Mailbag: Debating Nolan's personnel skill

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Justin from Lexington, Ky., writes: I don't think that the oft-overlooked 49ers and their fantastic head coach have gotten nearly enough credit for the dramatic turn. As we can clearly see now the problem with the niners was not a personnel issue at all, but merely a motivation issue for the talent has not changed and the record has turned around drastically.

Mike Nolan and personnel manager Scot McCloughan need to be commended for their fantastic evaluation of the draft and the free agent pool around which this team was built. Nolan should not be exiled from football altogether, but merely the head coaching ranks. Let's face it, he clearly was not the answer in that department. His next move should be to use his special talent evaluation skills and maybe look into becoming player personel manager perhaps for the Lions, God knows they need the help in that department.

In conclusion I would just like to say Thank You to Mike Nolan for two things. First thank you for the talent you have assembled and rebuilding the greatest franchise in NFL history and Second thank you for your tutelage and the hand it played in the development of one of the up and coming head coaches in the NFL, Mike Singletary. Thank you GO NINERS

Mike Sando: My take would diverge from your take. The team played hard for Mike Nolan, I think. The team did not play smart under Mike Nolan. The 49ers have become a smarter team in how they use their personnel. They still aren't a top team, but they are less apt to blow leads or suffer other self-inflicted calamities.

The personnel in San Francisco isn't great. It's looking better now that the 49ers are using it more wisely. Shaun Hill is also playing smartly for the most part. He's been among the NFL's best on third down, too, and that makes a huge difference across offense and defense.

Aaron from Pennsylvania writes: Hey Sando, I think a lot of credit for the 49ers have gone to coaching, and they may deserve it, but what about Shaun Hill. He has been a third stringer for years in the NFL and then he got his chance last year and showed that he could be a good quarterback. I thought the guy should have been a starter since last season when he was shredding defenses and won two games. Now that they kicked J.T. out and put Hill in they're winning again, because he's creating offense. Your thoughts?

Mike Sando: Matching the personnel (Hill) to the system (more conservative) has been key for the 49ers. I give Hill lots of credit. I also credit Mike Singletary for making the switch to Hill.

Kevin from San Diego writes: Your thoughts on the 'Hawks situation at wide receiver for next year, also has K.Rob done enough to earn a spot for next year? Do you see Burleson or Branch back? Thanks.
Mike Sando: I would expect Nate Burleson and Deion Branch to return for the 2009 season. Koren Robinson's situation could be a little trickier. I suppose he could return if they needed him, but I'm thinking they'll address the receiver position aggressively at some point this offseason. If they do that, they would probably want to get younger and healthier, possibly at the expense of Robinson.

Kevin from New Jersey writes: With you covering the NFC West so much, I'm sure you can name an All-NFC West team. Name your entire starting offense, defense, and specialists. It ought to be interesting.
Mike Sando: You've got a deal. We'll put one together over the next couple weeks.

Jason from Canada writes: Mike, love the NFC West coverage. Perhaps you can help start a statistical change I think should be put in place. ... I've always disliked TD percentage in the red zone - it doesn't sufficiently penalize turnovers, for instance. How about using points per red-zone possession instead? It makes so much more sense than TD percentage. 7 or 8 points for a TD and 3 for a FG. It implicitly accounts for turnovers and credits a FG as "better than nothing". What do you think?
Mike Sando: Using that formula (and discounting the final clock-killing red-zone trip at Buffalo), the 49ers have scored 202 points on 47 red-zone trips, or 4.2978 points per red-zone appearance. I would still like to know what percent of red-zone drives produce touchdowns, though, since field goals have become so routine. A red-zone turnover percentage would interest me.

Casey from Chambersburg writes: Hey Mike love the blog just a few questions. What do you think of the 49ers drafting Brian Orkapo out of Texas to improve the bad pass rush? Or do you think it would be wiser to draft Mays out of USC to replace Roman? They say Mays is a hard hitter similiar to Sean Taylor or even possibly Troy Polamalu. I honestly believe Hill and Singletary deserve a full season to work with, and who knows? I would LOVE to see Haynesworth come to SF, but that probably will not happen. Thanks for the time!

Mike Sando: Thanks, Casey, and you're welcome. I'm much more supportive of drafting these guys than overpaying for players who, by definition, no longer fit into their previous teams' plans. We need to find out what type of defense they plan to run in 2009, too. This could be a top-10 pick and that is generally (but not always) early to take a safety (or a tight end, for that matter). All things being equal, I'd rather address the front seven as a means to helping the secondary.

Eli from Tacoma writes: My major question revolves around your opinon on who you think by name Seattle will take with their first draft pick? ESPN, as well as many others think that they will draft Michael Crabtree if he declares. The possibility that he will is very strong being a possible rookie salary cap in 2010. With your extended knowledge of the Seahawks I trust you should carry one of the best answers. Also, what have you heard of this rookie salary cap & if there will even be one by 2010? Thanks Mike!
Mike Sando: You're welcome. The Seahawks do not know who they are going to draft. That makes it tough for someone else to know, or even name names. As much as I'd like to have the answer, I'd rather have a good one.

Leesters from parts unknown writes: Hey Sando ... Whats up with Mike Gandy, the left OT for the Cardinals. I don't think I've seen anyone get a sack off him, or any flags on him. But no one mentions him. Ever. No one says he's doing a bad job. Or a good job, except his coach. I was hoping you had a spreadsheet with his name on it, because local reporters forgot it. Has he been as solid as it seems from the couch? Thanks, Lee
Mike Sando: Four penalties for 35 yards on Mike Gandy so far this season. He has been pretty solid, not spectacular, and I respect the way he has fought through an ankle injury. The Cardinals can win with him playing left tackle, in my view. They could stand to upgrade elsewhere on the line, probably at center and right guard.

A.P. from Los Angeles writes: hey mike love your blogs.... ok i like mike singletary as the 49ers head coach because he came in a put his foot down an i
s making martz run the football. the main reason why the 49ers were losing at the start of the season is because on first an goal martz wants to pass the ball instead of getting in goal line sets an smashing it up the gut. to add on to what someone else was saying about the 49ers numbers on defense not making any sense for ppg, it's because JTO was turning the ball over all day long and you give an nfl team enough chances, they're gonna score. thanks for your time
Mike Sando: Thanks, A.P. The red-zone production pre- and post-Singletary might be a little more complex than telling Mike Martz how to line up down there. The 49ers converted all five red-zone drives for touchdowns against the Rams. They have also used three receivers in the red zone a fair amount.