Nolan flew to Youngstown, Ohio, on Monday to meet with 49ers owner John York. Until a contract is finalized, the deal is not considered official, but ESPN.com's John Clayton learned Tuesday that the sides have agreed to a five-year contract.
"We are in negotiations this afternoon," 49ers spokesman Kirk Reynolds said. "We've had a great list of candidates and we thought he is the best one to lead us into the future. He has a tremendous connection into the 49ers organization with his past."
York took the weekend to sort out his coaching search, which included five interviews, and decided late Sunday night to offer Nolan the job. The 45-year-old Nolan, whose father Dick coached the 49ers between 1968 and 1975, interviewed on Thursday.
Nolan's official hiring would complete York's quest to replace Dennis Erickson, who was fired along with general manager Terry Donahue on Jan. 5.
York cleaned house only three days after the 49ers finished an NFL-worst 2-14, matching the worst season in San Francisco history. San Francisco won five championships from 1981-94, but on York's watch they've had only two winning seasons and won one playoff game.
Nolan just finished his third season as Baltimore coordinator and has been a coach for 18 years. His NFL work dates to Dan Reeves' 1987 Broncos. Nolan coached linebackers for Reeves and eventually became the special teams coach and defensive assistant. Reeves then made Nolan one of the youngest coordinators in league
history with the New York Giants in 1993.
"It's a good fit," said Giants defensive end Michael Strahan,
who played his first four NFL seasons under Nolan. "I loved him
back then, and I love him still. I'm glad he's finally getting that
opportunity. It's probably a little later than I thought."
The Redskins hired Nolan as their defensive coordinator in 1997 for three seasons. He left in 2000 to work for the Jets in the same capacity, then set out for Baltimore. Ravens coach Brian Billick hired him to coach wide receivers in 2001 and then made him defensive coordinator the following season.
"I think he's ready," Reeves said in a telephone interview
from his Atlanta home. "He has certainly done a great job the last
couple of years."
The Ravens have ranked among the league's best defenses during Nolan's tenure. He took over a Ravens unit in transition in 2002; Baltimore used eight rookies to get through the season, and despite their youth the Ravens finished first on defense.
Nolan and San Francisco's new general manager will get to use the first overall pick in the upcoming draft, but the 49ers' reputation has declined steadily since York and his wife took over the team in 1999. York believes he can fix things -- and boost the 49ers' attempts to raise support for a new stadium -- by hiring new people who can quickly transform his club.
Nolan is the first to work toward accomplishing that.
Nolan becomes this year's Jim Mora, a second-generation NFL coach with one additional plus. Because his father coached the 49ers and he had a great interview with the son, York recognized the value of hiring a coach with a 49ers background. He beat out four other candidates: New England defensive
coordinator Romeo Crennel, thought to be Cleveland's top choice;
Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis; and Tennessee coordinators
Mike Heimerdinger and Jim Schwartz.
"When I was with the Redskins, out at practice he was always
running around everywhere with tons of energy," said 49ers
linebacker Derek Smith, who played for Nolan in his first three NFL
seasons. "Then after we got done with practice, you would come in
and see the guy working out on some piece of cardiovascular
equipment, and working out like crazy for 45 minutes.
"He is such an intense guy. The thing about him, though, at his
core, he is a good person. He is such a solid individual."
The Nolans are the first father-and-son combination to coach the same team since Wade Phillips took over for father Bum Phillips when the latter stepped down in New Orleans in 1985 (Wade coached the final four games; Jim Mora was then hired in 1986 by the Saints). The Nolans in actuality would become the first father-son combination to coach the same team on a more permanent basis.
"I never dreamed he would be the head football coach of a team
I coached," Dick Nolan said. "I never thought it would be that
way. It is great to see that happen."
Southern California coach Pete Carroll, thought to be York's top
choice after he fired Erickson, apparently was never contacted by
the 49ers after initially saying he wasn't interested.
York called Smith and a few other players to inform them of his
decision on Monday morning.
"I think it signals to the fans and to the players that Dr.
York is making a very honest effort to do the things that he should
do to make this team better," Smith said. "I think that this
selection is someone who they did their homework on, and they saw
that he had all the right tools to come in and be a great head
coach, and I think that was a very good assessment."
Information from ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton and The Associated Press was used in this report.