Former coach Tollner will help Niners' struggling offense

Updated: November 21, 2007, 5:02 PM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Hoping to rescue an offense that is averaging a league-low 11.3 points per game, San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Nolan brought in longtime coach Ted Tollner as an assistant on Tuesday.

Tollner, who was working as a broadcaster for the University of San Diego near where he lives, flew to San Francisco Tuesday morning, met with Nolan and immediately started helping out with the game plan for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Bringing him in was a natural. He has worked with former 49ers offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who left after last season to take the head coaching job with the Chargers.

"Ted has great experience with over 30 years in the NFL and in college coaching, and is well respected in the football community," Nolan said. "He will be a tremendous asset to the 49ers organization. We will continue to make every effort to improve our team."

In 2002, Tollner was the 49ers quarterbacks coach, and after two seasons he was promoted to offensive coordinator, working for Steve Mariucci. He followed Mariucci to Detroit.

Tollner learned the West Coast offense with Mariucci, but he is known more for his knowledge of the Don Coryell system that Turner brought to the 49ers after Turner was fired by the Raiders.

At 67, Tollner wasn't sure if he still wanted to coach, but he was willing to help out Nolan for the final part of this season.

Turner's replacement, Jim Hostler, has been under a lot of criticism since taking over. The offense has scored the fewest points and has the fewest yards in the league. Quarterback Alex Smith has regressed this season after showing so much promise in 2006 working with Turner. Following Sunday's 13-9 loss to the Rams, Nolan said Hostler would stay as offensive coordinator for the remainder of the season.

Now, he's staying but with the help of an experienced hand.

"Jim is an easy scapegoat for people to jump on," Nolan said. "The production is not as good as it was last year. I wouldn't put all that on Jim. He's an intelligent guy busting his tail. It's an offensive staff's responsibility to get it done."

The 49ers also signed quarterback Drew Olson to the practice squad, waiving guard Sean Estrada to make room. Olson, the former UCLA star and a Bay Area native, spent last season with Baltimore before briefly catching on with Carolina this month.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer