Nolan hopes for relatively quick turnaround

SQUAW CREEK - Mike Nolan doesn't believe in quick fixes. But he doesn't believe the San Francisco 49ers can't return to their glory days quickly, either.

The new 49ers coach talked about how he believed the team could return to greatness sooner than later on Friday at The Resort at Squaw Creek. Nolan and many former and current 49er greats and personnel along with numerous Olympians are in Squaw Valley this weekend for the team's fifth annual Celebrity Ski Classic.

"I don't believe in quick fixes and we're not trying to do anything in that manner," Nolan said during a taping of a television show to be broadcast in the Bay Area.

But Nolan also sounded like a coach who doesn't plan to take that much time turning around the 49ers, either. "You do the right things, you'll get there quickly," said Nolan about being successful during an interview on Friday.

That's heady talk for Nolan, who's taking over a team that's coming off a season in which it equaled the worst record in franchise history at 2-14.

Nolan used the Baltimore Ravens as an example where he served as defensive coordinator for the past three seasons. The Ravens won the Super Bowl in the 2000 season and made the playoffs in 2001, but gutted the roster after that season.

Despite having the youngest team in NFL history, the Ravens finished 7-9 and at one point were 7-7 and still in the playoff race.

But Nolan did stop short of saying the same kind of accomplisment could be made in San Francisco. He also wouldn't set a specific goal for this season. "I don't get into records," he said.

Nolan, though, did say he didn't see the Niners as a rebuilding project but more as a "re-tooling." He also said, "I believe we can get it turned around quickly."

During the taping of his show, Nolan said he's becoming acclimated to his new job. "I actually getting a feel for it," he said.

"There's a lot of things that you don't anticipate. I think we're on the right track. I feel very good."

Nolan said the Niners were helped by the signing of free agent offensive lineman Jason Jennings. He said that gave the Niners more flexibility in other areas, especially the draft. "We've done some things in free agency that I think are going to help us," Nolan said.

There's much speculation about the Niners will do with the overall No. 1 pick in next month's draft. The Niners worked out two quarterbacks who the team could possibly take at No. 1 - Utah's Alex Smith and California's Aaron Rodgers. Both quarterbacks worked out well, Nolan said.

The Niners could also choose to trade the pick. "Everything's wide open right now," Nolan said. "Moving is not out of the question," Nolan also said about a possible trade.

San Francisco has 11 picks in this year's draft. "Hopefully we'll supplement certain positions where there isn't depth," Nolan said. "With 11 picks we're going to create a lot of competition."

The Niners also have a new Vice President of Player Personnel in Scot McCloughan, a move that has generally been well received. McCloughan and Nolan will be most responsible for who the Niners draft.

"I'll be very involved," Nolan said. "I'll get the final say. I have an awful lot of confidence in Scot McCloughan. I believe when it's all said and done, we'll be on the same page."

During his coaching career, Nolan has been around such players as Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, which has given him a first-hand look at the type of players to look for.

"Those are difference makers," Nolan said. "If you're not around them, it's hard to know what they look like."

One difference maker Nolan said he's looking forward to having back is the Niners' best player, outside linebacker Julian Peterson, who missed virtually all of last season with an injury. Nolan said Peterson is healthy and has been working out.

The Niners situation is also helped by a much better salary cap situation than in recent years. "We do have a good situation right now," Nolan said. "It looks OK next year, too."

Among the players the Niners are in discussions with is receiver David Boston, who flourished in Arizona, but flopped in San Diego. Nolan said it's too early to tell if the Niners will sign him.

Even though Nolan's father, Dick Nolan, coached the Niners from 1968-1975, Nolan said he never thought about coaching the team.

But he did say it's a great opportunity to be coaching in one of the NFL's three largest markets along with New York and Chicago. He also said, "It's special for us," referring to him and his family.

When his father was coaching, Nolan first served as a ball boy in 1970 when the Niners were still playing at Kezar Stadium.

Even though the Niners are most known for their post-ESPN, Joe Montana glory days, Nolan's father coached the team to three straight NFC Western Division titles from 1970-1972.

Now the son is trying to restore that glory.


If anyone knows both ends of the spectrum the Niners have been on, it's Randy Cross, who is also in Squaw Valley for the celebrity event. Cross, who was an offensive lineman for the Niners from 1976-1988, played for three Super Bowl champions.

But Cross was also on two 2-14 teams that eventually developed into that dynasty. When asked if he sees any similarities between the two eras, Cross said, "Aside from records, I see there's a certain lack of focus and direction.

"That is very similar. It's been a problem that's been addressed. All the moves they've made I think were very strong."

Cross said he believes the Niners will return to their glory days, saying the organization has always stayed strong.

"The difference between them and a lot of traditionally bad teams, they're in really, really good shape business-wise," said Cross who is an NFL analyst for CBS.

The Niners are one of those teams with "institutional expectations," meaning they're always expected to be strong. But he did say they have a long ways to go. "They've got some definite issues personnel-wise," Cross said.


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