Coach Singletary was involved in a rather thorough press conference today. It seemed like more of a state of the team type of press conference. There were certainly specifics, but the discussion was equally, if not more so, about the identity of the team as a whole. It's a long one, so a sizable chunk is after the jump.
RE: Mike, you said last week that the Cowboys were a very talented team, one of the more talented teams you will face. Talent-wise, how did the 49ers matchup with the Cowboys after watching film?
“When you begin to talk about talent I think that they had a plan for a while in terms of who they want to be. They [knew] exactly from the time [Bill] Parcells was there so they’ve been putting that talent together for awhile. Jerry Jones has been very aggressive to go out and acquire talent. When I look at what we have done, I think we’ve been more selective in terms of what we want, the kind of talent that we want. I think we’ve done a good job of bringing in the kind of talent that can help get where we want to go but we still have some decisions to make in terms of acquiring more talent to make it what we want it to be. So obviously they’ve been at it awhile, they’ve done a good job at it and have identified sort of this is who we are, that identity that we are just now putting in place in terms of this is who we are and this is who we want to be right now. So I think that’s the difference.”
RE: You said more selective in acquiring talent. Is that a good thing, to be more selective?
“I think so. Let me say this, when I say more selective I mean in terms of Dallas, [they] may have the infrastructure to go out and get players that may have a little baggage here or there, they may have the infrastructure for that. I think that when we first got here and began to build this I don’t think we had the infrastructure for that. I think we were trying to get guys out that we needed to get out and then try to replace them with better habits, or what have you, that would make the locker room better and create more of a team concept. As I look at where we are right now, we may not have the talent that the Dallas Cowboys may have, the Tennessee Titans or whatever, but we do have the character. We have more of it then we’ve ever had and in terms of winning right now, the biggest difference between us and the Dallas Cowboys or a team like that talent wise is that our margin for error is so small right now. And so that’s kind of where we are, that’s why we have to be a flawless football team and yesterday when some of those things happened, whether it be an interception, whether it be a turnover, whether it be a big play. That’s why we can’t function like that.”
RE: Does a team need to take on some of those character risk [players]?
“I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s necessary, I really don’t. I would rather play…this game is so tough, you spend so much time with these guys I want to make sure that the guys that we have here are guys that want to win. I want to make sure that the guys that we have here are for the team. Now you may bring a guy that may have a bad attitude, he may be moody, well I can handle that, but it’s some of the other issues that I think you know what I’m talking about. It’s some of the other issues that I don’t think is worth the cost of bringing them in. I just don’t think so.”
RE: Mike, you said they know exactly who they want to be. Is that a fundamental problem with this team? There was a time when the 49ers knew exactly who they were and what their identity was and it seems that this has been a team that’s been kind of wandering for a couple of years. Do you know what this team should be?
“I’ll put it this way: I think, speaking for right now, I know exactly who this team can be. I know exactly what has to happen in order for the team to get there. I know exactly what it’s supposed to look like, supposed to play like, what it’s supposed to act like. I know all of those things, yes I do. But up to this point they’ve been so many other things, peripheral things that had to be dealt with before you even really get to the problem. I think that a lot of times you deal with the symptoms of things before you really get to the problem, but yes I do know those things and I think identifying those things is where I think we are right now and that’s how we have to go. That’s the process.”
RE: What is the identity of this team?
“The identity of the 49ers, is first of all, a team that plays with heart. A team that will not quit, a team that will hit you in the mouth every opportunity they get, a team that will not create mistakes in critical times in the game, a team that will not beat themselves but we will be a team that plays winning football, smash-mouth football, physical football that plays with heart.”
RE: You speak a lot about the future and what you’re trying to build here. You’re not talking like a man that has a contract that just runs through the end of the season. Are you taking the approach in these final five games, I guess it’s nine games since you’ve been here, that it’s not just about this year. It’s about this year, 2009, and forward?
“That’s my approach about everything I do in life. I don’t ever look at things in a finite matter. Everything I do, I do it until someone says that’s enough or until my body or my mind, or until my wife says that’s enough. That’s my mentality, always has been, and that’s just the way that I’m wired up.”
RE: Mike, you say that your margin for error is small and just listening and also the fact that you want character, which most football coaches, most athletic teams want and yet talent seems…if you have an abundance of talent you have much larger error, a much larger room for error because someone else picks up what this guy does, there goes an interception and the next guy runs 40 yards with the ball. At the point you’re restricted because these are high-character people, they just can’t produce the way other teams can?
“To answer that question, I would just say this. Up to this point the 49ers…I’ve just been trying to get to that place where let’s just get the people that we don’t want out. Get those players out. We want to bring in guys that want to win. Guys that want to play winning football. Guys that are willing to be a part of a winning team. You are sort of doing a blood transfusion here. It’s not to say, we want a choir here. That’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is you have to figure out what is acceptable and what is not. What issues are we willing to take on and what issue are we not willing to take on? Those are the things that we have to look at as a team. But I don’t think you ever have to sacrifice character and class for winning. I don’t think you have to do that. So that’s just my thought process.”
RE: You’ve coached four games – you have a record of 1-3. In the aftermath of these games, are you thinking about where each game has positioned you in terms of your long term future with the 49ers?
“Absolutely. Every game is an opportunity for me to do what I started to do, and that is to win. Every game is an opportunity to go out and win. I’m not one to just compete. I’m not one to go out and [say], ‘We really got a moral victory.’ That’s not me at all. But I am smart enough to realize where we are, and right now for me, the most important thing is we want to make sure that we’re getting better each week. I want to make sure that there’s something that’s getting better every week. I want to make sure that guys are playing 100%. Now we’ve got to play 100% smart. So it’s building something every week, to me. It’s getting to something that creates…continues to build a foundation and the infrastructure that we’re trying to have to go forward. So that’s what I look at.”
RE: So does a loss like yesterday’s that was pretty lopsided hurt you in your quest?
“I don’t think so. I really don’t. I don’t think so. Maybe it does. I don’t think so. Because I think you have to look at the game, at really what happened in the game. When you say ‘lopsided’, lopsided in what way? Totaling the score? Lopsided in the play? Lopsided in talent?”
RE: In the play from the first quarter on.
“Okay. You put on the film, if you put on the film… When you say lopsided, when I look at lopsided I look at this team went out and got the crap kicked out of them. Okay? That’s lopsided. When I put this film on, and I’d like to…I’d be interested to hear what you’d have to say about looking at the game. I don’t think there’s any other team this year, or maybe in the last couple years, that played Dallas more physically, more sound than we did yesterday. We also did some things in that game that was just absolutely unacceptable, whether it be quarterback play, whether it be defensive back play. But did we go into that game with the right mindset? Oh yeah. I think you could ask Dallas that. They would tell you better than I can. But once again, our margin of error is small and we could not overcome that. But I just want to clarify lopsided because that to me, lopsided is when you got your butts kicked. I don’t think that happened. What I think happened is, exactly what I hoped would not happen going into the game, is we did not give them things. When you give a team like Dallas a wakeup call and they get it, it’s difficult to come back when you’re not at home. So to me, that’s what happened. I just wanted to clarify lopsided.”
RE: Manny Lawson shows a lot of versatility, it looks like his pass rush is coming on. Why is he primarily a one down player? Why isn’t there a role for him every down? Why does he have to come off the field when you guys go to a fifth defensive back?
“First of all, Manny is a guy that when he got hurt, we just wanted to make sure that when he came back we were not rushing him back into something where he gets re-injured. We didn’t want to do that. What happens sometimes is you put in different packages and so what is done is done, and so you’ve got him on a program over here, ‘Let’s see how he’s progressing each week. Let’s see how he does here just playing the base. Let’s get the confidence back. Let’s allow him to get the confidence back in his knee, the strength and all of those things.’ Because it takes more than just the surgery and you come back and, ‘Hey, I’m good.’ No, you’ve got to build up confidence and strength in that knee to begin to be stable going forward. So that was the first thing. And of course now, I just think he is getting right back where he was. But at the same time, the time that he’s lost in terms of whether it’s a [defensive back] there or whether it’s another linebacker there that’s been in that spot, you don’t just take the guy out and say, ‘Okay, you’re out.’ You just kind of work Manny into it, and that’s what we’re doing.”
RE: Do you agree that he should be in more?
“We’re trying to get him on the field more. And we’ll get him on the field more. He deserves that. He’s been doing that. But he’s had to work toward that. It’s not like Manny’s been doing great all year and all of a sudden, ‘Why isn’t he playing?’ Obviously we want to win, too. So we’re trying to get him on the field.”
RE: Do you see his confidence returning to what it was?
“Absolutely. Absolutely. The last three weeks or so, he’s really been coming on and you can see the confidence. He’s not having to think when he’s making a move or to try and make a play. It’s just happening. It’s just instinct. And that’s what you want to see.”
RE: How do you ramp up the pass rush? Talking about Nate Clements yesterday and it seems like the pass rush was the key to allowing some of those big plays. What do you do in these next few games to improve that?
“The biggest thing we do is we just have to work at it harder. When you look at yesterday and the [Dallas] Cowboys and what they strive to do, a couple of those things were max protection. You keep all those guys in and you’ve got T.O. [Terrell Owens] running down the field. Yeah, we almost had him a couple of times and missed him, but when you have the chance to take him down you’ve got to take him down. Being a defensive back, there’s no one that they respect more and appreciate more than a great pass rusher. They understand after a while, ‘We can’t run with these guys all day. Somebody has to do something.’ But every now and then, when you’re playing against a quarterback like [Tony] Romo or Ben Roethlisberger or whoever, those guys that move around and buy that time, you have to be more disciplined on the back end and stay with your guy a little longer because it’s going to happen. And we knew that going into the game.”
RE: How much of T.O.’s [Terrell Owens] big game is due to what you were just talking about: the secondary play? How much of it was scheme? Could you have covered him differently? Could you have double-covered him the whole game?
“Sure, you can double-cover anybody the whole game.”
RE: Why not in this case?
“We didn’t feel that it was warranted. We didn’t feel that it was necessary to do so. Even in the pass that he caught over Nate Clements’ head, there should have been help over there. It wasn’t just Nate. You’ve got a post safety that has to get over there and help. He could have been sacked in the back field for a loss. No, it’s not just Nate. But it’s primarily Nate because Nate’s supposed to be on top of that thing. There are certain teams that we play against where if they have a receiver that you say, ‘We need to double cover this guy.’ But if you turn on the tape, and you look at Terrell Owens, there are a number of teams that put a db [defensive back] down there, they get his hands on him and he can’t get off the jam. If that’s the situation, why in the heck would I double team a guy every time when you can put one guy down there and put your hands on him, and you stop him. You knock his timing off. It didn’t happen a lot yesterday. What happened sometimes is what Dallas has begun to do is move T.O. inside where he can get off the ball, and you don’t get a chance to get your hands on him as much rather than moving him outside. That’s one of the things that they began to do. But understand as we look at it, trust me, it’s not just the scheme. The scheme is designed to work a certain way, but everybody has to do their job. So on the two or three big plays that he made, everybody has to do their job and they did not. But it’s not the scheme.”
RE: Was he supposed to have been jammed at the line on those big plays and was not? Is that what you are saying?
“One of them. One of them he was supposed to be jammed coming up the field. One guy just kind of reached out and rather than knocking the snot out of him, he just reached out and kind of touched him and he ran up the field and Mark Roman was chasing after that. Mark Roman saw him a little bit late. Mark was supposed to be on top of that. Was not, but yes he was supposed to be jammed on that play. The jam, the one with Nate Clements, that was just Cover 3. Nate just has to be on top of that. I feel that when you are playing football, you’ve got to play the game and if you have a guy out there that you feel in certain situations, there are certain downs and distances that some guys appear more than others, then you have to make sure that you plan for that, but I thought we had a heck of a plan going into the game. I still think it was a great plan, but you have to execute it. It’s as simple as that.”
RE: When you say it wasn’t just Nate [Clements] in this case, I was just wondering, a lot of it was Nate on T.O. [Terrell Owens]. Was it a mismatch with a guy so much bigger than Nate? Was it just a mismatch that you got stuck with?
“I think I explained this yesterday. No, it wasn’t a mismatch. I think Nate Clements can cover T.O. If we just said, ‘Nate Clements go over there and get on the line of scrimmage and do not let him off the line of scrimmage,’ I would say nine times out of ten, Nate Clements would go over there and do that. That’s not the way we play defense. That’s not the way we played it this way because they have so many other guys that can hurt you. They’ve got a No. 82, they’ve got a No. 24, they’ve got a No. 84, they’ve got a No. 11. So T.O. was a guy, that we thought, you know what, we need to do this against. The ball that he got up field when you talk about mismatches, the ball that he caught up field, should have been on top of it and it’s as simple as that and when you play defense, there are times that you want to change it up. There are things that you are doing, but to put somebody over there on T.O, where you have five other guys that
can kill you over here. I don’t know how wise that is.”
RE: You guys had 1st and Goal at the 4 [yard line] twice…you are trying to be a power team and the running game wasn’t going well, but pass, run, pass on both of those instances. How do you feel about that a day later with the play calling…
“Well, I can tell you how I felt about it that day, yesterday. It was just one of those situations where the play calling, I think if Mike Martz had to do it over again, he’d do it over again.”
RE: He would do the same thing?
“No, well, he would do it differently I meant, sorry. He would do it differently. Dallas did some things up front they had not done and we were prepared for something different, basically what we had seen on film and they attacked more from the inside and they blitzed a little bit more in the red zone than they normally have, so I think it’s just one of those things, when Coach Martz and I talked about it, ‘Mike, you know what, if I had to do it over again, I’d just make some different calls,’ but based on what they’ve done, which is all you can do when you have a game plan, you have to plan on what you see and you make adjustments, but you’re down there twice, so that was the result of that.”
RE: I just wanted to follow up on the surge from the offensive line. How was it in the run game? Was it because the [Dallas] Cowboys in essence out schemed you?
“I would not say out schemed. I would just…when those guys, when they got ready to play, it does come down to their guys and they did a good job. They came off the ball. They fired off the ball. They came alive on the offensive line. They attacked our offensive line and I think Frank Gore…there’s some cuts he’d like to take back. After awhile, you’re not quite sure, this team blitzing like they are blitzing, sometimes you try to do more than you should and Frank, it’s just one of those things where their pressure yesterday created some issues and it caused us to kind of get back on our heels at times and not take advantage of some of things that were there. So that was our issue.”
RE: For you to be successful, does Frank [Gore] have to touch the ball more than he did yesterday? Are you disappointed in the way he was used?
“If you have a seven man box, you are going to run Frank as much as you possibly can. If you have an eight man box, you are going to run him a little less. If you have a nine man box, you are going to throw the ball and I think that’s what happened yesterday. When we got behind, it afforded them to do some things to us that really took us out of our game. We don’t want to be throwing the ball a whole lot. We don’t want to do that. Our best offensive weapon is 21 and as much as we can, that is what we want to use, but when the game happens the way it did, and you sort of have to come up with a different plan than you anticipate and you’re knowing that we are not playing at our strength, that’s not the way we wanted to play that game yesterday, to give us the best chance to win.”
RE: Can I just ask one more question? How did Chilo Rachal play? Will he start next week?
“How did he play yesterday?”
“He did not play well. He played like a rookie, okay. He did not play well.”
RE: Will he start this week?
“He will start this week and he will play better, but he did not play well yesterday.”