief this season and the growing sentiment in 49erland and beyond that his time to right a franchise that was in such disarray when he arrived in 2005 has already come and gone.

The extended length of the meeting obviously has to do with Nolan keeping his job. Or not keeping it, as the case may be.

Whether or not the Yorks entered Monday's meeting with the intent of firing Nolan is a relatively tight-kept secret, since the Yorks weren't much on discussing the subject as the season went along and the 49ers plummeted week-by-week from their perch as an expected NFC contender entering the season.

But one thing seems certain: There is some second-guessing going on, one way or another, as the talks between owners and coach stretched into the late afternoon – so late, that the decision was made to cancel Nolan's season-ender altogether.

That means there's at least a 50-50 chance that media gathering never will happen. Fired coaches don't come back the next day to talk about the season that got them canned.

What's going on in that meeting as the shadows fell on 4949 Centennial Boulevard?

To be sure, it's Nolan working to save his job and telling the Yorks what he can do to fix the mess that the 2007 season unexpectedly became after the team made two years of incremental progress under Nolan's direction.

And just as sure, it's the Yorks telling Nolan what he will have to do if he expects to be back for the fourth season of the five-year contract he signed when he joined the team in 2005.

And that probably means firing a handful of assistant coaches, proposing a plan to settle the team's muddled quarterback situation, and stripping Nolan of full control of all football personnel decisions, a stipulation that currently is written into his contract.

That the meeting stretched late into afternoon and beyond means the Yorks are at least willing to listen. Or, perhaps it means they didn't like what they heard to begin with, and the talks needed to be extended because the ownership family was ready to make a decision right then and there.

As darkness fell on 49ers headquarters, assistant coaches began to leave the facility, saying they know nothing and were told to return to the facility on Tuesday to have their season-ending meetings with Nolan.

If Nolan's still the coach by then, that is.

What do the players think? Heck, they don't know. And even if they did, they wouldn't be saying, not after the team's dirty laundry was exposed in the media earlier this year with the Nolan-Alex Smith "he-said, he-said" fiasco that contributed mightily to the shaky ground Nolan stands on today.

Nolan met with his team and individual players Monday morning, and you've got to wonder how focused those talks could be with the ominous clouds currently swirling over the team facility.

"I don't want to talk much about that," rookie linebacker Patrick Willis said before he left the building and headed into the offseason. "What's said in the meeting stays in the meeting."

Then Willis added, somewhat cryptically, "Something is going to change. You just don't know what. Unfortunately, when things don't go well, there's always going to be change."

Nate Clements, one of the prized free agents Nolan brought in this year during an offseason spending spree of the Yorks' money, echoed the talk-of-change sentiments expressed by Willis, with whom Clements shared the Bill Walsh Award this season as the 49ers' team MVP.

"I mean, that's every year," Clements said. "This probably will be the last time this team plays together, and that's just the nature of this business. Some of us are going to be moving on."

That won't be the case for Clements, who signed an eight-year, $80 million deal with the 49ers in March that included $22 million in guaranteed money.

But it might be for his coach by the next time the 49ers decide to schedule another news conference.

That could happen as soon as Tuesday, but as John York left the team facility Monday evening, he said no decision had been made.

"We met for some time today and we're going to meet again in the morning," York said before driving away.

When asked if there was a timetable for a decision, York replied, "It depends when the meetings are over. There's no point in talking about this until we're finished."

Nolan, for his part, left the facility flashing a thumbs-up signal.

"I only have one thing to say guys," Nolan said. "Happy New Year."

Then, as he gave the thumbs-up signal, Nolan said, "I'll be back in the morning."

Whether he'll be conducting that season-ending news conference later in the day - or any other day - remains to be seen.

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