X's and O's with Mike Nolan, Round 8

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Here's our eighth round of X's and O's with Mike Nolan. Thanks again to all of our fans who sent in questions, and keep them coming as Coach will answer questions every Friday!
Q: I know times have changed, but as fans we love the hate for other teams like Dallas, and feel that it adds to the excitement of the game. Do the coaches and the players feel any of that when they play a Dallas, Rams or Green Bay now? DeborahA: There is no question that it plays to the excitement of the game from a fan perspective. And certainly the longer you are at one place the more you can start to have those feelings as a rivalry between two teams starts and develops and the new group becomes part of the history of the rivalry that has already existed.

However, since we are in the profession we have to rise above the personal feelings and always concentrate on what is best for the football team. Anything other than that perspective could be a distraction.

Q: I have a question for you in terms of how you guys as a coaching staff decide on who to keep on your ball club when you have to get down to 53. For instance, do you guys debate whether you should have 10 offensive linemen, or 10 defensive backs because obviously you cannot have 10 of everything. Does having two athletic linebackers such as Joe Staley and Manny Lawson affect your personnel packages in Nickel and Dime situations? Thanks Coach! Matt Cornell, Dryden NYA: We do take numbers at each position into account because you do need certain numbers at each position just to get through practice. But, we try to keep our best football players. You do not want to lose good young players. You will notice the numbers at each position change from year to year and from team to team based on the talent on each team. For example, it may come down to keeping either an additional wide receiver or a running back, and the determination could be based on how well the player does on special teams.

As to the second part of your question, Patrick Willis and Manny Lawson are extremely athletic. They are outstanding athletes with speed and a high motor. You want those guys on the field no matter the situation.

Q: So coach what is your main goal this year besides at least making a playoff berth? Thanks for your time coach. TODD KIRBY MD.
A: Like I told our team, we are not going to get ahead of ourselves. We will take it one meeting, one practice and one game at a time. The first game of the season is Arizona. Our goal is always to improve and get better each and every day.

I do not like to predict records. Dan Reeves in his first year as a head coach of Denver said his goal was to finish 10-6. The team headed into the last game of the season with a 10-5 record and needed a win to get into the playoffs. The Broncos lost and finished 10-6 and were out of the playoffs. After the game Dan was mad and laid into his players. One of them then told the coach that they met the goal that Dan predicted. The moral of the story is to not get too far ahead. One game at a time is a better motto.

Q: The defense, having received no significant pass rush input this off-season creates a huge question mark. Not having a crystal ball Coach, what do you feel the Faithful and yourself can/should reasonably expect rush-wise – and why? Sammy Moore Jr [poohbare1@sbcglobal.net]A: Hopefully our players are more mature and better than last year. Justin Smith is an addition that should help. We do expect improvement from the guys that we do have. Certainly that is an area that we recognize that improvement is needed. Players, coaching and scheme will all factor into our ability to rush the passer.

Q: Coach, in deciding among the three QB candidates, do you base it on particular strengths? In other words do you prefer a QB who excels on quick reads and the short to medium passing game... as opposed to another who perhaps is more suited to stepping back in the pocket and throwing it deep? How important is mobility in making a decision? The Niners traditionally have had QB's who can scramble and throw on the run. Will that be a primary factor? Louis Weiner
A: The biggest factor is winning. As we do with all positions, the player who gives us the best chance to win will be the starter. Then our focus will be on putting whoever wins the job into a position to do what he does best.

Please submit your questions via email toxandowithnolan@niners.nfl.comand then check back next Friday to see if your question was selected!

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