X's and O's with Mike Nolan, Round 9

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Here's our ninth 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: Coach, why did you change your message from making a bold prediction of making the playoffs the last two years to a one game at a time? Don BergmanA: There hasn't been a change because our goal remains the same in the long term. We want to make the playoffs and ultimately the Super Bowl. The goal hasn't changed, but our motto is "one at a time," whether that be one game, one practice, one week or one day. We want to keep our focus where it should be and that's taking them one at a time. You don't want to get ahead of yourself. The purpose of the goals in the first three years I've been here were to change the culture of the 49ers, which has been down for a very long time. It was also to play off the foundation, which was laid down by the teams of the 80's and the 90's. Most importantly, I wanted to create a winning atmosphere and change the environment in the entire building. We have continued to strengthen the environment in the organization both on and off the field. We've continued to add good players, we are a much better organization and football team than when we took this over three years ago. But it is about winning. This year we'll be about winning and nothing short of that will be acceptable, but we do need to take them one at a time. It's not so much a change of goals as it is a change of motto and focus.

Q: Coach Nolan, I have a question as far as how you employ your staff through the offseason. What duties do they perform to assist you and the front office during free agency and throughout the draft process and do they take initiative in the absence of orders to make the football team better? Also the coaching title "assistant head coach" intrigues me, how does Coach Singletary's role assist you and do you believe that every head coach on the professional level should have one. Thanks Coach! - Matt Cornell, Dryden NYA: We have several meetings throughout the off-season and we have several objectives that we have to meet. One is to evaluate our current roster and the roster that we see fit going forward. We then have to evaluate the schemes we used with our players. Both of those things take a good month to do, but they're done at the same time. We split the day up and the other part of the day is spent on free agents currently in the NFL as well as college draft players. Half of our day is spent on evaluating ourselves and the other half is spent evaluating the players that are available to us. That's the job of the assistant coaches in the off-season. Obviously all coaches want to win and get better because we're all rewarded for winning. We're awarded with job security and also monetarily, but more importantly there's the satisfaction that you've done your job very well. I think all those things motivate assistant coaches as well as head coaches.

You also asked if every team should have an assistant head coach. I don't believe that it's for everyone, but then again it could be. The title that Mike Singletary has on our staff is Assistant Head Coach/Defense and he has the linebackers as his position of responsibility. Mike offers so much to our football team in the way of example, the man he is and the football player he was. He carries a tremendous amount of respect throughout the football team as well as the organization. I trust Mike and I think every head coach needs someone he feels can carry on the vision and the philosophy that we have in place. For that reason, Mike is our assistant head coach. I feel that at some point in time coach Singletary will get his opportunity as a head coach and I think it will be important for Mike to add someone in the same capacity, but in a different role. It will have to be someone that complements the things that Mike does well. What I mean by that is it is typically someone who doesn't have the exact same strengths as Mike, but has the strengths where Mike would like to strengthen himself.

Q: Coach Nolan, all I know of NFL players is what I see on TV and in the news, so I have limited knowledge on the subject. As a head coach managing men (21 to 35 years old), some perhaps millionaires from college to the NFL...how do you personally keep them focused? At the NFL level do you see as much passion as college or high school or does it become a job to them?  - Good luck in 08' Steve Newman, Daytona Beach, FL.A: First off, I think it is extremely important to understand that a professional athlete, and in this case, a professional football player, wants to be the best that he can be. He would not have reached this level if he did not have a passion for playing the game. At this level, although they show it in different ways, I would suspect and expect players to have more passion at the NFL than any other level. Is that consistent all across the board? No, because there are some people who have a tremendous passion but do no have the ability to go along with it to make it to this level. But the players at this level must have a passion that burns to be a very good player in the NFL. As the case in all sports and all endeavors in life, some have more than others, and the ones with the most typically overshadow those with life. I believe there is a tremendous level of passion in what they do. They want to be good and they accept coaching very well. Every now and then you'll find someone who thinks they have all the answers, but they typically don't last long. Your best players want to be good and they will take anything they can from a coach to get better.

Q: Coach Nolan, can you explain who is responsible for creating and organizing the scout team's plays (offensive & defensive) during the season? How much influence do you have in the whole process? One game at a time, in '08-'09!!!GO NINERS!!! Van RussellA: The responsibility of designing the opponents' plays to go against the offense, defense and special teams is headed up by the three coordinators. It is also assisted and supported by the assistants on both sides of the ball. On every staff, there are up to 8 or 9 assistants on offense and defense with one or two assistants to help out on special teams. Everyone should be on the same page, as far as the runs and passes you'll see by a particular offense against your defense, and the same goes for your offense and what types of blitzes and coverages and fronts you'll see from a defense. Also on special teams, how will the other team design their offensive and defensive attacks to go against your kicking game. The support comes from the assistants, and the coordinators have the final decisions on either side of the ball. As a head coach, my expertise lies more on defense so I spend a lot more time in the defensive room. Because I have a lot of experience in the kicking game area, I do spend a lot of time on Mondays and Tuesdays visiting with our special teams coaches. Although the plan comes down to what our coordinators do, I try to assist them the best I can without getting in their way. It is important since I have expertise in certain areas to offer that to the game plan.

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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