Here's our seventh 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: Hey Coach, I had a question about the RB position. Coach Martz has been known to focus on the passing game which is good for the QB competition, but there are apprehensions that he might "neglect" the running game. With the addition of DeShaun Foster and the presence of Frank Gore, how will Coach Martz's playbook fit the two RBs? Thank you! - Vik Sangar, Palo Alto, CA
A: I believe that Mike is very creative, innovative and very dedicated to winning as a coach. I think there are a couple of things that support Mike's ability to run the ball and run it effectively. I think the effectiveness of Mike Martz' coaching style over the years has come from one basic fundamental belief, which is the same thing I believe, and it's that you put your players in the best position possible and you use your best players. That's what he frequently did in St. Louis when his running back Marshal Faulk was named the MVP of the league. That proves and solidifies the fact that Mike knows how to run the football. He also had his quarterback named MVP twice. So in his six years of coaching in St. Louis, during five of which he was the head coach, he had three of the NFL's MVPs. Mike knows offense. It's important to note that to have a good running game you have to have a good passing game. Without one, the other always suffers. Mike has been in constant communication with our running backs as well as our wide receivers. So to get back to your question, Frank Gore and DeShaun Foster have had several conversations with Mike Martz with respect to their job and their involvement in the offense. One of the things that is very exciting to both players is their involvement in the passing game because as Bill Walsh once said, the swing passes and the check downs over the middle are nothing more than an extension of the running game. With those thoughts coming from one of the greatest offensive minds of all time, that speaks volumes about Mike Martz.
Q: Coach Nolan, I am a member of the United States Army but I am a die hard 49er fan. I was very impressed with the play of Joe Staley last year, and my question to you is, are we any closer to signing Takeo Spikes? Adding him to the defense and the return of Manny Lawson and addition of Justin Smith could make for a top ranked defense this year. - SGT Bates, US ArmyA: We are continuing to look at not only Takeo Spikes, but other veteran players around the league who are in the free agent market. We are also trying to develop the players that we currently have who play that position opposite of Patrick Willis. It's a very important position because in our 3-4 scheme you want two players on the inside who can work and make plays. Takeo Spikes is a very good player. We have yet to make a decision if we will sign Takeo, but he continues to be in our discussions as are some other players around the league. By the time training camp comes around, we hope to have something solidified at that position. If it's not solidified by Takeo then it could possibly be filled by somebody we drafted like a Larry Grant or Dontarrious Thomas, a free agent we signed from Minnesota. So we also have some people on campus who could fill those shoes.
Q: Coach Nolan, how does a football fan learn more about the X's and O's that you speak about in some of your answers? For instance your reference to the different 3-4's and their variations, is there a source that gives a basic explanation of offensive and defensive formations and why teams use them. What do you recommend? - David McKell, Cupertino, CAA: I think the very best place is on the internet or in the library. There is a lot of literature on all football topics but in particular the basic fundamentals of the x's and o's of basic defenses as well as 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. I know that I have been to the library, and although it has been a number of years since I have gone to research some of these things, I do remember finding an awful lot of information about schemes, where they derived from, and the pluses and the minuses and the advantages of each. I'll give you one piece of advice that I think is critical. In any scheme, whether it be offense or defense, always remember that it is 11 vs. 11 and your best 11 that you put on the field are the guys you want to match with the very best scheme. The reason for 3-4, 4-3, 6-1 or any type of defense you might put together is because people have had to devise things that fit and suit the personnel they have to play with. That's why there are so many different offensive schemes, whether it be the wishbone, the outside veer, the drop back pass, the shotgun or the West Coast offense. They've all been created first to utilize their own talent and second to exploit the defense. When you are researching whatever it is you want to know, never lose sight of how important the players are that you put on the field and putting them in the best position. A square peg in a round hole never works.
Q: First, I thought your draft was genius; Chilo and Reggie will be big time steals and starters within two years. Both would have been first-round talents coming out next season. My question is how do you manage expectations when the 49ers have one of the more difficult schedules this year? The Pats, Giants, Cowboys, Eagles, Washington, New Orleans and Buffalo on the road in late November - those are some of the more complete teams in the NFL. If someone told you that you would go 8-8 with a schedule like that would you be disappointed? – Peter RamosA: First off, the way we prepare is one at a time. I think that's extremely important. Every season different teams rise and different teams fall. The same teams are not always at the top. There are only a couple of teams in the league that are consistently playoff teams. Because of that, you go into every season believing you have every opportunity, with the improvement of your roster through free agency and the draft, to get on target and get better. I believe that your actions in the off-season should strengthen the belief that you're going to get better. That's one reason I believe we can compete with those teams. The difficulty is playing any team on the road late in the year and we do have several road games late in the season, but I believe that's not too big of an obstacle to overcome unless we get ahead of ourselves. It's very important that this season we start off with one game and when that game's behind us we'll go to the next. We can't get our expectations too much in front of us. We have to focus on the job at hand. For the second part of your question as to whether we would be disappointed with an 8-8 record, our objective is again to go one at a time. It is our objective to win each and every game one at a time. So, wherever that takes us, that is our goal.
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