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NFL Nolan's task: Rebuild 49ers



Published: Tue, January 18, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



San Francisco's new coach was Baltimore's defensive coordinator.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- Mike Nolan's lineage on and off the field made him an ideal choice to rebuild the San Francisco 49ers.

The Baltimore defensive coordinator accepted his first head coaching job Monday and began to negotiate a contract to take over the team that had the NFL's worst record last season.

Nolan, a longtime coordinator for four teams, is the son of former 49ers coach Dick Nolan, who led the franchise to its first playoff victory during eight seasons in charge of a once-proud franchise. The 49ers finished this season 2-14 -- tying the worst record in franchise history.

As his resume attests, the 45-year-old Nolan has plenty of experience and plenty of patience -- and he'll need both in San Francisco. Nolan will replace Dennis Erickson, fired earlier in the month after going 9-23 in two seasons.

Experience counts

After wowing 49ers owner John York in an interview Thursday, Nolan flew to York's home in Canfield on Monday to work out a deal.

"[York] had a good strong list of candidates, and they felt that Mike was the perfect candidate to lead us into the future," 49ers spokesman Kirk Reynolds said.

Nolan, who will be the 15th head coach in 49ers history, didn't return a call to his cell phone seeking comment. York also didn't return calls.

General manager Terry Donahue was fired along with Erickson, and Nolan will have a hand in picking Donahue's successor. York has said he planned to hire a coach with broad powers, supplemented by a general manager who concentrates on salary cap issues.

Nolan is a prot & eacute;g & eacute; of Dan Reeves, who hired the former Oregon safety for his first NFL job with the Denver Broncos in 1987, then made him one of the youngest coordinators in league history with the Giants.

"It's a good fit," said Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, who played his first four NFL seasons under Nolan. "I loved him back then, and I love him still. I'm glad he's finally getting that opportunity. It's probably a little later than I thought."

Nolan has coached offense, defense and special teams during his time in the NFL. He was a hot candidate for several head coaching spots in recent years, but his star had cooled slightly until the 49ers became interested.

"I think he's ready," Reeves said in a telephone interview from his Atlanta home. "He has certainly done a great job the last couple of years."

Hard times on the Bay

Though the 49ers will have the top pick in the next draft, along with an estimated $20 million in room under the salary cap, Nolan isn't entering an ideal situation.

He'll take over a franchise that has suffered sharp declines in wins, popularity, talent base and league-wide esteem in the six seasons since York, a pathologist and businessman with no football background, wrested control of the team from his brother-in-law, Eddie DeBartolo.

But Nolan's hiring could evoke better times for the franchise, which once won five Super Bowls in 14 years.

Dick Nolan went 56-56-5 in eight seasons as the 49ers' coach from 1968-75, winning three consecutive division championships and reaching two NFC title games.

Mike Nolan has been with the Ravens since 2001, coaching the receivers for one seasons before leading their powerful defense for the past three seasons. Baltimore ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense last season.

He previously was the defensive coordinator with the New York Jets (2000), Washington (1997-99) and the Giants (1993-96).




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