SANTA CLARA, CA (AP) – Mike Nolan’s 3 1/2-year tenure as coach for the San Francisco 49ers offered few highlights on the field.

An 18-37 record before a mid-season firing in 2008. No playoff berths for a franchise used to winning championships. A parade of offensive coordinators unable to develop Alex Smith at quarterback.

READ MORE: Government Shutdown Averted: US Senate Passes Stopgap Funding Bill

Yet to call Nolan’s run in San Francisco a complete failure would clearly miss the point. He took over a franchise decimated under the leadership of former general manager Terry Donahue and coach Dennis Erickson and began acquiring the pieces that Jim Harbaugh later used to make back-to-back runs to the NFC championship game.

READ MORE: Cowboys Lead Saints 13-10 In 3rd Quarter

Nolan, now the defensive coordinator in Atlanta, gets the chance to see the results of some of his work when the Falcons host the 49ers on Sunday.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

MORE NEWS: Fantasy Football Start Or Sit Week 13: Elijah Mitchell Looks To Take Advantage Of Seahawks' Defense

Also Check Out: