Mike Nolan brings disciplined approach to Michigan Panthers

With former Michigan Panthers head coach Jeff Fisher stepping down for personal reasons, the franchise found a detail-oriented coach to take over for NFL defensive guru Mike Nolan.

Nolan worked as a head coach before in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers and should have little trouble transitioning into his new role as the Panthers’ main man.

“Making players better and helping them achieve their goals, whether it’s a game-week basis or a season-long basis, that’s what I’m passionate about,” Nolan said. “With all my experience, I think I can contribute to the development of a young man. And I’ve tried to hire coaches who have that same goal.”

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Offensive coordinator Eric Marty will once again hold that role this season. Nolan brought in Steve Brown to work as defensive coordinator, a former NFL linebacker who last served as a secondary coach at East Tennessee State.

“One of my goals as far as hiring the coaches to coach our guys is to get guys that don’t have as much scheme experience as guys that have good technical experience,” Nolan said. “Guys that can help young players improve their skills so they play well. That’s where we’re going to spend most of our time, trying to improve the individual player, so our team will be better.”

On the personnel side, the team’s leading rusher in Reggie Corbin returns. Competing for the starting quarterback job on last season’s roster will be Josh Love.

The Panthers will play their home games in Detroit at Ford Field, part of the USFL’s expansion to four different venues for the second season. Along with Detroit, host cities include Memphis, Canton, Ohio and Birmingham.

The Panthers play their home opener in Week 3 on April 30 against the Pittsburgh Maulers. This begins a four-week slate of games at Ford Field for Michigan.

“I like being in Detroit,” Nolan said. “I think the people of Michigan have always supported their teams very well. And win, lose or tie they’ve been good. I don’t know the other teams, but I’m happy to be in Michigan.”

Nolan will be tasked with turning things around for a Michigan team that went 2-8 under Fisher last season. However, the Panthers earned the No. 1 pick in this year’s USFL draft by defeating the Maulers in the final game of the regular season.

Nolan is one of three new coaches joining the USFL, along with Ray Horton with the Maulers and John DeFilippo with the New Orleans Breakers. He will rely on a disciplined and hands-on approach to improve on last year’s result for the Panthers.

“A lot of times good coaches will bring out a real confident personality in a player because they’re confident in the job they’ve got to do, because they feel like they’re well prepared,” Nolan said. “And that’s a goal of every team and every coach. Whoever gets it the best, I think wins more games than the others. And obviously good players make the difference, no doubt.”

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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