Nolan plans no coaching changes, says ownership is behind 49ers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Mike Nolan thinks everything that's wrong with the San Francisco 49ers must be fixed by the people already in their training complex.

And the coach doesn't plan to expel any coaches from that complex, either.

A day after the 49ers' offense floundered yet again in a 13-9 loss to St. Louis, Nolan said he plans to make no changes to his coaching staff or roster in the wake of eight consecutive defeats. He will stick with the course he set out during training camp, when the 49ers (2-8) were a dark horse playoff pick instead of a downtrodden club with a historic losing streak.

"You're always looking for ways to get better, on the field or off the field," Nolan said Monday. "The limitations of changing both players and coaches during a season ... it's very difficult to do during the season, because it's not like people are on the street that (don't) need to be on the street."

Yet the 49ers seem to be all out of answers for the streak that has all but ruined another lost season for a once-proud franchise that revolutionized offensive football during the 1980s. They're threatening to devolutionize it this fall, failing to score a touchdown in the 11 quarters since the opening drive of a loss in Atlanta two weeks ago.

San Francisco will finish without a winning record for the fifth straight year, and one more loss will make Nolan the first 49ers coach to lose nine straight. The Niners also lost nine straight in 1978, the final year before Bill Walsh took over, but Pete McCulley was fired during the skid.

Nolan said 49ers owner John York has been "very supportive" during the 49ers' troubles this season. Nolan has been equally supportive of first-year offensive coordinator Jim Hostler, who has taken much of the flack for the 49ers' follies with the ball in the first season since Norv Turner's departure for San Diego.

"I believe I have a very strong staff, very good staff," Nolan said. "I believe (the coaching staff) is stronger this year than it was last year."

That's why 49ers fans praying for Hostler's quick ouster will have to wait until next year at the earliest, with Nolan providing a double-negative statement of support for Hostler's return in 2008: "I'm not going to say Jim's not."

"Jim is an easy scapegoat for everybody to jump onto," Nolan said. "The production is not as good as it was last year, although it wasn't off the charts. Let's make sure we recognize that last year we were 26th (in total offense).

"That is considerably better than where we are now, but I wouldn't put that all on Jim. Jim has done an outstanding job. He's an intelligent guy that busts his tail. He's always looking for ways to get it corrected."

Nolan had plenty of his own questions to answer after electing to kick a field goal when the 49ers trailed by seven points with 1:51 left. The coach said he didn't think his offense had a good chance to convert on fourth-and-10 -- not with a solid defense and Joe Nedney's remarkable ability with onside kicks waiting to give them another chance to win instead of tie.

The 49ers got that chance despite failing to get the onside kick, but the Rams intercepted Trent Dilfer's final pass at the goal line as time expired.

"Looking back in hindsight now, I don't know that it was a bad decision," Nolan said. "We got back with an opportunity to win the game at the end, in almost the identical same field position, but we didn't capitalize on it."

Tight end Vernon Davis disagreed, thinking the 49ers should have tried for the first down. Even if they didn't get it, St. Louis would have gotten the ball in its own territory instead of midfield, as the Rams did when the onside kick failed.

"We've got a very exceptional and very unique onside kick," Nolan said, though the 49ers haven't recovered their last three attempts at the unorthodox move.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.