The Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator flew Monday to Youngstown, Ohio, to
finalize details of his employment with York, and an introductory news
conference could happen in the next day or two barring a snag. Nolan, 45, is the
son of former 49ers coach Dick Nolan.
He's expected to be replaced by Ravens defensive line coach Rex Ryan, the son of former NFL head coach Buddy Ryan.
Nolan takes over a 2-14 team that has experienced major salary-cap issues and personnel miscues that have diminished the standing of a once-proud franchise. Nolan would hold wide-ranging powers. A former defensive coordinator with the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and New York Jets, Nolan coached the sixth-ranked defense in the NFL last season and oversaw a shift to the 3-4 alignment when he succeeded Marvin Lewis in 2002.
"Mike Nolan is going to be our next coach," 49ers spokesman Kirk Reynolds said. "We're in negotiations with him and we're really excited to have him. He has a great track record as a coach and certainly he has ties to the 49ers organization."
Nolan has built a reputation for aggressive schemes, attention to detail and collaboration with players. The Ravens had the third-ranked defense in 2003 when they led the league in sacks.
"Mike Nolan is a tremendous coach and a person who's going to let you know where he stands," defensive end Marques Douglas said. "He has an undeniable passion for the game as far as game planning and customizing the system to fit his players.
"If you play hard for him, he'll stick his neck out for you. I'm definitely one of those guys. He gave me my first chance to start and really took a chance on me. He doesn't get caught up in what school you went to. He sees talent."
Nolan was selected over four other finalists: Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and Giants defensive coordiantor Tim Lewis.
"Mike's a good guy, very personable and has a passion about his job," said cornerback Gary Baxter, who has played for Nolan for three seasons. "It's bittersweet, because I'm happy he was able to get a head-coaching job but it's also going to be a great loss to the Ravens."
The 49ers fired coach Dennis Erickson and general manager Terry Donahue after a season where they only defeated the Arizona Cardinals.
"John had a strong list of candidates, and they felt that Mike was the perfect candidate to lead us into the future," Reynolds said.
The 15th coach in 49ers history, Nolan will have a say in determining Donahue's replacement. The 49ers have the top overall pick in the NFL draft.
An NFL assistant for 18 years who played free safety at Oregon, Nolan worked closely with All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis in devising game plans.
"They catered the defensive schemes to the talent on the field, and Mike and Ray worked together really well," Douglas said. "Ray is one of our leaders on defense, and Mike took that into account."
Meanwhile, Ryan has been sought after by other NFL teams for coordinator jobs, including the Oakland Raiders' position that went to Rob Ryan, his twin brother. The Ravens have not granted permission for him to interview in anticipation that Nolan might become a head coach.
A former coordinator at Oklahoma, Ryan has been with the Ravens since 1999. The defensive line of Sam Adams, Tony Siragusa, Rob Burnett and Michael McCrary was a pillar of the record-setting Super Bowl XXXV defense.
With Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs playing rush end in 2003, he led all rookies with 12 sacks. Ryan has a history of developing linemen, including Douglas, Tony Weaver and Kelly Gregg.
"Rex makes a hell of a impression," Baxter said. "He's one of those passionate, intense coaches you would love to play for. Every time he gets up to speak in a defensive meeting room, all eyes and ears belong to him.
"Everyone knows his time was coming, and a lot of guys want to be part of the defense with him. He'll make a great defensive coordinator. If he gets it, it would be a great move."
NOTES: Baxter is one of six starters scheduled for unrestricted free agency in March, and has made his intentions clear about where he wants to play.
"Things will start moving along soon, and my heart and my feelings is to be with the Ravens," Baxter said. "Hopefully, we can get that taken care of."
Douglas, another unrestricted free agent, echoed that sentiment.
"Right now, I'm a Raven and if they sign me, my dreams will come true," Douglas said. "If not, I'll have to put my business hat on."
As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.
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