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Nolan's Notebook: November 5


RE: Opening Statement
"It's tough to be 2-6, but we find ourselves in a unique position and with a unique challenge at only two games out playing our division leader this week. The season is a long way from being over, and although it is the midpoint of the season and we are 2-6, with six losses in a row. I believe this past game, as many games are, was decided by three or four plays. Not to say the other ones didn't matter, because they all do, but at the same time it's about that many opportunities that you want to take advantage of and we were unable to do that. I thought we let some of them slip by us and that has been the case for us in the last month. I continue to have confidence in our players and coaching staff. We've got not only good players, but a good coaching staff as well with great character who continue to work and rectify the problems. That we have. We play hard, but we only execute in spurts and that's where we need to get more consistent. I wouldn't say that last year at the end we were necessarily consistent, but it might be the second half where we take on the consistency we need, but it wouldn't be for an entire game. We need to put that together.

"I thought the first drive was a great example of what we are capable of. I've been waiting a long time to see that happen where we drive down the field and stick it in the end zone for a touchdown.
"In the special teams' one guy continues to stand out and the other one had a good game. Jeff Ulbrich has continued to play well in that area all year. He played some in our sub packages and we'll continue to let that roll. Dashon Goldson, a rookie, who has continued to play well in practice, but he also played well in the kicking game. That shows good signs for a young player for the future. On the defensive side of the ball, at times I felt we were bend don't break. For the most part, outside the first drive they had, the defense did some good things.

"The secondary played a pretty good game. Later in the game I thought our defense did a good job of holding three turnovers to only six points. Although they might have been the six points that made the difference in the game. It would have been nice to come out of those drives with no points, because of the score being 20-16. We did respond to the adversity on defense. The three plays that came on defense that were disappointing were the three long third downs. Two of them for a big first down and the one on the 3rd and 1 that was bounced outside for the touchdown. Outside of that the defense played well. We need to continue to stop the run early.

"The offensive line did well for the most part, but the last couple series of the game we didn't play as well. They were able to get some pressure on Alex Smith. But up to that point they had done a pretty good job, with one technical error. It was not a scheme error. We had a sack earlier in the game that hurt us.

"Vernon Davis did some good things. I thought he matured in that game. It was the best game I have seen him play, not just statistically, but maturity wise. He stepped in on one occasion and grabbed a player and yanked him out of a little bit of a tussle he had with one of the opponents. He hollered at him that it would be a 15 yard penalty. He controlled himself as far as making plays. I think those are good signs of maturity. Maturity is important for every player in the way they play the game.

"The running backs, Maurice Hicks and Michael Robinson, stepped in and did a fair job. They amassed 116 yards. It would have better if we could have run for more than that because we felt the team that ran for the most yards would win the game. The passing yards were about the same.

"Lastly we will place Jonas Jennings on the injured reserve today. Our medical staff feels it is best for him to get the ankle cleaned out to do the surgery now."

RE: Do you expect Jonas to be back next season?
"Being on injured reserve has nothing to do with whether a player is coming back or not. All of our football players are a part of our plan."

RE: What is the surgery Jonas is having?
"He has to get his ankle cleaned out. He has loose bodies in there. It has to do with his high ankle sprain."

RE: Is this upcoming game the biggest game this year?
"It has double meaning this week. We will never count ourselves out. We will maintain hope until the very end. This is an important game, no question. We've had a lot of important games, but it's all the more meaningful to go to Seattle, a division opponent. Obviously they will be inspired for the game. We went up there last year and beat them. I'm sure that's something Coach (Mike) Holmgren has talked about in the off-season."

RE: Is Adam Snyder better than Jonas?
"I can't answer that, because I haven't compared the two and it has only been two games. I have all the confidence in Adam doing a good job. It's unfortunate to lose any player on our team, but at the same time I have confidence in the guys stepping in and with Adam that's no different."

RE: Where does Justin Smiley stand?
"I haven't gotten a report on the extent of his injury yet."

RE: Will you bring Patrick Estes back?
"We have spoken about different people. He is certainly part of that conversation, but no decision has been made on that yet."

RE: Are there any thoughts on moving Joe Staley to the left tackle?
"At this time, no. For the short term, no. I do think he is capable of it, but for the short term, no."

RE: How do you feel about Alex Smith's self confidence?
"I think Alex has a lot of self confidence. He's resilient. Alex didn't play as well as he would have liked to play. I think he left some plays out there that I'll let you guys ask him about. I don't want to give up costly plays, but at the same time every play the quarterback does when he has an opportunity to make a difference in the game, he wants to take advantage of that. There were some balls he would have liked to have thrown better that there were some people open on. But that's why it is a high profile position that it is. And it is so instrumental in the effectiveness of the offense. Alex has a lot of skills. He is more diverse in his abilities, using his legs in the perimeter, in the pocket, in the shotgun, and all those things. He is not just a one dimensional guy. Utilizing all those skills that he has, he has to make the best of those opportunities that he has along the way. There were a few opportunities in the game he could have done better on."

RE: Where is the development plan for the quarterback at this point?
"It's been slightly slowed by the change in people around him. But this year we tried to keep some continuity around him even though there was a coaching change. I think he is very well versed in the offense from what all the plays are supposed to look like. Now it just comes down to an execution. That's where it's at in the development. I would not have said that early, because early on it's everything from the language to expectations. I think right now, it's getting down to an execution factor. I think Alex recognizes that. But along the way, right now he has not mastered any of them. But it's still early in his career, so it would be great if he had. But that's rare for a young player to master them all right now. He needs to continue to develop all the way through. As the receivers rely on Alex, Alex relies on them. So they all need to be maturing at the same time. But there were some things in the game where he felt he had people that had done their part and he would have liked to put in on the money."

RE: Do you cut Alex slack because of his shoulder?
"No, I don't think that is the right thing to do. That would be like cutting someone slack because of injuries. Maybe so, but we're all out here to win and we play teams that have injuries. We lost to a football team where I felt we had every opportunity to win the game and we did not. I don't believe his shoulder is anything but sore."

RE: Does Alex seem to be apt to a more quickened pace on offense?
"I wouldn't say that. I think he plays well in multiple styles of offense. As we have all witnessed, Alex is very good outside the pocket, in the shotgun, and is decent in play action. But he is still good when he uses his legs and uses the offense. To me he is more of a jack of all trades rather than a master of one. There are some great quarterbacks that are only masters of the one, but they are masters. Whether it be Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Those are guys that are master of their systems so to speak and sit in the pocket and do their thing. There are other guys who I believe do more diverse things. I believe Alex is more of that kind of quarterback. Some guys do it naturally like a Michael Vick. He does a lot of things, but it isn't the design a lot of the time, it's just that he turns nothing into something, whereas is Alex's case, it is the design. In other words a two back set doesn't turn into empty. You would line up in empty if that were the case. Things like that are called. Whereas the things Michael Vick does comes out of nowhere."

RE: Does a quarterback being diverse hurt his development?
"I would say to master a one thing, yes, but the objective is to win. The ability to do more things is certainly a stretch on the defense. You can have the best guy who does one thing or you can the guy who is good at multiple things, which makes it a little harder on the defense. The best guy who does one thing makes it tough on the defense because he has mastered it. The other one makes it tough because he attacks a lot of different people. So there are two ways to get it done. We're not getting it done from a wins standpoint and that's what you are really measured by."

RE: Are you having him do all of those different things?
"I'd say over the last month, I think we've done an outstanding job of that, I really do. There's no question, watching the ball games, we've left some yards out there that we didn't take advantage of. They're significant, when you look at it. There's no question about that."

RE: What is causing him to miss those open receivers?
"I don't know, that's a good question to ask him. As I watch it, I watch (for that) as well. Was he hurried, was he not? There was good protection yesterday. I don't know that he was hurried as much on a couple of them, might have been on one. On a couple of the turnovers, I think he was hurried. On a couple he knew he should have had them, I don't know that he was hurried on them. Again, ask him. I'd be curious."

RE: Has he been less apt to run outside the pocket since the injury?
"Yesterday, he did two in the first half. He did one where Vernon got down to the one yard line. But to say that three is enough, I think there should be a few more. We'll do that. But at the same time, without those plays, could we have still won that game? No question in my mind. There were a couple that, I know if he were standing here, he'd say the same thing. There were a couple of nice ones there. They weren't out of the pocket."

RE: Does he scramble for yards less now as well?
"Alex has got a lot of discipline in him, and sometimes, that's what I believe he is trying to do. He's trying to make the right read and go down the field with it. Some of that is inexperience. That comes with experience. Some guys just take off early, though. I don't see him in the category of the Vick's and the (Vince) Young's and those kind of guys, who take off fairly early and make something out of it. That's not him. He's not one of those kinds of runners. But, he does have good legs, and I think he utilizes them best when it's designed. But, as we've all seen, we've seen him make some plays when it wasn't. I think one of the reasons yesterday he didn't was because he did have some throws. He had some good throws in the game. When he stayed in there and threw the ones that I'm talking about, some of those he would like to have hit on. Had he hit on them, we'd be saying, by golly, I'm glad you didn't go out of the pocket, because you were right on the money."

RE: Have the receivers been open a little more in the last two games?
"Yesterday we had some opportunities. We did. And, we made some decent plays with our receiving corps. We should have. By who we were playing and some of the things they did for it, there was stuff there to be had."

RE: How much do the wide receivers play into Alex Smith's development?
"They do work together, but that job that the quarterback has is instrumental in making an offense work. Whoever he is giving the ball to, obviously, he relies on that person. They have to be accountable. There were a few throws in the game that I thought he did a great job of putting it there before the guy ever came out of his route, and that's trust between the two. I thought we had pretty good trust yesterday. Even the interceptions he threw, I don't think there was any trust factor on that. I think he threw some in there that might have tried to force. At least, it looked like it to me. There always has to be that trust. The ball has to be coming out before the guy even comes out of his break, typically, on a lot of throws. If it's not, the quarterback doesn't have the time to wait for you to muster up and get out of the break. So, he has to rely on them. They're an integral part. Without them, it doesn't work."

RE: Why did Ashley Lelie and Bryan Gilmore split time at the third receiver position?
"Ashley played a lot more snaps than you would have seen. I know Ashley played about 20-something snaps in the ball game, and I don't believe Bryan played that many. I know Ashley had more reps than Bryan. He didn't get the touches that Bryan got, but I think that was just the way the quarterback read it, and went another place. I would not question Alex's confidence in Ashley, even in talking with Alex. One on one, he is very confident in Ashley. He's gaining more confidence all the time, not only because of the game two weeks ago, but because of practice. He's been throwing to him in practice."

RE: Was Vernon Davis the one who pulled Moran Norris out of that scuffle?
"Yeah, it was pretty good. I was impressed, I really was. And what he said to him, I was impressed with, too. He reminded him of what the penalty is, and that it's foolish to be in there. When you're getting wisdom from Vernon, now, something is up."

RE: Did Moran Norris listen?
"Oh yeah. He got out of there. He needed to be brought to his senses. But, I found it encouraging. Vernon is one of those guy's who's talking all the time. Vernon talks, but a lot of the times, if you hear what he said, it's pretty innocent. He's just all fired up. I saw one play where he got in (DeAngelo) Hall's face. I don't know if you saw it, but he shook his facemask. They were face to face, and he was shaking his facemask. I was afraid the official was going to throw a flag, but he was laughing, and the two of them were kind of jawing at each other. Before the game in warm-ups, even, they came across to each other. So, I don't know if he knows him from someplace else, but I was hoping they wouldn't misconstrue that as something other than just kids having a good time."

RE: Timeout management
"Well, for one, I think you are inaccurate to say that we waste a lot of them. I think that's an exaggeration, I really do. I think we do as good a job as anyone in utilizing them at the right time. Yesterday, at the times I used them, I would say that I know there were two in yesterday's game that I did not like. There was a call that was made that was made that I didn't like and I wanted to get the right situation on the field on third down, and the other one I called prior to us getting a penalty, because one of the players had set foot on the field to get a call in, and the officials had warned us that if you go on the field, I'm going to flag you. You have to go out to the numbers and back. I didn't want to face the penalty, so I just used the timeout there because they would have thrown the flag. Once the play began, they would have thrown the flag and said illegal substitution, which is what we got earlier in the game. The other two were things I thought about. So, I would say, two right and two not. At the same time, we put a lot of time into it. You would love to be good enough that you end every game with three (timeouts) on the board, and you're saying, 'We didn't even have to use our timeouts.' In our case, we typically have to use them. It has been more cases, as of late, where we're trying to stop somebody to get the ball back late in the game, to at least get some points. When we don't use them right, like in those two instances like I said yesterday, because I shouldn't have to use them with it guy going in and out on the field, or we don't get the play in right, like yesterday, the one down on the one-yard line, for example. I told (Jim) Hostler, 'You've got two downs to go for it. I'm not going to wait till fourth down, let's talk about this play. Get them both now, so if we don't get this one, we can go right back to the line and do what we want to do.' As it turned out, you lose four yards and we're not going right back to that play, because that play was designed if we don't just get in."

RE: Alex Smith not knowing what the fourth down play call would have been
"When he came to the sideline, on that timeout, I don't know if you saw me, but I was down about the 15-yard line, I'm just watching the clock go down, because I'm going to burn a timeout, and Alex isn't even in the huddle. But, he doesn't have a play, so Alex knew, 'What am I going to do? I don't want to get penalized.' So, Alex waited as well, then he signaled timeout. When he came to the sideline, he said to (Trent) Dilfer something about, 'I called a timeout.' He (Trent) said, 'You didn't call a timeout, Coach called a timeout.' Alex said, 'No, I did.' Trent said, 'No, he did, he's over there making his decision.' Then, it was bygones. You can ask Trent the same question, that's what happened. He didn't have the play, so he was thinking, 'I'm just going to have to use a timeout, because I don't have the play.' We don't give him two in the huddle."

RE: So, that time-out was for you and Jim Hostler to talk about the play calls only?
"What I said to Alex when I came over was, 'If we don't get it in right here, we have two downs to get this in. That's what we're going to do.' We discussed the two plays. If it had been a hurry-up second play, that would have been different. I would have said, 'Alex, here's the next play now. If we don't get it, get right back to the line, here's what we're going to run.' He'd have given two plays in the huddle. That wasn't our plan. Our plan was, 'Here's the first play, run it.' Then, Jim and I talked about it. The first one, I wanted to know, because the first one affects the second one. Obviously, in that situation, it affected it very negatively. All I tell Alex typically is, 'We have two plays.' If it was a hurry-up situation, without question, he would have known."

RE: Did you and Jim Hostler discuss that play call?
"It gave us an opportunity to talk about those two. It would have changed the first one we gave Alex. But, I do make Alex fully aware of the situation. I told him, 'Look, we have two downs to get it in.' Sometimes, when I say it to him, even yesterday, I do recall, just tell him you've got one, because if you just tell him one, maybe he'll stick the sucker in there."

RE: Did the time-out give the defense a chance to regroup?
"You could say it's one of those things. If you get it in, we did the right thing. If we don't, I guess they regrouped. They stopped us. No question. We'd had a good drive right there, and I saw Larry (Allen) slow to get up a couple of times. I actually thought about it on fourth down, when we kicked the field goal, I recalled the thing at St. Louis a year ago. But, we had a lot more time on the clock. I was thinking last year, on that situation, I remember the one thing I would have done on that was to throw the red flag to get more time, to slow it all down. Let's make the right decision and get it in, as opposed to hurry up and be quick to say we are or are not going to go for it. I wanted to take the extra time. That was important for us. I was pretty confident at that point that we could stick it in."

RE: Would Michael Robinson had scored if he went straight, instead of around the outside?
"If the ball had not lost yardage, that's what we stopped to talk about. I'd have preferred to go for it on fourth down than to back up and have it fourth-and-four, because it changed everything."

RE: Do you expect to have Frank Gore back?
"I hope to. Part of our decision the other day was to hope that we get him back this week."

RE: Did watching some of your father's struggles during hard times help you during these?
"I reflected on it earlier in my career. Probably what has helped me more than anything else in my career are my own struggles, my own difficulties that I've had to face along the way. It's different when you're the child of the coach going through it, because you see it through their eyes. If that's helped me any place, it's with my own children, and trying to educate them, because I don't know that my father had that same experience as a kid. When he was going through it, it really wasn't much about us, whereas I know that every day, like when my son had to go to school this morning, that's one of the things I said to him when I left. I said, 'I know it'll be a tough day for you, too. Just do the right thing, handle it well.' As a matter of fact, when I was in the kitchen getting ready to go, he came back out (and said), 'I just wanted to say thanks Dad, I love you.' It was kind of neat. That's where it helps me. Outside of that, as far as me and the pressures that go with it, I got into this profession fully aware of that, because of what I saw my dad do. I think it has given me the ability to focus on what the job is, and not to chase those other things. Some things are inevitable. You don't worry about those things. At some point, you won't be the coach anymore. At some point, you'll die. But, you don't think about dying every day. If you do, you're not living. If you think about getting fired every day, you sure aren't coaching your football team, because they aren't going to follow a guy that's thinks he's on his deathbed, that's not going to happen. My experiences as a child and my experiences as a coach, I think have helped me considerably."

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