Former 49ers linebacker Gary Plummer still keeps up with the game he loves by providing analysis and color commentary to the KNBR game day broadcast. All season long, Plummer provided an online column related to each game, but in this one he shares his view of some of the changes that have occured already since the season ended.**
I think the fact that Scot McCloughan was promoted to general manager and the fact that he will take over the player personnel responsibilities will be beneficial to Mike Nolan. A good GM interacts with the head coach on a daily basis and they have done that all along. It's not like Scot will go out and draft somebody without talking to Mike Nolan, because that would be foolish. You've seen that situation before where guys are butting heads and going through a power struggle, but that won't happen here. It's just going to alleviate some of the responsibility from Mike Nolan. Some people made it into a negative strip power type of thing, but it's just like a good CEO hiring good VP's, it's the same thing. If you're John York and you think you have a good head coach, you want someone that is going to help him. You don't want all your VP's fighting for their little section, you want them working towards the same goal and I think Scot McCloughan and Mike Nolan do that well together.
I also think Mike Martz will be a good hire in terms of helping Nolan because I think it helped Mike Nolan tremendously in 2006 to have Norv Turner as an autonomous offensive coordinator. He could shut the door to the offensive meeting room and not worry that his team offensively was going to be prepared by one of the best that there is. That takes a tremendous load off your shoulders as a head coach. The same thing is going to happen this year with Mike Martz. Some people might try to turn this into a negative and say this will cause a rift or division between Martz and Nolan, but that won't be the case. Nolan handled it very well in 2006 when Turner took over the offense, and now this allows Nolan to focus more on what he does best, which is help the defensive side of the ball. Considering Greg Manusky did such a good job last year as defensive coordinator, it really just gives Nolan a chance to immerse himself in game time decisions, strategy, keeping the pulse of the team, handling injuries, and having less controversy.
Seeing what Shaun Hill did in the 10 quarters that he played was exciting, and ironically, the quarterback a lot of us compared him to was Marc Bulger. In looking what Martz did with Bulger, it makes me start fantasizing about how great this offense can be next year. Hill is similar to Bulger in that both have an unorthodox quick release and both go through their progressions rather quickly. Hill may not have the same arm strength as Bulger, but he is a little bigger and a bit more athletic.
It will also be interesting to see what an unbelievably demanding offensive coordinator like Martz can do with somebody as talented as Alex Smith. Whoever wins that starting quarterback job will be a better quarterback at the start of the 2008 season than they were at the end of the 2007 season. He just makes players better. One thing you heard from players that were released from Detroit or St. Louis was that they hated him, but he made them a better player at whatever position they were playing. Every player that ever talks about him says that he made them a better player because of the fact that he is so demanding. There will be some guys who can't handle it and get cut because of it, but the guys who stick around and dedicate themselves will become better football players. People want to say that Frank Gore's carries are going to go way down, but a guy named Marshall Faulk did pretty well under Martz in St. Louis. Frank has a lot of the same characteristics as Marshall and will flourish in this offense.
Anyone who wants to become a better football player, anyone who wants to help the 49ers to be a better football team, and anyone who cares about their job should make the no-brain decision to get back to the facility earlier than usual to learn this offense.
Check back next week for more from Plummer as he breaks down some of the highs and lows of the 2007 season!