X's and O's with Nolan: Field Goal

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Head coach Mike Nolan is busy getting his team ready for Saturday's first game at home against the Packers, but he did take a break to answer questions from our fans. Check out his latest installment of X's and O's.

Q: Hey coach, I noticed after the first week of pre-season games that a lot of coaches went for it on 4th down to help better evaluate their 4th down offense. Why not take a shot for the end zone last week to help the team's quarterback situation and see if your quarterback can punch it in? I understand special teams is a part of the game as well, but it was more like an extra point than a field goal. -Nick C, FresnoA: It is not just about the quarterbacks. We are trying to get better as a football team. When we first called time out our intention was to go for it since the scoreboard said fourth-and-one. When I looked at it on the field it was not fourth-and-one, it was fourth-and-three.

Usually when you get down in situations like that you will go for it. But the time on the clock plays a factor also. There was just 18 seconds left. If there was more time on the clock we would have gone for it. If we did not make it, the opponent would be backed up deep in their own territory and if we stopped them we would get the ball back in good field position. Since there was not a lot of time, if we missed they would just take a knee. So that benefit was gone. We felt it was best to get the points.

Q: Coach, I would first like to thank you for visiting the troops. The hardships we face out there every day can be stressful and to have people like you care makes the day easier to go through. I am a 21-year-old vet of Operation Iraqi Freedom and being in war brings a group of people closer. Now for my question, do you feel the struggles that you guys have faced last year after having such high expectations brought the team closer to achieve the goal of the playoffs this year? P.S. Just like I am always faithful to the Marines, I am always faithful to my 49ers.  -Gregory C. Bell, U. S. Marine CorpsA: First, thank you for your service. I appreciate what you are doing and going through. I hope you are right. Certainly what we went through last season was not fun. I don't want to go through it again. I hope our entire team can take note from last season and keep focused on one practice, one meeting and one game at a time. Football is the ultimate team sport. It takes all 11 games on each play to make the play work. If one guy does not do his job and the other 10 do it 100 percent right, the play still will not work.

Q: My question is, are you modeling the 49ers after the Ravens Super Bowl Team? I know you and Coach Martz are working hard on the offense, but it seems the defense is the group that is getting the free agents and higher draft picks and is therefore better. -Matt, Baltimore, MDA: I have been asked that question before, and the answer is no we are not trying to build our team like the Ravens. Although I do hope we have a defense that dominates games, and that we win the Super Bowl like the Ravens.

We have used our draft picks on offensive players, Alex Smith, David Baas, Frank Gore, Adam Snyder, Vernon Davis and Joe Staley are just some of the draft picks on the offense. It is true that the defense usually progresses faster than the offense. That is probably why the comparisons to Baltimore are made. I would love to score 30 points a game. My hope is that our offense progresses and that we do score more points this year.

Q: With all the tension, the thing that gets me is, how can you or anyone expect a guy to succeed with the situation Alex Smith has been put in to? He's never had decent receivers, arguably the worst o-line in the NFL throughout his career, and a new coordinator a new system every year. It seems as though the problem is either the inability of management to surround him with quality or it's a matter of needing more time. What are your thoughts on the situation that has been handed to Alex? Who could succeed in that situation? What responsibility do you take for the lack of talent offensively? -Randy BrownA: Some of what you ask is true. We have had four coordinators. In an ideal world we would be in year four with the same staff coaching our quarterbacks, as well as our entire offense. Unfortunately, Mike McCarthy and Norv Turner took head coaching jobs and last year our moves did not work out on offense.

I think those changes have had an effect on not only the quarterbacks but also on the entire offense. But adversity is part of this game and it is ultimately my responsibility to help our team overcome that.

We have added talent to our offense and will continue to add players who we feel can help us. We have done well in the draft with Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Joe Staley and then this year with the emergence of Josh Morgan. The receiver spot is an important area. I really think the group we have now is the best since I have been here. I mentioned before that all three quarterbacks have improved this camp. The talent around them is better for sure and I think that plays a role in why they have looked good in camp.

Q: Coach – I thought Alex Smith was pretty much on the run with that second group the other night. Don't you need to see him have a shot with the first-team, now that he is healthy since you keep talking about his 7-5 record when healthy? You've always talked about him needing a supporting cast – well isn't it time to see what he can do with one? Also, I still think you need some more depth in the interior of your line. That second group was a little shaky. Any further talks with Larry Allen? – Damon Bruce, PALO ALTOA: Alex did some real nice things in the Raiders game. I was pleased with the way that we were able to move the ball. There is no doubt that one player alone will not take us to the promised land. It is a team sport and the supporting players do play a major role.

We are evaluating everything when it comes to our players, including all of our mini-camps, OTAs and training camp practices.

There is no doubt that it is difficult to get all three quarterbacks reps during practice. We have allowed each to work with the first group during practices and those sessions are being evaluated. I think at the end it will be more about what one of the guys did, rather than what one of the guys did not do.

I expect our line to get back to the form it had in 2006 when we finished sixth in rushing. I have been pleased with what they've done so far. We have not had any further discussions with Larry Allen at this point.

Q: Coach Nolan, I appreciate the fact that you take time out to answer as many fan questions as possible. This question may not be best directed at you (perhaps Scot McCloughan would be better to answer this question), but I was wondering why Alex Smith's contract was picked up during the off-season. On the surface (perhaps I am reading too much into how many first team repetitions each QB is getting), it would appear that he is losing the QB battle to JT O'Sullivan. If this were the case, the Niners would be paying a lot of extra dollars for a backup QB. In fact, with the signing of Hill, we would be paying even more for a third string QB. What was the rationale behind picking up Smith's contract? - Thanks. Best Regards, Harry KuoA: First and foremost, when we get on the practice field we do not look at the status of a player being a draft pick or a free agent. We do our best to evaluate what takes place on the field of play.

Alex Smith has talent and I have never wavered in my belief that he will have a solid NFL career. There was no question that we wanted him to be a part of the 49ers.

In some situations money forces your hand. That is a factor in the NFL. But we are not in that situation with our quarterbacks.

To ask a question, send it toxandowithnolan@niners.nfl.com

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