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Monday, October 16, 2006

Oakland Tribune's Monte Poole Calls For 49ers Defensive Coordinator Billy Davis To Be Fired

Monte's column also reveals how terrible Head Coach Mike Nolan's management style is, where the players -- who have to execute the schemes -- are not consulted.

49ers coach Davis has to go
Column by Monte Poole - OAKLAND TRIBUNE

Article Last Updated:10/16/2006 05:17:26 AM PDT

SAN FRANCISCO — If Mike Nolan is as perceptive as he would like us to believe, he will begin his team's bye week by at least considering waving bye-bye to one of his assistants.

Otherwise, the next team the 49ers see might run up 50. Before halftime.

As it was, the San Diego Chargers marched into Candlestick Point on Sunday afternoon and scored 35 points in the first half en route to a 48-19 spanking of the 49ers.

Though it was accepted that the Chargers were the vastly superior team, the 49ers filed out of the stadium acutely aware of their most visible weakness.

Their defense is a mess. Preparation seems to be poor. Assignments often are blown. Problems exist from top to bottom, in all the margins and creases. The pass rush is inconsistent, the linebackers are a step slow, and the cornerbacks can't cover a turtle with a tarp.

More to the point, the defensive coordinator Billy Davis — who drifts between the 4-3 scheme and the 3-4 scheme — not only has been incapable of masking these deficiencies but also seems to find ways to accentuate them.

Consider, please, San Diego's sixth offensive play. Tight end Antonio Gates, arguably the best in the NFL, left the huddle and split wide left. Across from Gates was a man named T. J. Slaughter, listed as a linebacker but more accurately described as a special teams player.

This is what one might call a mismatch.

"I saw that they had a linebacker out there on him, and I thought to myself, 'Could that be?'" Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said, resisting the urge to giggle.

Rivers' reaction was echoed by educated observers throughout the stadium. Yet this was the hand Davis played.

The hand got burned. Rivers, in the early stages of his first 300-yard game, fired a dart to Gates, who shrugged off Slaughter and chugged in for a 57-yard touchdown, giving San Diego a 7-0 lead three minutes into the game.

It was at that point the 49ers defensive unit began its regression in earnest. The Chargers' next drive went 91 yards for a touchdown. The third ended when Rivers exploited the matchup between massive wideout Vincent Jackson (6-foot-5, 241) and rookie safety Marcus Hudson for a 33-yard touchdown pass.

"(Rivers') offensive coordinator told him to come after me," said Hudson, who attended North Carolina State with Rivers and spoke to the quarterback after the game.

While San Francisco's playing personnel leaves a lot to be desired, with an urgent need for upgrades in the secondary, Davis also is proving himself profoundly replaceable.

One alternative to be considered should be current assistant head coach Mike Singletary.

Asked if the upcoming bye week might be a good time to destroy and rebuilt his defense, Nolan paused a few moments.

"That's a good way to put it," the coach conceded. "All I can say is, maybe, yeah. We will see.

"The guys are busting their tails. They are working hard. As much as I know some of our shortcomings going into it, I know that when you play well as a unit you can play better than we have a couple times. And that's the disappointing thing."

What Nolan, himself a former defensive coordinator, did not express was the tiniest bit of confidence in Davis.

Then again, how could he? The 49ers have allowed 34 points to Arizona, 38 to Philadelphia, 41 to Kansas City and, now, 48 to San Diego. Moreover, the Niners have allowed a league-high 130 first-half points, indicating they don't exactly leave the locker room as a single-file line of well-prepared predators.

"We're about where we were last year at this time," Nolan said.

It was only two weeks ago, after the 41-0 mashing in Kansas City, that Nolan brushed off an Internet report saying he would fire Davis — if not immediately, at the end of the season.

I gave several 49ers defensive veterans an opportunity to defend their embattled leader. None did.

"They don't ask for players' input," said tackle Bryant Young, the most tenured member of the team. "Until they do, I don't want to say anything. I'd rather not get myself in trouble with anybody."

In other words, the 13-year vet chose to let the results linger like a cloud of sulfur.

The Chargers had 11 possessions, only one of which ended with a punt. They controlled the clock and took cheerful advantage of the charity offered by San Francisco's defense.

Nolan heard the tone of the postgame questions. He read the room. He searched for something positive to say about his team.

"Our offense ... is making a lot of progress," he said. "And we need to make that same progress on the other side of the ball."
Said Young: "Whatever we have to do, we have to do it fast."

San Francisco has two weeks to retool. Then comes a trip to Chicago, where the shockingly impressive Bears await. If the 49ers hit Soldier Field with the same cast of characters wearing helmets and headsets, cover your eyes.

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