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FSS: Nolan grew with Redskins


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Nolan grew with Redskins

October 23, 2005 1:06 am


Something of a homecoming parade will kick off at FedEx Field this afternoon.

Rookie head coach Mike Nolan, who was the defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins from 1997 to '99, will bring his San Francisco 49ers to town.

Nolan's arrival will start a welcome-back stretch, as three of the Redskins' next four home games will come against former Washington coaches.

On Nov. 20, Oakland Raiders coach Norv Turner comes back to Washington, where he was the head coach from 1994 to 2000. A week later, Marty Schottenheimer--who coached the Redskins in 2001--will return with his San Diego Chargers in tow.

Nolan's tenure in Washington hardly ended with hugs and kisses.

Daniel Snyder purchased the Redskins in 1999, and early in the season he became frustrated with the defense's performance. Legend goes that Snyder placed a carton of melting vanilla ice cream outside Nolan's office, to signify his distaste for the team's "vanilla" defense.

Nolan and his group improved as that season wore on, however. After the Redskins gave up an average of 28.5 points per game through the first nine games, that number dropped to 16.3 for the final nine games, including a pair of playoff tilts.

And even though the Redskins made the playoffs and nearly reached the NFC title game, Nolan's contract was not renewed at the end of the year. Still, Nolan stops short of criticizing his former bosses.

"Obviously there were some difficult times; everyone is well aware of that," he said. "But in the end, as I look back, it was a great experience for me. There are a lot of things I know now that have been invaluable to me from a responsibility standpoint that I wouldn't otherwise know."

After leaving the Redskins, Nolan became the defensive coordinator of the New York Jets in 2000. A year later he joined the Baltimore Ravens as a wide-receivers coach, and in 2002 he started a three-year stretch as the Ravens' defensive coordinator.

Baltimore's unit flourished under Nolan's guidance. Widely regarded as the top defense in the league, it accounted for nine Pro Bowl starters and two NFL Defensive Players of the Year in the last two seasons.

As expected, however, things haven't been as rosy for Nolan in San Francisco.

After a season-opening 28-25 victory over the St. Louis Rams, the 49ers have dropped four consecutive games by a combined score of 135-51.

"The tough times are what builds character," 49ers defensive tackle Bryant Young said. "You have to go through struggles to test your will."

Alex Smith, the No. 1 overall pick of this season's draft, will get his second career start today. The 49ers are coming off their bye, but two weeks ago Smith completed 9-of-23 passes for 74 yards and four interceptions against the Indianapolis Colts.

"[smith] has the ability to make a big play on you at any point in the game," said Gregg Williams, the Redskins' assistant head coach-defense, "and then he'll struggle like a young guy will at times, too, when things break down around him."

Last week the 49ers traded veteran quarterback Tim Rattay--who started the first four games of the season--to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a draft pick.

The Redskins defense has to be licking its chops at the chance to face a rookie making his second career start.

It has to be hoping that this is the game where the turnovers come fast and furious. The Redskins have just two takeaways this year, putting them next-to-last in the league.

At practice last week they added a short section with extra emphasis on forcing turnovers.

"We have to find a way to get it done," Williams said. "In practice, we get our hands on balls. In games, we get our hands on a bunch of balls. We just have to finish plays."

Offensively, the Redskins are still looking for their first rushing touchdown of the year.

"When you're winning, it doesn't really matter," running back Clinton Portis said. "When you're not winning, it becomes a problem. I have to find a way to get into the end zone now."

Quarterback Mark Brunell has been bothered by a strained calf muscle, but is expected to play.

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this is warped, i belive the redskins D got better that year not becuase of nolan but more so because of darrell green and the offense not turning the ball over/having a lot of t.o.p. and dominating games..also marvin lewis built taht ravens D, nolan inherited it. that being said i think nolan is overrated and im hoping that the skins can verify it tomorow.

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