AUSTIN, Texas — Mike Nolan knows a thing or two about the San Francisco 49ers.
His father coached the team.
He did, too.
Now, he'll try to keep the 49ers out of the Super Bowl.
These days, Nolan runs the defense for the Atlanta Falcons, who will host San Francisco in the NFC championship game Sunday. He still has fond memories of his first head coaching job, even though he wound up getting fired by the 49ers in the middle of his fourth season.
"A lot of good things happened there," Nolan said, pausing briefly before adding, "Obviously, getting fired is not a good thing."
Despite the ugly ending, he insists that beating a team he knows so well won't provide any extra satisfaction.
Nolan, like everyone in the Falcons' organization, has his eyes on the Super Bowl. The 49ers just happen to be the ones standing in the way.
"It doesn't change the competitive nature of the game and what we're doing," Nolan said Tuesday. "I don't want to sit here and tell you it makes it any sweeter or not whether we win or lose. It really doesn't."
His father, Dick Nolan, coached the 49ers for eight seasons, making back-to-back trips to the NFC championship game in the early 1970s. Both times, they were turned back by the Dallas Cowboys.
Of course, San Francisco went on to capture five Super Bowl titles, but that glorious era had long since passed when a second Nolan took over the team in 2005. The 49ers were coming off a 2-14 season, matching the worst in franchise history, and faced a massive rebuilding job.
Nolan made plenty of missteps, most notably in his very first draft when he chose quarterback Alex Smith with the top pick over a local kid who turned out to be pretty good, Aaron Rodgers. The 49ers went through a parade of offensive coordinators, none of whom was able to transform Smith into a competent starter.