49ers make Hostler their fall guy

When the 49ers' brain trust finally emerged Wednesday after two days of decision-making regarding the future course of the franchise, only one person from San Francisco's coaching staff no longer was working for the team. That distinction belonged to Jim Hostler, fired as offensive coordinator while all others still have their jobs, making Hostler the obvious fall guy for the team's 2007 failures.

Coach Mike Nolan said it could be some time before any other changes are made to his staff while the 49ers search for their next offensive coordinator, a man who will become the sixth person in six years to hold that position with the team.

But there was no waiting period to dump Hostler, who directed the NFL's worst offense in 2007, an offense that finished 32nd - dead last - in eight statistical categories recorded by the league and 31st in another.

It has been practically a foregone conclusion for months that Hostler would be a casualty of the team's 5-11 season that finished with the 49ers ranked last in the NFL in major categories such as total offense, passing offense, sacks allowed per play, first downs, third-down efficiency and points scored.

You won't ever see many offenses finish worse than that.

When asked point-blank Wednesday why Hostler was fired, Nolan replied, "Because, as we all are, we're held accountable for the things we do. As I am (as) the head coach. And as coaches, assistant coaches and players as well, there are consequences at times. … It's part of coaching."

Though Nolan remained supportive of Hostler during the offense's struggles throughout the season, he seemed to finally put the blame on Hostler for those struggles by indicating that giving the team's former quarterbacks coach a shot as a first-time NFL coordinator turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes Nolan has made since becoming San Francisco's coach in 2005.

"I'll stick by what I said all year long," Nolan said. "I thought it was collective. Obviously, it starts at the very top with the head coach. There were some decisions I made last year after the season. Whatever they might be. There were some decisions at that time that I think led to a season that wasn't as competitive as we'd like to be."

Nolan left little doubt one of those decisions was hiring Hostler to follow in the footsteps of Mike McCarthy and Norv Turner – Nolan's first two offensive coordinators in San Francisco who each left the 49ers after one season to become head coaches elsewhere in the NFL.

When Turner left the team to join San Diego at the unusually late date of mid-February, Nolan had few options available as most veteran NFL offensive coaches already had landed their jobs for the 2007 season. Nolan opted to roll the dice and go with Hostler, believing the continuity gained by that move would negate or neutralize anything lost by Hostler's inexperience.

Instead, the move produced disastrous results that saw the 49ers begin the season 194-yard and 186-yard offensive outputs in their first two games and remain last in the league in total offense each week of the season.

The 49ers averaged 237.3 yards per game – almost 40 fewer yards per game than any other NFL team. They also tied a franchise record for fewest points in a 16-game season with 219.

Meanwhile, both McCarthy, with the Green Packers, and Turner, with the San Diego Chargers, won division titles with their teams this season and are currently preparing for the playoffs.

That's a place the 49ers expected to be this season, and by the moves they made Wednesday – and didn't make – they pretty much were telling everybody Hostler was the biggest reason they didn't get there.

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