Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan accepted the San Francisco 49ers' head coaching position yesterday and began to negotiate a contract to take over the team that had the NFL's worst record last season.
Nolan, a longtime coordinator for four teams who never has been a head coach, will replace Dennis Erickson, fired earlier in the month after going 9-23 in two seasons out of the playoffs. San Francisco went 2-14 this season.
After wowing 49ers owner John York in an interview Thursday, Nolan accepted the offer yesterday and flew to York's home in Ohio to work out a contract.
Nolan earned the chance to follow in the footsteps of his father, Dick Nolan, who went 54-53-5 in eight seasons as the 49ers' coach from 1968-75, winning three straight division championships and reaching two NFC title games while getting the first playoff wins in franchise history.
Mike Nolan, 45, has been in charge of the Ravens' powerful defense since 2001, following stints as the coordinator with the New York Jets (2000), Washington (1997-99) and the New York Giants (1993-96). Baltimore ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense last season.
Nolan was interviewed by York and two of the few remaining members of the 49ers' front office. He was offered the job yesterday morning, beating out four other candidates: Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, thought to be Cleveland's top choice; Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, and Tennessee coordinators Mike Heimerdinger and Jim Schwartz.
Ravens eye Fassel
The Ravens are expected to hire former Giants coach Jim Fassel as their offensive coordinator, and former University of Washington coach Rick Neuheisel as quarterbacks coach, The Baltimore Sun reported yesterday.
Fassel was a senior consultant with the Ravens this season, working primarily on the development of second-year quarterback Kyle Boller. Fassel hoped to land another head coaching job but did not receive any solid offers and appears ready to accept the task of improving an offense that finished 31st in the NFL this season.
The Sun, citing two sources close to the situation, said an agreement had been reached to make Fassel the replacement for Matt Cavanaugh, who resigned under pressure Jan. 3.
Fassel was coach of the Giants from 1997-03 and led New York to the 2001 Super Bowl, where the team lost to Baltimore.
Neuheisel was 66-30 over eight seasons at Colorado and Washington before being fired by the Huskies in June 2003 for participating in a big-money college basketball pool. The NCAA investigated both Neuheisel and the Washington football program and ultimately cleared the coach.
Parcells fires assistants
Bill Parcells took the first big step in his offseason overhaul of the Dallas Cowboys by announcing he dumped two assistants: offensive line coach George Warhop and kicking coach Steve Hoffman. Hoffman was the team's longest-tenured football staffer, having arrived in 1989 as part of Jimmy Johnson's first group of assistants. He developed a reputation for discovering off-the-radar kickers, providing cheap talent at a key position. But his latest pupil, Billy Cundiff, let down Parcells too many times on kickoffs and field goals. Warhop's unit was among the team's biggest disappointments this season, and he said nearly two weeks ago that he'd been told he would be let go. He'll be replaced by tight ends coach Tony Sparano . . . Former Oakland Raiders center Barret Robbins was arrested yesterday after being shot over the weekend during a struggle with a Miami Beach police officer investigating a burglary at a South Beach office building. Police spokesman Bobby Hernandez said prosecutors are expected to file formal charges of battery on an officer and trespassing against the former All-Pro, who is best known for disappearing the night before the 2003 Super Bowl. Robbins was hospitalized in critical but stable condition, according to his agent, Drew Pittman. Robbins, 31, was shot several times in the torso during a "violent struggle" with a Miami Beach detective Saturday night, Hernandez said. Robbins was confronted in a second-floor office in a building that also houses a nightclub, gym, and jewelry store.