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Nolan expects York to approve 'significant hiring' (1 Viewer)


Detroit -- Forty Niners coach Mike Nolan so strongly wants an experienced NFL hand in the team's front office, he's willing to support a structure in which the team hires an executive who would report only to ownership -- and would be at least equal to Nolan in the team's hierarchy.

John York, who owns the team with his wife, Denise DeBartolo York, has not yet signed off on the new job, which, Nolan said Friday, could carry a president's title. But two NFL sources told The Chronicle the 49ers have had extensive negotiations with Mike Reinfeldt, the Seattle Seahawks' vice president/football administration.

There is no certainty Reinfeldt will take the job, however.

But Nolan, in an interview with The Chronicle during a visit to the Super Bowl site, said he expects York to approve a "significant" hiring and said of making the new hire a club president, "It's been discussed." It had to be, because Reinfeldt would accept nothing less.

Nolan talked last month in general terms about a potential hire. He was more specific Friday for the first time, saying, "It will not be a lightweight job. It will be a significant job."

He said he wants a heavyweight executive with NFL experience in the 49ers' front office, which has been void of that kind of talent for a couple of years.

"As long as it's a football guy, an NFL guy," Nolan said. "I don't want a college guy. I don't want some guy who knows football or plays fantasy football."

Efforts to reach York, through the 49ers' public relations department, failed.

But The Chronicle learned the 49ers have talked to at least four candidates, two of whom were identified previously.

In addition to Reinfeldt, they have interviewed Bob Wallace, executive vice president of the St. Louis Rams; and Ray Anderson, executive vice president/chief administrative officer of the Atlanta Falcons. They also spoke by telephone with others, including Bob Ferguson, who has been a general manager with Denver and Arizona.

Nolan said he wants an experienced, NFL executive who knows his way around the league and can pick up the phone and call other teams, get his calls returned -- and knows football, of course.

In one surprising revelation, Nolan said he told York that the executive he hires ought to have the power to fire the coach.

"John's receptive to the whole thing, but it needs to be spelled out for him as well, and I think it's very close to being spelled out," Nolan said. "I say 'significant' because what I'm talking about is the influence of this guy. The power of this guy can be a lot of different things.

"But he will directly report, more than likely, to the owner. He will not directly report to me. I don't need that. I need somebody who has a little bit wider range of knowledge on some things. I'm looking for an NFL guy. ... People talk about 'football guys.' But I don't want a 'football guy.' I want an NFL guy. That's what we need."

Such a hire would represent a drastic shift for York and Nolan, particularly if Nolan found himself working under the new person.

When general manager Terry Donahue and coach Dennis Erickson were fired a year ago, York chose not to replace Donahue so that there would be no filter between him and Nolan. Changing that arrangement, Nolan said, would not unduly bother him.

"I'm OK with it," he said. "I'm not going to lose any power. ... I need to be able to interact with him. He needs to be able to assist the football operations and the football team.

"I want him to have a wide range of knowledge over the whole thing and, in particular, the football side. ... I want the football side to get right. That's my biggest focus. ... We don't need a president to go get a stadium done."

One who figures to lose influence if the 49ers hire a football executive is Paraag Marathe, the 49ers' director of football operations, who has a business degree and essentially is just a salary-cap guy.

According to a source involved in the process, York has told job candidates that he would like them to try working with Marathe but would not have a problem if the arrangement didn't work out.

At any rate, Marathe's role in the football operation has been overstated, according to Nolan.

"He's part of the evaluation process, but the perception and reality in Paraag's case are two different things, and that's unfortunate," Nolan said. "Paraag is good at what he does from an analysis standpoint, and I value his input on that. But it carries the appropriate weight. I'm an NFL guy. I'm a football guy. I don't get lost in certain things."

York is believed willing now to hire a club president because he wants to further insulate himself from the football operation and let it run without him.

"John has done most everything I've asked all along the way," Nolan said. "This offseason will be another test of how that is, but I've gotten zero indication that it won't be positive. Zero indication. (York is) not going to become a football guy, and he doesn't need to and he shouldn't want to. I don't want to become a doctor."


Early candidates

The four people we know the 49ers have interviewed:

-- Mike Reinfeldt, vice president/football administration of the Seattle Seahawks

-- Bob Wallace, executive vice president of the St. Louis Rams

-- Ray Anderson, executive vice president/chief administrative officer of the Atlanta Falcons

-- Bob Ferguson, ex-GM with Denver and Arizona

49ers on hunt for executive

Kevin Lynch, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, February 9, 2006

The 49ers acknowledged Wednesday that they're looking for a high-level executive with a strong background in managing the football side of the business.

A statement from a team spokesman reads, "The owners have approved a high-level position to augment football operations. The newly created position would report directly to the owner and would help head coach Mike Nolan and vice president of player personnel Scot McCloughan. The search is underway and will remain open until the head coach and the owner find a candidate (who) meets their qualifications."

The executive would not be above Nolan in the 49ers' hierarchy.

Neither the 49ers nor the Seahawks would comment on Seattle's vice president of football administration Mike Reinfeldt, who has interviewed with the 49ers, other than to say he is being considered for the position. The 49ers denied that the team has made Reinfeldt an offer, even though some NFL sources say otherwise.

Reinfeldt has been in Seattle the past two days.

During the week of the Super Bowl, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said repeatedly that the team wants to keep its front-office personnel, including president of football operations Tim Ruskell and Reinfeldt, who is Ruskell's assistant.

However, the Seahawks would not deny Reinfeldt the opportunity to move up with another team, if that's what the 49ers are offering.

Reinfeldt appears to be perfect for the 49ers. He worked with McCloughan in Green Bay and Seattle, and is a highly regarded salary-cap coordinator and contract negotiator. He was able to get the Seahawks' two key unrestricted free agents, left tackle Walter Jones and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, signed before last season.

The only other candidate to interview officially for the 49ers' position is Atlanta's executive vice president and chief administrative officer Ray Anderson.

This is all good news. Thanks az for always keeping a spotlight on 49er activities.

It seems Mike Nolan can identify his own strengths and weaknesses and also willingly process feedback from outside the organization. That is definitely a strength in itself.

I see progress in the organization and a new direction that is pushing John York farther into the background, which is also a good thing. To his credit, I think York now understands he needs to let real football men run the organization.

Good news here for 49er fans if they do make that hire.

49ers again mired in front-office politics

By Tim Kawakami

Mercury News

It's dizzying, but not shocking, to hear that John York's front office is confused, splintering into factions and sending out mixed messages as the 49ers head into another new stage of their permanent rebuilding period.

It's alarming, but not amazing, to learn that Coach Mike Nolan and Vice President Scot McCloughan seem to have run into a few big trouble spots.

It's typical, but terrifying for 49ers fans, to find that the team's awkward search for a stabilizing senior administrator has been fruitless and often just aimless.

It's almost a perfect twin of that bold vision quest for a new 49ers stadium plan, which is due any day now, except that it was due two years ago! Fascinating!

It's just business as unusual, I guess. It's 49ers life in the Age of York, when no off-season is complete without conflicting agendas, strangled loyalties and new flavors of the month.

Here we are in late February, when most franchises are uploading massive data from the NFL scouting combine and planning long-range strategies for free agency, the draft and the wild possibility of a 2007 without a salary cap.

Not your fighting 49ers, though!

Take, for most recent egregious example, this enlightening search for a new president or senior vice president or lead ball boy, whatever it is that the 49ers are offering to candidates who aren't biting.

Top choices, such as Seattle executive Mike Reinfeldt, have walked away from the 49ers' job, I hear, because Nolan and York never presented a comprehensive, unified description.

What are the exact responsibilities, who reports to whom, and do York or Nolan know or care that there's so much confusion? No answer, no answer and we'll have to get back to you on that last one.

Should a guy as respected as Reinfeldt or Atlanta's Ray Anderson come in, knowing that he would walk into the middle of a franchise-wide firefight?

Nolan -- publicly and in discussions with candidates -- says he's seeking a super-administrator, someone with deep experience who will take over the main salary-cap issues, agent issues, and football-operations issues.

And someone who wouldn't become an NFL laughing stock by handing a $24 million signing bonus to Alex Smith when there was no earthly reason -- other than public weakness -- to go above $22 million.

Front-office politics alert! My, that sounds exactly like the combined current job descriptions of Terry Tumey and Paraag Marathe (who negotiated the Smith deal).

Tumey, the director of football administration, and Marathe, the director of football operations, deal with salary-cap issues, agent issues and building issues such as equipment and the video room.

York, meanwhile, is less intrigued by the need to replace Marathe and Tumey, his trusted partners in the search that led to the hiring of Nolan last year.

York apparently is more general, describing the new job to candidates as someone who would oversee the entire non-football side of the franchise, who would be Nolan's equal and who would report directly to York.

You don't have to be Machiavelli to see what Nolan surely sees: York's vision of the new executive partially intrudes on . . . Nolan!

You see where this is headed, don't you? Nolan and McCloughan are still cleaning up the roster -- having just dumped Ahmed Plummer and moved on past Julian Peterson. So what if the 49ers struggle again in 2006?

It would be Nolan and McCloughan vs. Marathe and Tumey, with York, as usual, straddling the middle, randomly letting each side believe it will win, with chaos reigning.

Actually, though Marathe is telling associates that all is fine between him and Nolan, this struggling might have already started.

Marathe might be the man to watch, because he is such a smart guy, such a noted political operator and seems to represent many of the York foibles that Nolan seeks to eliminate.

Either way, York and Co. are eerily duplicating many of the things that have doomed the 49ers' management structure in two-year intervals since York took over and started re-inventing the game, 10 losses at a time.

You have to wonder if Nolan and McCloughan have the juice or inclination to keep battling for their positions or if they eventually will fall -- or jump.

There was a grand 49ers house-cleaning at the end of 2002 and 2004, so it would be no surprise if there was another housecleaning at the end of 2006, and 2008 and on and on . . . until either the end of the world or John York sells this team, which probably will happen simultaneously.


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