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49ers Select Ravens' Nolan as Head Coach

Coordinator Led NFL's Sixth-Ranked Defense

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 18, 2005; Page D01

The San Francisco 49ers and Mike Nolan reached a tentative agreement yesterday that would make the Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator their head coach.

The club offered the job to Nolan and he accepted it, pending the completion of a contract. A 49ers spokesman confirmed the team's selection of Nolan. A source familiar with the contract negotiations, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations were ongoing, said he expected the deal to be completed soon without any major complications.

Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan appears close to becoming San Francisco's new head coach. (Jonathan Newton - The Washington Post)

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Nolan replaces Dennis Erickson, who was fired by 49ers co-owner John York after a 2-14 season. That matched the worst record ever in a season for the five-time Super Bowl champions. The 49ers were beset with salary cap problems, and York also fired general manager Terry Donahue. York said he planned to replace Erickson first.

"We've had a great list of candidates, and we thought he is the best one to lead us into the future,'' 49ers spokesman Kirk Reynolds said.

The 49ers, who were 9-23 in two seasons after making Erickson their surprise choice to replace Steve Mariucci, have the top overall selection in the NFL draft in April.

The club selected Nolan over Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger and defensive coordinators Jim Schwartz of the Titans and Tim Lewis of the New York Giants. The 49ers apparently narrowed their choices to Nolan and Lewis before picking Nolan late Sunday and offering him the job yesterday morning. The team then opened contract negotiations with Nolan's agent, Bob LaMonte, and Nolan traveled to York's home in Youngstown, Ohio.

York and two other 49ers officials, assistant to general manager Paraag Marathe and assistant director of football administration Terry Tumey, conducted the head coaching interviews. York also consulted with former 49ers coach George Seifert and former players Randy Cross and Tim McDonald.

The coach originally thought to be York's first choice, Pete Carroll, was unwilling to leave the University of Southern California and did not interview for the job. Former 49ers assistant Mike Holmgren stayed with the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers interviewed New England Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, but he has emerged as the apparent front-runner for the Cleveland Browns' coaching job and remains unavailable because the Patriots are in the AFC playoffs.

Nolan's father, Dick, coached the 49ers as well as the New Orleans Saints. He coached the 49ers between 1968 and '75, going 54-53-5 in the regular season and 2-3 in the playoffs. His 49ers teams lost the 1970 and '71 NFC championship games to Dallas.

Nolan, 45, interviewed for Cleveland's head coaching job last week. He spent the last three seasons as the Ravens' defensive coordinator after previously holding the same position with the Giants, Washington Redskins and New York Jets. The Ravens finished sixth in the NFL in total defense this season.

Nolan becomes the second key Ravens decision-maker to be hired by another team this offseason. Personnel director Phil Savage was hired by the Browns as their general manager.

Nolan's departure means the Ravens will have new coordinators on offense and defense. Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh left in what was described as a "mutual" decision and has been hired as offensive coordinator of his alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh. Former New York Giants Coach Jim Fassel has agreed to become the Ravens' new offensive coordinator, according to a report in Monday's Baltimore Sun. Rick Neuheisel, former University of Washington coach, is expected to be named quarterbacks coach, the paper reported.

The Ravens had no comment, and a spokesperson said none of the coaches were available to comment because they were involved with annual personnel meetings, which will likely run through this morning. Fassel is participating in the meetings.

The Ravens likely will promote defensive line coach Rex Ryan, the son of Buddy Ryan, to replace Nolan. Ryan, who has been with Baltimore for six seasons, was not given permission to interview with other teams for defensive coordinator positions because the Ravens wanted to ensure he remained with the team in case Nolan left.

Staff writer Camille Powell contributed to this report.

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