49ers are making changes, which should include new coach

By Chris Cluff  |   Monday, December 31, 2007  |  Comments( 2 )

San Francisco 49ers
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Changes are a-brewin' in San Francisco. Whether they will include a new coach was not clear Monday night, but they should.

One change that reportedly is coming is a promotion for Scot McCloughan, who as the vice president of player personnel has been instrumental in player decisions made by Mike Nolan, who has been the coach and de facto general manager for the past three years.

While Nolan's future was being ironed out Monday night in a meeting between the coach and the 49ers' owners, McCloughan's future apparently will include the title of general manager. But really what would change if the 49ers also retained Nolan? The two would work in tandem as they have for the past three years.

Denise York, one of the 49ers' owners, told local reporters a few weeks ago that Nolan likely would lose his totalitarian rule over football operations because the 49ers wanted to have a "strong general manager." But could McCloughan be "strong" with Nolan, who has been his boss for the past three years?

Promoting McCloughan is not a bad move. He and Nolan have presided over some pretty good personnel moves. In fact, they were lauded around the league for having one of the most successful offseasons in 2007. Nolan managed to talk longtime defensive tackle Bryant Young into returning for one more year, and they re-signed cornerback Walt Harris and running back Frank Gore. Then they landed the best free-agent cornerback, Nate Clements, along with safety Michael Lewis, nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin and linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. They cut bad-apple receiver Antonio Bryant and brought in Darrell Jackson and Ashley Lelie. Then they put together a very good draft, selecting stud linebacker Patrick Willis and tackle Joe Staley in the first round. Willis led the NFL in tackles and made the Pro Bowl, while Staley started all 16 games at right tackle.

With all of those moves in mind, it makes sense to retain McCloughan. But considering the underachieving performance of a team many expected to challenge for the playoffs, it also makes sense to fire Nolan and bring in someone who can put together an NFL-caliber offense and develop a former No. 1 draft pick (quarterback Alex Smith).

When the 49ers hired Nolan as coach in 2005, they were taking a gamble on a guy who had not done much more than oversee the Baltimore Ravens' stellar group of veteran defenders. He hadn't built the defense; he just babysat it. Before that, he had spent three years each with the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, and his units at each stop had regressed each year. But for whatever reason, the 49ers looked past his track record and then compounded their mistake by giving him complete control over the team.

He won't have the power anymore, even if he gets to keep his job as coach. But at this point - and considering that the Yorks are planning to make McCloughan the coach's boss - it would make no sense to keep Nolan.

Changes are a-brewin' in San Francisco, and they should include a new coach.
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About Chris Cluff

Chris Cluff spent 10 years as an editor and sportswriter for The Seattle Times. He was a key figure in the newspaper's coverage of the Seahawks, particularly during their Super Bowl run in 2005. He also has written two books on the Seahawks: "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Heart-Pounding,...
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