It wasn't a surprise that the 49ers fired Mike Nolan as their head coach last week. What did surprise me was the timing of it, I thought it wouldn't happen until after the season ended. It did get me to thinking about Jim Schwartz again.
Vince Lombardi once commented on first-round draft picks,
"If you make a mistake on a player, you lose some games. If you make a mistake on a quarterback, you get fired."
That's what happened after Nolan selected QB Alex Smith as the first overall pick in the 2005 draft. Smith turned out to be a bust, the team compiled a 18-37 record and the 49ers fired Nolan.
Nolan was one of five candidates for the 49ers head coaching job in 2005, a field that included Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. There was some word out of San Francisco that Nolan and Schwartz were the two finalists for the job and the word was it went to Nolan because of his name. (Nolan's father was the 49ers head coach for eight years, with three postseason appearances.)
I wonder if the York family, who owns the 49ers, has been wishing for the last few years that Schwartz had been their selection.
One thing is a given. After having a great defense last year, he has one equally as good, if not better, so far this season. Schwartz will draw a lot of interest in the annual coaching carousel early next year. Successful coordinators always receive a lot of consideration for head coaching gigs.
I've heard that Schwartz is very strong in interviews. He's extremely well-prepared and carries a briefcase full of material which he uses both in his presentation and in answering questions about his plans. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of it is on Power Point and similar programs as well. He's been well-briefed on the interview process by Jeff Fisher, who was a position coach and/or coordinator for four different teams when he was an up-and-coming young coach paying his dues.
Schwartz can also boast a strong pedigree, coming from the Fisher and Bill Belichick coaching trees. Those are two pretty good references for an aspiring NFL head coach.
Don't be surprised if some owner hires Schwartz to be a head coach next year. I wish him the best of luck and hope he'll get at least three or four years to prove himself. One piece of advice, Jim: don't draft a quarterback in the first round who turns out to be a bust.