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Williams, Nolan heading back to the "A" list?

At a time when most league observers are assuming that the 2010 coaching “A” list will consist primarily of men with Super Bowl rings on their fingers, we can’t overlook the dynamic that unfolds during every regular season.

In multiple cities, coordinators get hot.

This year, two of the hottest quarter-pole coordinators also are former head coaches.

In New Orleans, Gregg Williams instantly has transformed a previously pathetic Saints defense, triggering over the past two weeks a dramatic shift in the manner in which the team has been winning its football games. 

Last year, zero touchdown passes from quarterback Drew Brees in two games would have been presumed to equate to two losses.  This year, the Saints still came away with two wins.

As Peter King of SI.com points out, the Saints were 26th in scoring defense last season.  To date in 2009, they’re seventh.

In Denver, Mike Nolan’s defense has allowed only 26 points in four games.  Given the quality (or lack thereof) of the roster that he inherited on that side of the ball, the performance is a step above remarkable.

Williams coached the Bills from 2001 through 2003, and Nolan was the man in San Fran from 2005 through seven games of the 2008 season.  If they keep it up, they both could get a second chance.

Here’s another important angle:  Money.  With a bad economy, a work stoppage on the horizon, and young (i.e., cheap) coaches doing very well, the salary scale has shifted.  So if the Lords of the Rings will be asking for $8 million or more per year, why not consider guys like Williams or Nolan, who’ll surely settle for far less?

So, yeah, if the Saints and the Broncos continue to produce surprising results on defense, both of these guys will be in play — even if they serve only as leverage to get the big-name guys to take a lot less money.

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25 Responses to “Williams, Nolan heading back to the "A" list?”
  1. SteveC says: Oct 5, 2009 1:04 PM

    As a 49er fan, I wouldn’t wish my worse enemy Mike Nowin to be their head coach…

  2. goJags says: Oct 5, 2009 1:05 PM

    Does this mean they are “head coach in waiting” somewhere else?

  3. texasPHINSfan says: Oct 5, 2009 1:06 PM

    i think you’re reaching here.
    both coaches you mentioned have already had head coaching opportunities and both squandered them. Guys like Scott Linehan & Cam Cameron prove that just because you are a good OC or DC doesn’t mean you’ll be an effective head coach.
    i think most owners would easily pay $8-$10M extra for a solid coach that can win.

  4. Emiliooo says: Oct 5, 2009 1:07 PM

    I’m sure they’ll be the next great Norv Turner/Wade Phillips-esque head coaches!
    Inherit a fantastic team… then waste the opportunity by slowly bringing your team down to well-below mediocrity with god-awful coaching!
    STAY Coordinators!!!! Geez!!

  5. JPeezy says: Oct 5, 2009 1:09 PM

    You can add Cam Cameron to this list too. He’s taken a pretty pedestrain offense to the top of the league.
    The bigger question is, will anybody give a Head Coach job to a proven very good coordinator who has also shown he is not a very good head coach.
    I have a hard time seeing anyone giving Nolan or Cameron a HC job ever agin.

  6. NickMiller63 says: Oct 5, 2009 1:09 PM

    Nolan hasn’t had enough time to internalize the lessons of his complete and total failure in San Francisco. That said, I’m shocked he’s done what he’s done in Denver. Not predictable.

  7. dasboat says: Oct 5, 2009 1:12 PM

    Gregg Williams needs to take a page out of Monte Kiffin’s handbook. Stay as a highly-paid, well-respected defensive coordinator.

  8. Shademan says: Oct 5, 2009 1:13 PM

    Williams and Nolan are both fantastic coordinators. But their record as a head coach speaks for itself. They are nothing more than Cam Cameron or Wade Phillips.

  9. brando says: Oct 5, 2009 1:16 PM

    Why can’t people just understand that some guys are just good coordinators? Mike Noaln looks the part, but he had nearly four years to show some sign of life in SF and couldn’t come close.
    He was great in Baltimore as the defensive coordinator and, lo and behold, he’s having similar success thus far in Denver. Being a head coach has much more to do with overall management of a team as well as a game, then merely schemeing against a given opponent.

  10. Slow Joe says: Oct 5, 2009 1:18 PM

    Some guys are better coordinators than head coaches. I think that applies to these two.
    Of course, I also said that about Bill Belichick ten years ago.

  11. downwithdansnyder says: Oct 5, 2009 1:26 PM

    I’d hire Williams. IF Danny Boy Snyder passed on him, he’s sure to be the next Belichcick!!!

  12. Seeryer says: Oct 5, 2009 1:35 PM

    Gregg Williams is a joke. The guy is all ego and that is about it. Big friggin whoop, his defense made a rookie QB look like a rookie QB. Lets give him a head job. When is the last time Williams has been part of a playoff team? Has he ever had a defense that was dominant when Jeff Fisher wasn’t the head coach? If G Williams gets a job does that mean his sidekick son will also be part of the deal?

  13. BleedGreen says: Oct 5, 2009 1:41 PM

    I like Mike Nolan. He seems like a fairly classy guy, really knows his defense. However, I think he was overwhelmed in SF. I think he tried to do too much himself, without trusting his coordinators and assistants to carry out his assignments.
    It also didn’t help that they couldn’t keep an OC to save their lives, which ruined Alex Smith.

  14. Chris Fiorentino says: Oct 5, 2009 1:48 PM

    Some guys are coordinators and some guys are head coaches. Here’s an example…I am willing to bet that Norv Turner has forgotten more about footbal’ strategy than Jack Del Rio and Mike Singletary put together…but who would I rather have coach my football team? Turner would be third on that list. Why? Because he sucks as a head coach. He doesn’t get the best out of his players, where both Jack and Mike do.
    Norv Turner is a GREAT offensive mind…he made Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin what they were…he is responsible for 3 hall of famers at a minimum. But if he were the head coach of the Cowboys, they would not have won a Super Bowl. He sucks as a gameday manager and blows as a motivator.
    Nolan, Williams, et. al. are all good coordinators, but they sucked as head coaches and they will likely suck again.

  15. SeaOtter says: Oct 5, 2009 1:51 PM

    There is really no set pattern here. You could look at Raheem Morris and Todd Haley and say that young coordinators are failing in their first head coaching jobs, then you have McDaniels in Denver. Atlanta went right off the board when they hired Smith, but that has turned out to be a great hire. Teams just have to go with their gut instinct on which guy fits their situation.
    I still think KC made a big mistake with Haley. The fact that he got a “hot coordinator” title based on one playoff run seems fishy to me. Further, his past behaviour was erratic and unstable. Herm Edwards was a good coach who was simply carrying out Carl Peterson’s orders on personnel stuff – he deserved a chance to keep coaching under a new GM.

  16. mcgarnicle79 says: Oct 5, 2009 1:56 PM

    If Norv Turner stays as OC for the 49ers it would have been interesting to see how it would have all turned out.
    I agree with most comments in that there are some really good coaches and some really good coordinators, a most times these don’t coincide. However, the curious case of Bill Belichick shows us that it can take a couple of trys to get the head coaching thing down. Giving some of these guys another shot wouldn’t be terrible. I do think the Norv Turner and Wade Phillips have finally proved, for the third time, that they are not good head coaches. I also think the success of the Broncos this year is hurting Mike Shanahan’s value for future coaching gigs. Might be awhile before he joins the coaching ranks again.

  17. chief says: Oct 5, 2009 2:01 PM

    Still blows my mind that the Chiefs hired Clancy Pendergast instead of Williams. Williams was born and coached high school football 20 minutes from Arrowhead stadium.

  18. JoeSchmoe says: Oct 5, 2009 2:58 PM

    An easy high level overview of Denver:
    Broncos Defensive fronts:
    Safety’s: B Dawkins
    Corners: Champ
    LB’s: DJ WIlliams
    Line: Dumervil
    You’ve got a pretty kick ass player on each front. Plus their special teams (punting) has been outstanding, putting offenses into horrible situations.
    Schedule
    Cincy – first game of season, still struggling to kick it into high gear
    CLE and OAK – self explanatory
    DAL – offensively struggling and nobody can explain it.
    Add it all up and sure, Mike Nolan looks like a heck of a coach right about now…

  19. JuicyMelon says: Oct 5, 2009 3:01 PM

    Don’t know much about Williams…But I think that both Nolan and Cam got shafted pretty hard as coaches.
    Miami fired Cam after one bad season…Probably had to be done, but Cam could be a great coach if the Owner/GM let him try and do things his way.
    Same goes for Nolan. I don’t think the 49ers supported him at all and he looks like a guy that needs upper management support to be efficient. What Mike Singletary is doing in San Fran is amazing. He goes in and just does his way whether anyone likes it or not. Nolan is no that type of guy. Nolan would excel in Dallas, Washington, or San Diego.

  20. MattMoore For 09 says: Oct 5, 2009 3:35 PM

    You would be wasting money if you hire Mike Nolan. After you fire him you would have to hire someone else to replace him. Not very cost effective.

  21. dare2bme says: Oct 5, 2009 3:36 PM

    Everyone here, including the author, needs to google the Peter Principle. It’s a well-known fact that, in any hierarchal system, people rise to their level of incompetence.
    That’s why so many of us have “bad” bosses, “bad” managers, and “bad” coaches. They get hired to one position above their peak. Nolan and Williams are an excellent case in point.
    They should stick where they’re at. They’ll enjoy it more and do an excellent job.

  22. VonClausewitz says: Oct 5, 2009 4:05 PM

    I don’t know how Gregg Williams can’t be considered one of the best defensive coords in the game. This I’ve never understood. I can’t think of any defense he’s managed that hasn’t been very good if not great. Then again decision making by GMs in the NFL has never been completely sensical (see Martz, Mike).

  23. PhD says: Oct 5, 2009 4:19 PM

    bleedgreen wrote: “It also didn’t help that they couldn’t keep an OC to save their lives, which ruined Alex Smith.”
    I think it’s more a case of Nolan hitching his star to the Alex Smith bandwagon and look where it landed him when the wheels fell off. You can’t blame Smith’s busted career on OC changes. He’s consistently sucked and cost the team millions in wasted money.

  24. footballrulz says: Oct 5, 2009 4:41 PM

    Seeryer says
    Lets give him a head job–he ain;t that good ;)
    Think Dom Capers
    Nice comment about the Peter principle. Excellent example.

  25. Route36West says: Oct 5, 2009 8:56 PM

    Also you have to add in the great finish and start to the 49ers season. Almost every player on that roster was brought in by Nolan and now there 3-1. I know all there success has been with a different coach but I dunno how much that has to do with Singeltary. Young teams need time to get it together. Isnt it possible that Nolan was fired 2 weeks to early and Singeltary got rewarded for all Nolans hard work? Not to take anything away from Singeltary he has this team humming but you gotta give Nolan just as much credit for that team as Singeltary (I mean he cant even get his first 1st rounder to sign his rookie contract).
    We will see in about 3 years when Singeltary firmly has his imprint on that team. If the 49ers are still playing like this then he deserves some credit but if they revert to there losing ways you gotta say Nolan is the reason there winning in 2009.

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